HIBISCUS

FAMILY: Malvaceae

TYPE
  • Annuals
  • Deciduous
  • Evergreen
  • Perennials
  • Shrubs
SUN EXPOSURE
  • Full Sun
WATER
  • Regular Water

Plant Details

Among the showiest flowering plants in Southern gardens, hibiscus typically bear funnel-shaped blossomssometimes as big as dinner plates and often with prominent stamens. The many species offer an astonishing range of flower colors, and most bloom over a long season. Flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Whiteflies and aphids are common pests; insecticidal soap is a good control for both.

REDLEAF HIBISCUS

hibiscus acetosella(Hibiscus eetveldeanus)

  • Evergreen shrubby perennial.
  • Zones TS; USDA 10-11; or grow in pots.
  • From central and eastern Africa.
  • Reaches 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide.
  • Cultivated more for its foliage than its dark-centered red or yellow flowers.
  • Leaves are up to 1 feet across; they may be lobed (somewhat like a maple leaf) or unlobed.
  • Color varies from green to deep purplish red.
  • Haight Ashbury leaves are heavily splashed with pink.
  • Red Shield has deep red foliage.

texas star

hibiscus coccineus

  • Shrubby perennial.
  • Zones US, MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 6-11.
  • Native to coastal swamps of Florida and Georgia.
  • Moderately fast-growing bush to 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide, with handsome glossy foliage; very showy scarlet flowers, 3 inches wide, bloom from June to October.
  • Palmate leaves with three to seven lobes look much like those of Japanese maple (Acer palmatum).
  • Use as an accent or at the back of a perennial border.
  • Does well in either wet or well-drained soil.
  • Lone Star has blooms of pure white.

halberd-leafed rose-mallow

hibiscus militaris

  • Shrubby perennial.
  • Zones US, MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 6-11.
  • Native to marshes and wet woods from Pennsylvania to Minnesota, south to Florida and Texas.
  • If grown in moist soil, quickly attains 8 feet tall, 3 feet wide.
  • Dagger-shaped dark green leaves to 6 inches long; pinkish white, 4- to 6 inches flowers from May to October.
  • Tolerates partial shade; takes heavy soils with poor drainage.

hardy hibiscus, common rose- mallow

hibiscus moscheutos

  • Perennial.
  • Zones US, MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 6-11.
  • Native to the southern U.S., and an old Southern favorite.
  • Largest flowers of all hibiscus, some to 1 feet across, on a plant 68 feet tall and 3 feet wide.
  • Bloom starts in June, continues until fall.
  • Oval, toothed leaves to 8 inches long are deep green above, whitish beneath.
  • Plants die down in winter.
  • Feed at 6- to 8-week intervals during growing season.
  • Protect from wind.

Seed-grown strains often flower the first year if sown indoors and planted out early; these plants are bushier and more uniform than the species. Southern Belle strain grows 4 feet tall; Cordials series plants are 3 feet tall; Vintage series reach 23 feet tall; Disco Belle, Frisbee, Luna, and Rio Carnival strains are 2212 feet tall. Flowers are 812 inches wide, come in red, pink, rose, or white, often with a red eye.

The many cutting-grown selections and hybrids include the following. Unless otherwise noted, all reach about 4 feet high.

Anne Arundel

  • Blooms to 9 inches across, in clear pink with a red eye.

Blue River II

  • Pure white flowers to 10 inches across.
  • Foliage may have a bluish cast.

Cranberry Crush

  • Heavy producer of 7- to 8 inches-wide, cranberry-red to deep scarlet flowers that appear along the length of the stems.
  • Foliage is deep green with purple overtones.

Fantasia

  • To 23 feet high, with rosy pink, 9 inches flowers with a rosy red center.

Fireball

  • To 4 feet tall, with 10 inches., bright red flowers.

George Riegel

  • Pink, ruffly, 10 inches blooms with a red eye.

Lady Baltimore

  • Glowing pink, 6- to 8 inches-wide flowers with a large red center.

Lord Baltimore

  • Deep red, 10 inches blossoms over an exceptionally long period.

Raspberry Rose

  • Large plant, to 7 feet tall and 10 feet wide, with a profusion of bright raspberry-red blooms to 10 inches across.

Royal Gems

  • Grows 34 feet tall, with bright pink flowers to 12 inches across.
  • Oval, pointed, incurving leaves are an attractive dusky purple.
  • Cold hardy.

Summer Storm

  • Light pink blooms with a red eye can reach 10 inches across.
  • Grows 5 feet tall and a little wider.
  • Foliage is deep purple to chocolate-brown, striking in contrast to the flowers.

The Clown

  • Light pink flowers with red eye; 68 inches across.

