Jennifer Schultz Nelson
Extension Educator, Horticulture
Hibiscus 'Blue Satin'
Hibiscus syriacus 'Blue Satin'
True blue flowers are tough to find. The pigments that make a flower blue must have acid conditions within the cell for it to appear blue. For most plants, this would be much too low a pH for it to survive. So we see very few blue flowers in nature. When a plant's tag says it's blue, most would call it some shade of purple.
Since our house faces Illini Court and I'm a U of I graduate, it seemed natural to start an orange and blue "Illini" garden at my new house. Incidentally, this was also a good way to buy plants without complaint from my fiancé, who I swear bleeds orange and blue.
I was very excited to find the hibiscus, or Rose of Sharon, 'Blue Satin'. No one doubts this flower's blue color. Plus the catalog promised a plant covered in tons of blooms from mid-summer through the fall. The full height of this shrub is about ten feet, so that's a lot of flowers!
I usually buy small plants to watch them grow and develop in my own yard. Larger plants are more expensive, and I would rather buy lots of smaller plants rather than one big one. So the Blue Satin was small. Smaller than I thought when I got it in the mail back in June. It wasn't even six inches tall! Had I wasted my money?!
I gave the little Blue Satin the best spot in the Illini garden–full sun, good soil, plenty of room to grow. Then I pretty much forgot about it, figuring I wouldn't see blooms until maybe next year if I was lucky. Lo and behold I noticed buds on this tiny plant sometime in July. They revealed gorgeous blue flowers with magenta throats and white centers at least three inches in diameter, half the little plant's height. If it can produce such a show in the hot dry summer we had this year, imagine what next year will bring!