Dictionary of Flowers: Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis (Annual Hibiscus, Tropical Hibiscus)

Incredible Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis (Tropical or Annual Hibiscus). Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Pinke and Flickr
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Incredible Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis (Tropical or Annual Hibiscus). Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Pinke and Flickr

  • Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis
  • Common name: annual hibiscus, tropical hibiscus
  • Family: Malvaceae
  • Category: perennial in USDA zones 9 to 11, annual elsewhere
  • Height: 15" to 15'
  • Width: 12" to 48"
  • Sun
  • Blooms: midsummer to early fall
  • Attracts: hummingbirds, butterflies
  • Growth habit: bushy. Used as a thriller in container combinations
  • Maintenance: medium
  • Soil: fertile, neutral to alkaline, moist, well drained. Water regularly if grown in containers.
  • Garden uses: containers, houseplant, mixed border. In perennial zones, hedge plant
  • Diseases: disease free if grown in proper conditions
  • Pests: Japanese beetles, aphids, whitefly

Tropical hibiscus grows in warm and tropical areas of the world, in which it acts as a perennial shrub reaching over ten feet tall.

In other areas, it is cultivated as an annual and overwintered indoors.

Hibiscus has lobed deep, glossy dark green foliage.

The blooms are large, trumpet shaped or flat with a long column in the center, in just about every color and color combination from white to deep red, yellow, peach, pink and orange. They lend a tropical look to the garden. 

Most hibiscuses available as garden and houseplants are hybrid varieties.

Full sun, at least five or six hours a day and warm soil temperature help hibiscus stay healthy. If grown in dry summer areas, it's best to provide afternoon sun.

Too little sun can cause yellowing of the leaves and leaf drop. Plant hibiscus in moist, rich, well drained soil and water regularly the first year. Hibiscus can tolerate dryer soil once established in areas in which it acts as perennial.

It requires frequent applications of fertilizer and regular watering to bloom well when grown in pots outdoors from April to September. Remove spent blooms to keep it from going to seed.

After summer, hibiscus needs to be moved indoors to overwinter. Place indoors in an area between 55 and 75F in bright light. Water less during winter while indoors. Hibiscus can be pruned in winter to keep its shape.

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Hibiscus can be propagated by stem cuttings in the spring, by taking softwood cuttings, dipping them in rooting hormone and planting in potting soil mixed with perlite or sand. They can also be rooted by just keeping in water.

Growing hibiscus from seed is not recommended, as most varieties available for sale at nurseries are hybrids and new plants won't come true to the parent plant.

If planting seed indoors, soak seed and nick it. Plant in moist starting mix, covering seed 1/4 inch. Keep very warm, at 80F, covered in plastic. When seedlings emerge, remove plastic and move containers into bright light.

As they grow, harden off to more sunlight and start fertilizing with a weak dilution of all-purpose fertilizer. It can take up to two years for a hibiscus grown from seed to produce blooms. 




IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Hibiscus' two main problems are chlorosis and leaf drop. Both conditions are caused by stress to the plant, by over-watering, under-watering, cold nights or too little sunlight.

Correct to fix problems. It is often attacked by aphids and whitefly. Treat with an insecticidal soap.

There are hundreds of cultivars to choose from when purchasing tropical hibiscus. Check with your local nursery or internet specialty hibiscus growers.

Popular varieties:

  • PASTEPOPULARVARIETIESHERE

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Full List of Dictionary of Flowers Entries

Annuals For Containers

Perennials For Containers

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