From ScienceDaily: With a little cross-breeding and some determination, Dr. Dariusz Malinowski, Texas AgriLife Research plant physiologist and forage agronomist in Vernon, Texas, is trying to add more colors to the world of hibiscuses.
Malinowski is working on breeding winter-hardy hibiscus in what started as a hobby about four years ago, but in the last year has been added to the strategic plan of the Vernon research program.
Commercialization of the flowers by Malinowski; co-worker Dr. William Pinchak, AgriLife Research-Vernon; and Steve Brown, Texas Foundation Seed Service program director, is a part of the research on non-traditional or under-utilized crops that have value because of drought tolerance.
The hardy hibiscus is a great candidate because it is a carefree plant. It doesn't have to be watered once it gets established, is low maintenance and has little disease or insect pressure, he said.
Malinowski said one objective of the breeding program is to create lines or cultivars with a range of colors. Presently, commercial cultivars come basically in three colors -- white, red and pink.
"We have created so far many more colors, like lavender or mauve, different shades of fuscia and pinks," he said. "One flower we have, we want to have an almost burgundy color. Another is lavender with a big flower, big petals. And we have a plum color that is rare in hibiscus."
The goal is to have at least 11- to 12-inch diameter flowers, Malinowski said.
"We can manipulate the color and still maintain the large flowers with nice texture," he said. "We also can combine the trait of a large flower with dual colors and nice texture. That is an important value for the next step of the breeding program, to create dual colored flowers."
Read more about this unique breeding program here.