A nearly two-decade bottom line boosting track record has Lisa Rensberry downright giddy when it comes to the bare root hardy hibiscus from Walter’s Gardens in Zeeland, Michigan.
“We’ve had [the variety] in our store now for 15-20 years, and I still remember the original account manager that came in and told me, ‘Lisa, if you put this little bare root into a 3-gallon container, and you sell it for this much, you’ll be really happy someday that you listened to me, and he was right,” says the owner of Christen Farm Nursery in Onalaska, Wisconsin.
The independent garden center sells nursey plants, professional lawn care services and landscaping supplies a stone’s throw due east of the Minnesota border in central Wisconsin. The IGC got its first taste of the bare root hardy hibiscus with the very first basic red varieties.
Now, according to Rensberry, local customers are just as hooked as she is, often swinging by the store before new plant material has even arrived to see which colors Christen will be offering for the spring season. ‘Spinderella’ and ‘French Vanilla’ were two of the popular new varieties of the Proven Winners-bred line this year.
“They’ve become a bit of a collector’s piece for our customers over the years,” she says. “I have the same people each year that will call or message or just stop in on a whim and say, ‘What are the new hibiscus this year?’ Usually they are all sold and spoken for before I can even get them into the garden center.”
Rensberry says another aspect of the bare root hardy hibiscus she enjoys is the fact that the plant “basically sells itself.” Its low maintenance nature (plant it in a 3-gallon pot and watch it grow) as well as the “large dinner plate-size” blooms that homeowners go nuts for are two additional reasons customers keep coming back and asking for the variety by name.
“The breeding is really phenomenal as well. They’re keeping the home gardeners intrigued with new colors every season,” Rensberry says. “They are hardy to Zone 4, which is another big selling point for us, and we just really like the tropical look they have to them.”