Friday, December 30, 2011

Pavonia missonianum

This is a very bright red little hibiscus that has been self seeding for a few years in my school garden.  It flowers in late summer and early fall from self sown seedlings, but a longer blooming season can be had by starting seeds indoors in spring to give it a head start.  It grows best when it is warm, and prefers a sunny spot.  Pavonia missonianum is native to Argentina, and my plants were started from seed I had stashed in the fridge from some long forgotten Index Seminum.  My original plant set copious seed, and although I have stored plenty of it, apparently quite a few remain in the soil to give rise to seedlings every year as soon as the warm weather hits. 
It is a trouble free plant save one problem--it is a preferred favorite of budworms that destroy the flowers and seed pods.  This caterpillar pest seems to appear sometime after the weather begins to cool, and is also fond of petunias and nicotiana.  Ruthless hand picking helps, but spraying insecticide or BT powder (a bacterial disease of caterpillars) would be necessary if one had more than a few plants.  The stems, seed pods, and foliage are somewhat sticky, and this deters most insects, perhaps the problem is that it deters ants that might otherwise prey upon the budworms.  Still it is a very worthwhile flower to grow, the flower color alone is worth it.  Thus far plants do not survive NY winters, but plenty of seed is set (if the budworms don't get the pods) for another generation.

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