Can hibiscus flowers be grown in this region?

— Amanda

Well, it kind of depends on the hibiscus we’re talking about. There are three common ones people grow.

The first is Chinese hibiscus (Hibiscus chinensis). This is the tropical type you see in Hawaii or Southern California. They’re a beautiful evergreen shrub that blooms for an exceptionally long period in a rainbow of flower colors.

They are NOT hardy here and are strictly grown as a houseplant. If this is what you’d like, find a spot in the house with very bright, indirect light to set it and water it regularly, allowing the soil to dry slightly before watering it well again.

The second type is a woody shrub called Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus). This is a large deciduous shrub that will grow from 6– to 12-feet tall. Most varieties have an upright, vase-shaped growth habit. Rose of Sharon typically blooms during the summer in July and August for three to six weeks.

They come in a variety of colors but range in shades of lavender, purple, pink and white. There are double flowered varieties that have small (2– to 3-inches in diameter) pompom-like flowers. Single varieties have larger flowers (4– to 6-inches) with five petals and the prominent stamen that hibiscus is known for.

This species is winter hardy in the Grand Valley and brightens a lot of yards in the summer.

The third type is a herbaceous perennial called Rose Mallow or “Dinner Plate” hibiscus. This plant dies down in the fall and resprouts in the spring, growing up to 3- or 4-feet tall. It bears very large (6–12 inches) single flowers in shades of red, pink and white in summer — I’m just starting to see some of them blooming around town — and is hardy in the Grand Valley.

For years we had this plant in just three colors: red, pink and white. In the past few years, there have been some fantastic new introductions that although the color palette is the same, the flowers come in deeper, richer colors with many in blends of red, pink and white.

Many of these new ones have dark purple leaves that give color and interest in the garden when the plants aren’t blooming.

Is there ANYTHING on the market that will repel deer from my pots of geraniums? I thought geraniums were generally not well-liked by deer, but I have grown weary of walking outdoors to see bare stalks where bright red flowers were just the day before.

— Paula

Deterring deer is a tough problem. The most effective things I’ve seen are commercial deer repellents that contain the active ingredient “putrescent egg solids.”

Spray it on your plants and any surrounding the geraniums. It smells when it’s wet, but once dry, the smell goes away. Apply it a second time a week later and then once a month thereafter.

It’s not perfect, but it’s the most effective product out there.

Help! I think my sycamore tree has borers. The leaves are fine and the tree looks good, but the bark is peeling off in big pieces all over my yard. What’s going on, and how can I stop it?

— Catherine

Although I can understand your concern, the peeling bark isn’t really anything to worry about. Sycamores tend to “shed” their outer bark as part of their growing process this time of year.

While it can make a real mess as it occurs, it doesn’t damage the tree and actually adds to the overall beauty of the trunk as it matures.

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Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to info@bookcliffgardens.com.

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