question about cold hardy hibiscus and gardenias and camellias

kygirl99May 7, 2007

Again, I'm learning how to garden in zone 6 instead of our previous home in socal in zone 9. big differences!

my mom has hibiscus planted in her yard that is cold hardy. she said my aunt's friend had it and they both took part of hers. they have no idea where it came from. but she's had it for 10 yrs and it lives through every winter. looks like dead branches, but then comes out in gorgeous huge blooms.

does anyone know where I can buy this kind of hibiscus? the ones I've noticed in local nurseries are only cold hardy to something like 20 degrees. definitely not suitable for planting in zone 6.

also, I love gardenias. we had tons in california. but again, they were fine for zone 9. I remember seeing a show on HGTV that mentioned gardenias that could handle temps down to 0 degrees. Again, does anyone know where such a gardenia could be purchased, whether online or at a local nursery?

finally, camellias. I had a few gorgeous camellias in pots in california and we brought them with us. I thought they should have been protected from the freezing temps but my husband thought otherwise. (his green thumb in california is slightly less green here, obviously, as he gets used to the climate change.) they're apparently dead now. anyway to confirm that for sure? I snap a branch and it is dried up and dead looking inside. and then, is it possible to grow camellias here and leave them planted outside? or are they to be treated as an annual or put in pots and moved inside during the winter?

thanks again for everyone's great help. I appreciate it so much.

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I grew up in Cincinnati and I'm sad to say I've never heard of anyone growing either camellias or gardenias without a greenhouse. Sniff, sniff. I love those flowers!

We do have two winter-hardy hibiscus to choose from, tho'-- Hibiscus moscheutos has flowers the size of dinner plates on large, sprawling bushes that die back to almost nothing in the winter and are slow to come up in the spring. They come in pale yellow, white, pink, burgundy and purple, with swirls, stripes and double petal varieties, and they're hardy to zone 5a; well north of you!

In the height of summer they look a lot like the tropical H. rosa-sinensis you're probably used to in zone 9.

The other hardy hibiscus we have here is H. (or Althea) syriacus, commonly called Rose of Sharon, and forms a 10-12' tall shrub that self-seeds like a banshee if it can. It's a great old cottagy plant, with flowers 3-4" across. Usually either lavender, pink or white, with a maroon "eye", there are also double varieties, ones with varigated leaves, and sterile plants. I really recommend you try to get the sterile varieties unless you're trying to fill a lot of space!

Rose of Sharon is also hardy to zone 5a or even colder with proper siting. It drops its leaves in the winter, but the shrub still stands skeletal. I have several that I trained like trees that are now (4-5 years) about 10-12' tall. In the summer I train clematis and other vines to scramble up the branches. If only it had a scent it would be perfect!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2007 at 1:58PM
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alison is right that the Hibiscus moscheutos is more like what you grew in CA. There has been a lot of hybridizing and the varieties have grown quite a bit. The first link is a general article, the second link gives you an idea of one variety that is available:

Cold hardy camellias are now available, although the selection is much smaller. The link to my response to another KY gardener's question is below.

Gardenias probably are iffy, even in your warmer part of zone 6. With some TLC you might be able to pull it off, but I think container gardening would be safer.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cold hardy camellias

    Bookmark   May 7, 2007 at 5:27PM
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thanks for all the info. I'll go check out those links.

I remember rose of sharon. we had those lining our backyard fence when I was growing up. they are pretty but I love the larger size of the hibiscus. my mom's are also platter-sized - absolutely stunning.

thanks! and I'm so sad about the gardenias. I guess my camellias really are dead. :(

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 11:52AM
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Hardy hibiscus such as "Copper King" do well for me (these are not woody but herbacious). They are very slow to awaken, but take off like gangbusters when they do.

I hate Rose of Sharon because it is sooooo weedy. It self seeds like everything and you don't get the real vivid colors like you can in the hardy hibiscous.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 10:07AM
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chasinlex(zone 6/7)

Hey KY Girl, I bought a cold-hardy camellia summer 06 and it totally survived winter in Lexington. It had beautiful blooms this April and appears to be thriving just fine. It has dark green waxy leaves. A must-have for your zone 6/7 garden.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2007 at 11:03AM
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Welcome to Zone 6!!

Hardy Hibscus sometimes gets nipped by "wind burn". You might want to keep that in mind when placing it. If it's in a wind tunnel between a house and garage it might not do as well as another site. Some named varieties are: Dixie Belle, Flare (very new so may be hard to find) and Crimson Wonder.

My Rose of Sharon have only ever throuwn me 1 volunteer but my neighbor has one that gives me several each year. I don't like her bloom colors so I just rip them out.

While you lose camellias in zone 6 you gain peonies!!

Happy Gardening

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 8:05AM
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tracyvine(6 NE Ohio)

Hi kygirl, I live in northeast ohio and have a burgundy hardy hibiscus. Dinner plate size blooms. Gorgeous! It dropped seeds last year and they sprouted. The largest one right now is about 4 inches tall. I think it will need a little more growing time before it can made the trip in good condition. But if your willing to try I'm game.

This is the mama.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 2:04AM
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kyplantjunkie(z6 KY)

I also grow camelias- I live in Louisville. I have them in a protected corner next to the house. So far, they've done pretty well. I originally planted 5 in 2003, have lost one; not due to winter, due to poor drainage, which I've corrected. I LOVE the large flowered, spring blooming varieties, but in my garden the fall blooming ones do a lot better.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 2:40PM
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hey kygirl, I also have a camellia, red white, and lemon yellow hibiscus. The yellow hibiscus is supposed to be hardy in z 8, but sprouted back from seed here even after our tough winter. I even also had a trunked palm growing outside for two years until I killed it by wrapping it with plastic. I was hoping to keep it dry, and only caused it to rot. (I'm such an idiot :() so, the Ohio Valley is not such a bad place to try and grow beautiful plants!

    Bookmark   July 12, 2007 at 2:18PM
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chasinlex(zone 6/7)

Hi KY can grow cold hardy camellias here in zone 6. There is a new variety called Ice Angels that is hardy from KY southward.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2007 at 4:40PM
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puglvr1(9b central FL)

Hi KY girl,

Are you still looking for a cold hardy gardenia, I know its been several months since you posted this, but in case you haven't found one, I just purchased two from Lowe's. Its "Miami Supreme" variety and the tag says although not to 0 degrees but hardy (20 to 10 degrees). If you go to this website:

Click on plant search and type in L7109, under the plant tag code number and it will give you some of the plants specifications, I know it's not zero degrees but might work out for you if you cover them really well when it gets below 20.Or pot them up and bring them in when its below that. But then I live in Florida and lucky for us it never gets that cold.

These are my very first gardenias, so I am really new and have been reading all I can on how to take care of them properly.

Good Luck!

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 7:57PM
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Would like to know how to cut back the hardy hibiscus "Luna Rose " in the fall and when this should be done. It is beautiful and would certainly like to see it come up next year.
Thank you,

    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 5:35PM
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