Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Top 10 Perennials for the Midwest


3
Hibiscus
The red hibiscus flower can be a wonderful reminder of tropical travels through Hawaiian gardens.
The red hibiscus flower can be a wonderful reminder of tropical travels through Hawaiian gardens.
©iStockphoto.com/tillsonburg

Even those who don't garden are probably familiar with the popular hibiscus plant. Many associate the flower with exotic locales, such as Hawaii, where the flower is not only decorative but also purposeful. Females wear the flower behind their left ear to signify marriage and behind their right ear if they are still single. But don't think this popular perennial is reserved for warm island climates. Certain strains of the plant do well in the Midwest, too.

The perennial hibiscus, Hibiscus moscheutos, will bloom throughout the summer as long as it is planted in high levels of sunlight and moist soil. The lower zones, specifically five and six, will do best with these plants because of the increased sun exposure. While your color choices will be limited to pink, red and white, the plant can bloom for months, keeping your garden bright through fall.

The hibiscus that is able to withstand the Midwest winter isn't exactly the same as the tropical flower you may be familiar with, but they are similar in appearance. To be sure you can spot a perennial hibiscus, look for a plant with heart-shaped leaves in a dull green shade. The blooms themselves will be white, pink or red and very large. The buds will be large, somewhere between 2 and 4 inches (5.08 and 10.16 cm) in length. This perennial version is root hardy enough to thrive in the ever-changing seasons of the Midwest. They'll die down to the ground each winter and then replenish in the spring.

With well-established hibiscus, the stem and foliage of the plant is very strong. It's even referred to as bark. In some cultures, the bark can be multipurpose. By soaking the tough plant in sea or salt water, the fibers will soften. They can then be stripped into thin pieces to be used in the production of many things, from grass skirts to wigs [source: Flower Expert].