You might recognize hibiscus flowers from postcards titling tropical locations such as “Greetings from Florida!” or “Aloha from Hawaii!” And while hibiscus are definitely hardy, heat-loving garden show-stoppers, there’s a little bit more you might not know about these large, bell-shaped, pink, white and red flowers. Have you heard of perennial hibiscus?
Here’s a quick hibiscus history lesson: There are eight hibiscus species, and they’re considered to be ancestors of exotic hibiscus that were originally native to the tropical islands of Mauritius, Madagascar, Fiji, and Hawaii. These are known as tropical hibiscus and can be traced back to either China or India. It is also important to note that there are hardier cousins, the perennial hibiscus (hibiscus moscheutos, commonly known as rose mallow or swamp rose), that are North American native plants.
Good news for gardeners: perennial hibiscus are much easier to care for than their more temperamental tropical hibiscus cousins!
Planting perennial hibiscus is a great way to bring the colors of the tropics to your garden bed. Their stunning flowers only last for a day or two, but continue blooming from late spring into fall! Because these bright blooms make lovely landscape additions, we wanted to give you the rundown on exactly how you can grow and care for hibiscus in your own yard.
What to Know When Growing Hibiscus
There are few things you will want to take into consideration if you decide to start growing hibiscus. Here are step-by-step instructions so you’ll be able to cultivate these iconic blooms right in your own backyard.
1. Find Your Garden Zone
It’s important to know your garden zone so that you can plant the best varieties that will thrive in your area. Perennial hibiscus do best in zones 5-9 (21 degrees F/-1 degrees C at coldest), but tropical hibiscus need warmer temperatures (flower best at 60-90 degrees F/16-32 degrees C). If you live in a hot climate, hibiscus foliage will stay green and lush year-round. The flowers might take a break, but you’ll still have the vibrant leaves.
However, if you live in a colder climate, the plant could die down into the ground like other perennials do. In that case, this article says you’ll want to cut the plant to about six inches above the ground to encourage re-growth when the weather warms up again. Pruning in early summer will also promote flower stalk growth later in the season.
2. Plant Your Hibiscus
Depending on your garden zone, you’ll want to choose your hibiscus variety accordingly. As far as hardy perennial hibiscus go, you’ll want to choose your location carefully, as the plant does not transplant well. Perennial hibiscus does best in a spot that receives full sun and has rich, well-draining soil, but will also grow in partial shade. Plant hardy hibiscus in spring or fall to ensure
It’s always a good idea to check your soil pH before introducing new plants to your garden. Hibiscus prefers a slightly acidic environment and will grow in soils with a pH of 5.5 – 7.5, but tends to thrive the most in the 6.0 – 6.5 range. If your soil’s pH is low, consider adding peat moss or potting soil to the bed before planting.
Hardy hibiscus doesn’t just bring big color to garden beds, it also adds vertical interest! These gorgeous plants can reach 4-6 feet in height, so they work best situated behind other flowers in your garden. Be sure to leave 2 to 3 feet of room between your hibiscus and other plants in your bed to avoid overcrowding.
3. Keep Moist In Summer, Dry-ish In Winter
Since these flowers have a history in tropical climates, they do love water. You may need to water daily for your flowers to bloom in July and August. Mulch will help keep your plant’s roots from drying out during hot summer days, as well. Keep your hibiscus well-hydrated in the summertime with moist soil: you’ll likely need to water daily for your flowers to bloom in July and August.
Keep in mind that these flowers might not last very long, but there are always new ones sprouting! As winter rolls around, make sure the soil is not soggy, and to protect your plant from a late spring frost, add mulch.
4. Fertilize Hibiscus Well
Some plants do not enjoy too much fertilizer. Hibiscus, however, is not one of those plants. Perennial hibiscus is a heavy feeder, so feel free to feed your flowers fertilizer rich with potassium and/or phosphorus. The main key here is that you should only fertilize during the summer when the blooms are budding. Your hibiscus does not need fertilizer in the winter, and it can actually burn the roots if it sits in the soil while your plant is dormant.
5. Give Your Hibiscus Friends!
Once you’ve got your beautiful hibiscus growing, give her some friends.Other flowers that go well with hibiscus are somewhat dependent upon the color of your hibiscus. After all, you want an array of shades! For example, low-maintenance perennials such as Geranium Rozanne are great additions for hibiscus that don’t share their blue-violet hue. Plus, you won’t have to worry much about caring for Rozanne and can focus more on your hibiscus.
Are you ready to start growing hibiscus? Gardening is easy even for beginners when you join Rozanne’s Inner Circle. She helps you plant a thriving garden no matter your experience level!