The first time I ever saw a Hibiscus plant, I was in shock with the size of the blooms and their intense color. The blooms were the size of a plate and gave such a tropical look to a common Oregon flower garden. I was impressed, to say the least, and ever since, I’ve admired and looked for Hibiscus plants in landscapes. If you’re interested in growing this outstanding plant, I hope that today’s blog post will be helpful.
Hibiscus is the Greek name for Mallow. The Mallow family is extremely large with nearly 300 species including trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals. Hollyhocks, okra and even cotton are in this family. Here are a few well-known Hibiscus plants, and there are many more!
Hibiscus moscheutos: Known as Rose Mallow, it is native to marshy areas. It has been extensively bred and is the parent of many of the popular Hibiscus hybrids (Disco Belle, Southern Belle Mix and others). It is often referred to as “Dinner Plate Hibiscus” or Hardy Hibiscus. The most common colors are white, bi-colored, and shades of red or pink. It blooms from late July until October, and the large individual flowers do not usually last more than a day, but the plant may have several of the large blooms (size ranges from 4 – 12 inches across) at one time, and they are quickly replaced by new blooms. Prominent pistil and stamens are located in the center of each flower adding to their charm. Their stems are woody, but they die back to the ground in winter. Deadhead for aesthetics. The Hibiscus flowers are attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies.
Hibiscus syriacus: Commonlly called Rose of Sharon or Shrub Althea. This is a medium-sized ornamental shrub, or it can be limbed to form a small tree form. The shrub has continuous blooms from July through September. The flowers are single or double, with large petals, and measure 3 – 4 inches across.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis: This is a tropical shrub referred to as Chinese Hibiscus. The flowers are available in many colors, ranging through the entire spectrum except blue. The flowers typically are 4 – 8 inches wide and may be single or double. Chinese Hibiscus is not frost tolerant, so it is often wintered indoors.
Hibiscus acetosella: This Red Leaf Hibiscus is grown more for its deep burgundy red, maple-like leaves than for the flowers. It is also a tropical shrub that grows easily and quickly enough that it is treated as an annual in many areas of the United States.
How to grow Hibiscus plants:
- Location: Full sun
- Soil: It should be rich in organic matter, well-drained.
- Moisture: Damp soil is preferred. Until they are well-established, young Hibiscus plants require lots of water. Applying a 3 inch layer of mulch around the base of the plant will help keep the roots cool and moist.
- Fertilizer: A top dressing of composted manure each spring will bring out the most stunning foliage and bloom color. Use a liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season, two times each month.
Hibiscus plants are easy to propagate by several methods. Cuttings can be taken and roots usually form in 4 – 5 weeks. Hibiscus seeds can be sown indoors in late winter. It is recommended to soak the seeds before sowing to help break the outer shell of the seed. Hibiscus seeds can also be sown directly outdoors after frosts have passed. Plants will often bloom from seed their first year. With care, Hibiscus plants can also be divided in the spring.
Hibiscus plants are valuable to the garden because they give incredible color in the later part of the season when there are fewer flowering plants. Also, if you want a taste of the tropics, and you live in a colder, northern climate, a hardy Hibiscus will give an impressive flower display.
Question of the week: Do you have Hibiscus growing in your flower garden?
By Kimberly Bell