Turn of the Century

  • Red-centered blooms with bicolor petals of pink and white range from 510 inches wide.

confederate rose

hibiscus mutabilis

  • Deciduous shrub.
  • Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11.
  • From China.
  • Shrubby or treelike in the Coastal and Tropical South, 15 feet tall, 8 feet wide; acts more like a perennial in the Lower South, growing flowering branches from woody base or short trunk.
  • Broad, oval leaves have three to five lobes.
  • In late summer and fall, flowers open from buds that resemble cotton bolls.
  • Blooms are 46 inches wide, opening white or pink often and changing to deep red by the next day.
  • Rubrum has red flowers.
  • Flore Pleno has double, rosy pink flowers.

chinese hibiscus, tropical hibiscus

hibiscus rosa-sinensis

  • Evergreen shrub.
  • Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11; provide overhead protection where winter lows frequently drop below 30F.
  • Where temperatures go much lower, grow in containers and shelter indoors over winter; or grow as annual, setting out fresh plants each spring.
  • Also makes a good houseplant that can be brought outdoors during the warm season.

A longtime favorite of Southern gardeners, this is one of the showiest flowering shrubs. Reaches 30 feet tall and 1520 feet wide in its native tropical Asia, but seldom grows over 15 feet tall in the U.S. Glossy foliage varies somewhat in size and texture, depending on selection. Growth habit may be dense and dwarfish or loose and open. Flowers are single or double, 48 inches wide. Colors range from white through pink to red, from yellow and apricot to orange. Individual flowers usually last only a day or two, but the plant blooms continuously in spring and fall; may slow in summer, as high temperatures can cause bud drop. Aphids may also cause bud drop; use horticultural oil or insecticidal soap to control them.

Requires acid soil and excellent drainage; if necessary, improve soil or set plants in raised beds or containers. Fertilize monthly (potted plants twice monthly) with a general-purpose liquid fertilizer April to September, then stop fertilizing and let growth harden. For good branch structure, prune poorly shaped young plants when you set them out in spring. To keep a mature plant growing vigorously, prune out about a third of old wood in early spring. Pinching out tips of stems in spring and summer increases flower production. These are some of the selections available:

All Aglow

  • Tall (10- to 15 feet) plant has large single flowers with broad, gold-blotched orange petals, pink halo around a white throat.

Baja Breeze

  • Compact and symmetrical at 23 feet high and wide; good in large containers.
  • Rich red flowers with darker red center.

Bridal Veil

  • Large, pure white, single flowers last 3 or 4 days.
  • Grows 1015 feet tall.

Bride

  • Very large, single, palest blush to white flowers.
  • Slow to moderate growth to open-branched 4 feet.

Brilliant

  • ('San Diego Red').
  • Bright red single flowers in profusion.
  • Tall, vigorous, compact, to 15 feet Hardy.

Butterfly

  • Small, single, bright yellow flowers.
  • Slow, upright growth to 7 feet.

Cajun Blue

  • Pale lavender-gray flowers with a white eye.
  • Open grower to 46 feet tall.

Chiffon Breeze

  • Pale yellow flowers with a white eye.
  • Grows 23 feet high and wide; elegant choice for containers.

Cool Wind

  • White to softest pink flowers with a bright red eye.
  • Compact grower, reaching just 23 feet high and wide.

Crown of Bohemia

  • Double gold flowers; petals fade to carmine-orange toward base.
  • Moderate or fast growth to 5 feet Bushy, upright.
  • Hardy.

Diamond Head

  • Large, double flowers in deepest red (nearly black-red).
  • Compact growth to 5 feet.

Ecstasy

  • Large, bright red, single flowers with striking white variegation.
  • Upright growth to 4 feet.

Fiesta

  • Large, single flowers in bright orange centered with a red-edged white eye; petal edges are ruffled.
  • Strong, erect growth to 67 feet.

Full Moon

  • ('Mrs.
  • James E.
  • Hendry').
  • Double, pure yellow flowers.
  • Moderately vigorous growth to a compact 6 feet.

Golden Dust

  • Bright orange, single flowers with yellow-orange centers.
  • Compact, thick-foliaged plant to 4 feet tall.

Hula Girl

  • Large, single flowers in canary yellow with a deep red eye.
  • Compact growth to 6 feet Flowers stay open several days.

Itsy Bitsy Peach', 'Itsy Bitsy Pink', and 'Itsy Bitsy Red'. Tall (10- to 15 feet) plants with small leaves and small single flowers.

Kate Sessions

  • Large single flowers with broad petals; red with a gold tinge on petal undersides.
  • Moderate growth to 10 feet tall.
  • Upright and open habit.

Kona

  • Ruffled, double pink flowers.
  • Vigorous, upright, bushy growth to 1520 feet Prune regularly.
  • Kona Improved produces fuller flowers in a richer pink.

Kona Princess

  • Small, double pink flowers on a 6- to 7 feet shrub.

Morning Glory

  • Single, blush-pink flowers changing to warmer pink with white petal tips.
  • Grows 810 feet tall.

Moy Grande

  • Compact grower to 5 feet tall.
  • Single, brilliant rosy red flowers are huge, to more than 1 feet across.

