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Pavonia Hastata, a Dark-Eyed Beauty

Say 'Pavonia hastata' a few times. For me, the words conjure up images of Spanish conquistadors and dark eyed maidens. A few years ago I bought a plant tagged 'perennial hibiscus'. The glossy, spear shaped leaves were intriguing, different from the common hibiscus plants that grow around here. Recently, thanks to fellow blogger Cat, The Whimsical Gardener, I learned its botanical name.

Pavonia hastata is a shrub that produces myriads of delicate pink blooms with deep burgundy centers. Hummingbirds love the flowers, as do bees and butterflies. Each bloom is about two inches across and lasts only a day, but with so many buds, it is always in bloom — in my garden from June till frost. It is native to South America and also grows in parts of Australia. It is evergreen in zones 9-13, but it is hardy, though deciduous, in my zone 7b garden. The shrub will grow about 3-4 feet tall, and I prune it to about one feet in late winter to prevent legginess. It also seems to bloom better when I do this. 

Pavonia hastata is also known as spearleaf swampmallow. It will grow in drier conditions, but with good soil, sunshine, and plenty of water it can become weedy, and, indeed I pull up unwanted seedlings every spring. They are easy to identify, and so far I haven't found them anywhere except in the area adjacent to the mother plant. I have planted several of the seedlings in a row, and now I have an attractive hedge along one side of the patio. 

Today is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, the first day of summer according to the calendar. But we have been experiencing summer weather for many weeks now, and a lot of perennials stop flowering in the heat. I am grateful for Pavonia hastata. a dark-eyed beauty with pastel skirts, dancing in the summer breeze.

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Reader Comments (21)

Deborah, this plant is new to me, although I certainly see the mallow resemblance. I love the shape of the flower bud, and the veining on the petals is beautiful!

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCurbstone Valley Farm

Very pretty. The petals look so thin and delicate, although it must in fact be a very tough plant. I love carefree plants like this.

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHolley

What a beautiful hibiscus. I have never saw this one before with the slender leaves. Very pretty Deb.

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLona

It is such a sweet flower and I never tire of taking its picture! Glad to be of help ;)

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercat

This is a lovely Hibiscus! If I ever see one here it will find it's way home with me. Thanks for introducing us to Pavonia hastata.

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristine

I have one very similar that I am waiting to see it bloom. It was new to me last year, and I was hoping all winter it would make it. This spring it looked dead as a doornail, but it returned very late. I guess that is common in our climate.

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

Wow they are so lovely, so they are called perennial hibiscus! And your photos make them more outstanding.

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

What a beautiful Hibiscus, lucky you that it self-seeds so easily. I don't think that one would survive our wet Irish weather. Hope you had a nice Summer Solstice.

June 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBridget

Beautiful bloom

June 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChris

A beautiful shrub, and I need more summer bloomers. I wonder if it works in 6b.

That's a new one to me, as well, but quite lovely. You have such a way with words. I really enjoy your writing...

Lovely! Sad that they would never survive in my zone 5 gardens.

June 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarolyn

What beautiful flowers! I love the deep red centers. I thought you started this post off nicely, it sounded very poetic! Happy Summer!

June 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBumbleLush

It looks lovely, and you are right, the leaves look very unusual, but I think they compliment the blooms well. I love the image of a dark-eyed Spanish beauty, thanks for the great post!

June 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMasha

Hi Deb, What a wonderfully evocative bit of writing! I love your second sentence with its reference to "images of Spanish conquistadors and dark eyed maidens". The last sentence is a gem as well. I have never grown Pavonia hastata, but can see that it is a real beauty.

June 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

This is a plant I hadn't seen or heard of before. Very pretty, and how nice to have a whole hedge of them!

June 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJean

How did I not know about this dark-eyed beauty?! I will have to do some research and order one. It's lovely.

June 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersweetbay

I love the veining and the papery folds of the bud. You've got yourself a real beauty there, Deb

June 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura @ PatioPatch

What a beautiful plant!!! I don't think I've ever seen it here. I love the dramatic red against the pure white petals. all you need now is some Spanish guitar music and castanets. :o)

June 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCasa Mariposa

That is the most beautiful plant, I started to write down the name until I read about its water requirements. Christina

June 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

I know this plant as Brazilian Rock Rose, or Pavonia braziliensis. It is extremely drought tolerant, and I have seen it growing in street medians with hot reflective concrete on all sides. I was surprised to read it is also called "swampmallow" and that it takes "plenty of water." Gotta love a plant with such wide growing conditions :-)

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