Marvellous Mallows - Alyogyne huegelii
THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN PUBLISHED IN HIBISCUS INTERNATIONAL AS PART OF A SERIES: MARVELLOUS MALLOWS.
This series has been compiled by Colleen Keena from Queensland, Australia, Kristin Yanker-Hansen from California, USA and Marcos Capelini from São Paulo, Brazil. Hibiscus International is the official publication of the International Hibiscus Society
(This series is being compiled by Colleen Keena from Queensland, Australia, Kristin Yanker-Hansen from California, USA and Marcos Capelini from São Paulo, Brazil.)
QUESTION: "What is known as 'blue hibiscus' and is grown by around the world?"
ANSWER: The first in our series of Marvellous Mallows, Alyogyne huegelii, chosen both for its beauty and its ready availability.
NOTES FROM QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA AND CALIFORNIA, USA: The common name is rather misleading. The "blue hibiscus" is neither "blue" nor a "hibiscus". There will undoubtedly be people pleased to note that the blue is really lilac and that forms with purple blooms are available commercially in Australia and in the USA.
The intense purple form in Australia is called "West Coast Gem" and the deep purple form available in USA is "Monterey Bay". White forms are also available in Australia and USA. A pink form can sometimes be obtained from nurseries in Australia.
Although previously known as Hibiscus huegelii, Alyogyne species are no longer included in Hibiscus. Alyogyne can be recognized by the style, which is undivided at the tip. Alyogyne comes from the Latin, alyo, winglike and the Greek, gyne, ovary; huegelii is after Baron von Huegel, a 19th century Austrian botanist.
Alyogyne huegelii is an open shrub up to about 2.5 m (6') tall and of almost equal breadth. It is grown mainly for its lilac hibiscus-like flowers. The plant can produce hundreds of blooms each season. The flowers are 7-10 cm (3- 4") and last 1 - 2 days.
The variable lobed leaves are dull green and the foliage is attractive when bushes are kept compact. The plant is very fast growing and becomes straggly unless pruned regularly. After the main flowering flush in late spring the shrub can be pruned back quite hard to ensure stronger growth and increase its longevity and flowering life.
With appropriate pruning it can even be maintained as a small compact shrub or trained into a standard.
Alyogyne huegelii comes from sandy to sandy-gravel areas of South Australia and Western Australia and although it is adaptable to a wide range of soil types, it is intolerant of bad drainage. A well-drained sunny spot is ideal although plants will grow in semi-shade. Plants perform best when they receive sunlight for most of the day and have some wind protection as large plants are subject to wind damage.
Alyogyne huegelii is moderately frost tolerant but some protection is required from the heaviest frosts. Experience with growing this plant in California has shown that it can survive short periods of minus 3 degrees centigrade without any permanent damage.
Alyogyne huegelii usually grows well without fertilizer, particularly if well mulched with mulch that breaks down and provides nutrients. However, if a fertilizer is needed, for example when raising seedlings, use of a seaweed extract has been found to be beneficial. Many Australian plants are sensitive to phosphorus as they have developed in nutrient-deficient soils. Alyogyne hakeifolia is least sensitive to phosphorus whereas Alyogyne huegelii is highly sensitive. Further information is available in an online article on phosphorus sensitivity by Kevin Handreck (see references).
Plants grown in well-mulched beds require minimal, if any, supplementary watering once established. When plants are being established, they are watered well at planting, then again in the middle of that first week, then a week later, then a fortnight later, and if needed, then a month later. When established in this way, they should only need supplementary watering under extremely dry conditions. Plants will however take regular watering provided that they are in a well-drained position.
Of course, gardeners who wish to grow "blue hibiscus" and don't have the right growing conditions such as a well drained sunny spot, know how to be able to enjoy such a beautiful plant. The most practical solution is to grow it in a pot and it not only flourishes but even sets seed when grown in 15 cm (6") pots. The other option is grafting. Alyogyne may have a limited life span in the wet summers of the sub-tropics but grafting onto Australian species of hibiscus has enabled grafted plants to perform well over many wet seasons.
So, how do those interested in growing this plant obtain it? As Alyogyne are from the same family as Hibiscus, information on propagation for hibiscus is appropriate for Alyogyne, both for growing from seed or from cuttings (see references below). Propagation can be from seed, which keeps its viability for a number of years. It is helpful to rub the seed against a file or an emery board before planting the seed as this treatment will break through the hard protective coating and allow moisture to penetrate. Germination will be much faster after this treatment. Time of planting seed would depend on where the plant is being grown. In areas with harsh winters, it would be preferable to plant seed in spring. In places with very wet summers and mild winters, seed can be planted in early autumn. Alyogyne may also be grown from cuttings, which strike easily. Cuttings can be half-hardened tip cuttings 7-8 cm (3") long, although soft tip cuttings also do well. Again, the time of taking cuttings would vary according to location. Cuttings taken in spring generally establish well but cuttings can be in early autumn if summers are very wet and winters are not too severe.
Suppliers of plants and seed follow.
HIBISCUS INTERNATIONAL RATING:
FEATURE PLANT - Excellent
HARDINESS - Excellent
Propagation from seed:
Propagation from cuttings:
(gives nurseries that stock plants)
ONLINE NURSERIES WITH PLANTS IN AUSTRALIA
Export Flora Australia (also list pink and white forms)
SOME ONLINE NURSERIES WITH PLANTS IN USA
PACIFIC TREE FARMS, CA
MYRTLE CREEK, CA
ONLINE NURSERIES WITH SEEDS
B & T WORLD SEEDS, FRANCE (send worldwide)
Go to List 15 Australian Natives and Introduced Species
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