Peppermint Flare

  • Grows 4 feet tall and wide.
  • Blooms to 10 inches across are white to palest pink, with a red eye and pronounced red flecks.

Powder Puff

  • Double flowers of creamy white; during cool weather, take on a pink tinge.
  • Grows 810 feet tall.

President

  • Large single blossoms, intense red shading to deep pink in throat.
  • Upright, compact, 67 feet tall.

Red Dragon

  • ('Celia').
  • Small to medium, double, dark red flowers.
  • Upright, compact, 68 feet tall.

Reggae Breeze

  • Golden blooms centered with a pink starburst and burgundy throat.
  • At 23 feet high and wide, a good choice for large pots.

Ross Estey

  • Heavy-textured, very large single blooms with broad, overlapping petals of pink shading to coral-orange toward tips; last 2 or 3 days on bush.
  • Vigorous.
  • To 8 feet Very large, ruffled leaves in polished dark green.

The Path

  • Large, ruffled, single flowers in bright yellow shading to orange and bright fuchsia-pink in the center.
  • Grows 68 feet high.

Vulcan

  • Yellow buds open to large single flowers in red with yellow on the petal backs.
  • Blossoms often last for more than a day.
  • Compact grower to 46 feet high.

White Wings

  • Profuse, narrow-petaled, single white flowers with small red eye.
  • Vigorous, open, upright to 20 feet.; prune to control legginess.
  • A compact form with smaller flowers is available.

fringed hibiscus, coral hibiscus

hibiscus schizopetalus

  • Evergreen shrub in Zone TS; USDA 10-11; annual elsewhere.
  • From tropical east Africa.
  • To 915 feet tall, 612 feet wide, with weeping habit.
  • Blooms almost all year, bearing white, pink, red, or yellow blossoms with fringed petals and an unusually long column of stamens that resembles a bottlebrush.
  • Plants are sometimes kept small and grown in hanging baskets.

rose of sharon, shrub althaea

hibiscus syriacus

  • Deciduous shrub or small tree.
  • Zones US, MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 6-11.
  • This old Southern favorite has come full circle.
  • Native to Korea and India (not Syria, despite the name), it was one of Grandma's standby plants for colorful summer blooms.
  • But most nurseries sold unnamed seedlings only by color.
  • When showier trees like crepe myrtle gained favor, rose of Sharon fell by the wayside.
  • Improved, named selections now offer better blooms over a longer period, more colors, fewer seeds, and nicer forms.

Plant grows upright and compact when young, spreading and opening with age to 1012 feet tall and 6 feet wide; easily trained to a single trunk or espaliered against a wall. Leaves to 4 inches long, with three coarsely toothed lobes, emerge somewhat late in spring and drop in fall with little color. Flowers resembling those of hollyhock (Alcea) appear in summer. Blossoms are single, semidouble, or double, 2123 inches across, often with a contrasting purplish throat. Though single forms are more attractive than doubles, most produce more seeds (and hence, more seedlings) than doubles. Self-sown seedlings can be weedy. New sterile selections are seedless.

Easy to grow in almost any well-drained soil. Tolerates heat and drought. Prune in winter, as blooms form on new growth. Japanese beetles that eat flowers and leaves can be serious pests. Control by hand-picking the beetles or spraying plant with neem oil, a natural pesticide. Deer resistant.

Recommended selections include the following:

Ardens

  • Double lilac-purple flowers with darker center.
  • Few seeds.

Blue Bird

  • Single, blue flowers with small red eye.
  • Considered the best blue form for many years, this selection has now been surpassed by newer introductions.

Blushing Bride

  • Double, bright pink blossoms.
  • Few seeds.

Boule de Feu

  • Double, deep violet-pink flowers.
  • Few seeds.

Freedom

  • Double flowers in deep mauve-pink.
  • Larger flowers than most doubles.
  • Strong grower with handsome foliage.
  • Few seeds.

Jeanne d'Arc'. Double flowers of pure white. Few seeds.

Pink Giant

  • Large rose-pink blooms with a red eye and yellow stamens.

Red Heart

  • Single white flowers with a red eye.
  • Strong grower.

Plants in the Chiffon series have soft-colored flowers with a ruffled center that gives them the look of anemones. Satin series plants are robust growers with blooms in rich shades of blue, light pink, rose-pink, and violet, all with a dark red center.

The U.S. National Arboretum has introduced selections developed by famed plant breeder Don Egolf. These plants are triploids; the extra set of chromosomes results in large blossoms with strong, heavy-textured petals. Because plants produce little seed, flowers appear over a long period. Choices include 'Aphrodite', bearing single, rose-pink flowers with a deep red eye; 'Diana' (the most popular of this group), with single, pure white blossoms; 'Helene', single, white flowers with a deep red eye; 'Minerva', single, ruffled, lavender blooms with a reddish purple eye.

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