About 600 hardy hibiscus plants, which were part of plant breeding trials at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Vernon, went home with community members across Wilbarger County.
The third-annual hibiscus giveaway was part of a joint event held by the center at Vernon and the City of Vernon — taking place during the National Garden Bureau’s Year of the Hardy Hibiscus.
“The plants we give to the city for this event make a lovely addition to any residential garden or in front of businesses and public buildings since they are no longer needed in the breeding process,” said Dariusz Malinowski, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Research forage and ornamental breeding professor in the Texas A&M University Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, Vernon.
The plants grow 2-3 feet tall and wide and can withstand both hot summers and harsh winters, which makes them fit for gardens in many areas of the country.
“It’s wonderful that these hibiscuses can be enjoyed by those living here or visiting the area,” Malinowski said.
“People look forward to this event every year,” said Vernon Mayor Pam Gosline. “Most plants have not bloomed yet, and what is fun about that is the plant color and style they receive is a surprise.”
Organizers welcome donations for the giveaway plants as part of a fundraising effort.
“We are working toward making Vernon the hibiscus capital of the world, and this event helps us with that,” said Amanda Lehman, director of Vernon Main Street Services and Tourism.
Proceeds will go toward creating a hibiscus tour through downtown Vernon and will help fund a hibiscus festival.
The breeding program
Malinowski’s hibiscus breeding program at the Vernon Center is world-renowned and produces plants with a vast array of unique flower colors and shapes. One of the program’s greatest achievements is the development of the world’s first blue hibiscus.
Several Vernon-bred hardy hibiscuses have been commercially licensed through Texas A&M AgriLife Foundation Seed, under the Summer Spice Collection name by J Berry Nursery. They are available at lawn and garden centers around the country.
Commercial licensees pay royalties on the sale of plants, and those go back into research programs across Texas A&M AgriLife.