Showy hibiscus and mystery feathers - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

Showy hibiscus and mystery feathers

Hibiscus plant showing white blooms in a floor bed next to a house

Hardy hibiscus
Photo credit: H.G., Shipshewana, Ind.

Q. Was wondering if you can identify this volunteer flowering plant. This is the second year it has come up. – H.G., Shipshewana, Ind.

A. This is the perennial garden flower known commonly as hibiscus or rose mallow, botanical name Hibiscus moscheutos. This type of hibiscus is a hardy perennial that dies back to the ground each winter, and returns in the spring, reaching 3 to 5 feet tall or more. They usually begin blooming in midsummer and keep up the show until fall frost. There are many cultivars in the trade with large blooms of white, pink, red, or bicolor with some selections reaching up to 12 inches across! Hibiscus perform best in full sun with consistent soil moisture, but they can adapt to partial shade. Plants will get a bit droopy in dry conditions.


Q. I am curious what the white feathers are used for in this garden picture from one of your earlier columns. Please explain! – P.P., Warren, Ind.

Feather pinwheels in vegetable garden

Feather pinwheels in vegetable garden
Photo credit: Rosie Lerner, Purdue Extension

A. Ah, one of my favorite vegetable garden photos from a garden I visited in England. The feathers are fastened together to form a pinwheel spinner, and then the spinners are attached to garden twine stretched between two stakes. I believe the intent is to discourage unwanted visits from critters as the feathers twirl and wave in the breeze. While I can’t attest to whether they are an effective repellent, they do add visual interest and motion to the design of the garden!


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