Hibiscus: tips for the perfect bloom

Lea
Lea
Lea
Lea

Having studied organic farming, I enjoy trying out new cultivation methods and other gardening experiments with friends in our community garden. I care deeply about exploring sustainable and mindful approaches to working with nature. This is my biggest passion, but I am also a real ornamental plant enthusiast!

Favourite fruit: strawberry, mango, guava
Favourite vegetables: artichoke, tomato, rocket

Hibiscus flowers add an exotic flair to any garden. Here you will learn everything about planting, pruning and hibiscus care.

A bright red hibiscus flower
The hibiscus brings an eye-catching exotic flair to the garden [Photo: istanbulphotos/ Shutterstock.com]

With its flowers in all colours of the rainbow, the hibiscus (Hibiscus) is a real eye-catcher in any garden or room. Although a true exotic among ornamental plants, the hibiscus has long since found its way into our garden landscape. However, expert knowledge is needed to grow the special shrub at home. In our article, we explain everything about the origin, proper planting, care and overwintering.

Hibiscus is a plant in the mallow family (Malvaceae) and popular both as a houseplant and in the garden.
Depending on the species, hibiscus can grow as an annual or perennial herbaceous plant, semi-shrub or shrub. Thus, the diversity of the plant ranges from 20-centimetre potted plants to two-metre bushes in the garden. Hibiscus flowers are also diverse: they can have extremely varied shapes and colours and definitely bring colour and a touch of exoticism to your garden or home.

Hibiscus shrub full of flowers
Hibiscus shrubs can grow up to two metres high [Photo: Ellita/ Shutterstock.com]

Hibiscus: origins and characteristics

The hibiscus originally comes from China. All common species and varieties still known today come to us from the Middle Kingdom and its neighbouring countries. Nowadays, the plant is known and very popular around the world. In its homeland in Asia, however, the hibiscus is still highly valued today. In South Korea and Malaysia, it is even revered as the national flower. The “imperishable flower”, as the plant is called there, symbolises determination and perseverance. In China, the flower represents wealth, splendour and glory. Many a person will also have recognised the hibiscus flower on the typical Hawaiian shirt. Hibiscus flowers are indeed very impressive. They can have a diameter of up to 30 centimetres and shine in all colours of the rainbow. The flowers are often also filled, half-filled or have several colours. Even though hibiscus is only used as an ornamental plant in our country, it is said to have healing and health-promoting effects. That is why hibiscus is also found as an ingredient in countless cosmetics.

Purple hibiscus flowers in bloom
Hibiscus flower are a common print used for Hawaiian shirts

Popular species and varieties

There are over 200 species of hibiscus worldwide, which exclusively originate from Asia. At the same time, the varieties often differ in their flower colour, growth height and winter hardiness. Those who wish to enjoy the opulent hibiscus flowers in their garden should opt for a garden hibiscus (Hibiscus syriacus), also known as garden mallow. The rose mallow (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) is unbeatable as a potted plant and houseplant. Here is a summary of the most important aspects of these two most famous species of hibiscus:

Multiple varieties of hibiscus plants
The variety you choose is crucial when buying hibiscus [Photo: Victoria Kurylo/ Shutterstock.com]

Garden hibiscus (Hibiscus syriacus)

Very hardy hibiscus species; can overwinter outdoors; can be pruned to form “stems”; rather woody shoot formation; rather limited variety.

Some particularly beautiful varieties of garden hibiscus:

  • ‘Blue Bird’: blue, large flowers; blooms early in the year; hardy
  • ‘Jeanne d’Arc’: grows up to two metres tall; white, semi-double flowers; hardy
  • ‘White Chiffon’: white, semi-double flowers; blooms from summer to autumn; frost-resistant

Rose hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

Heat-loving hibiscus species; not suitable for year-around outdoor growing; wide variety of cultivars and colours; excellent as a potted plant or houseplant.

Some particularly beautiful varieties of rose hibiscus:

  • ‘Standing Ovation’: orange-red and yellow flowers; blooms from early spring to end of summer
  • ‘Jolanda Gommer’: flower colour varies between purple, orange and red
  • ‘Fruitango’: flowers between April and November; pink double with yellow edge
A potted red Chinese hibiscus
Chinese hibiscus is particularly suitable as an indoor plant [Photo: Luisa Fumi/ Shutterstock.com]

You can read about more hibiscus species and a detailed listing of the different hibiscus varieties here.

Planting hibiscus: instructions and location

Hibiscus is a demanding contemporary in the home and garden. Both the quality of the substrate and sunlight play an important role in hibiscus planting: the plant prefers a nutrient-rich soil with a balanced ratio of sand and loam. Additional enrichment of the soil with compost thereby promotes flowering in summer. Outdoors, the exotic plant loves a full-sun location. The best time for planting hibiscus is in the spring.

Instructions for planting hibiscus in a nutshell:

  • Choose a sunny location
  • Planting hole twice the size of the root ball
  • Mix excavated soil with compost
  • Water generously
  • Apply mulch layer

Detailed instructions for planting hibiscus can be found here.

Growing hibiscus in a pot

Small-growing varieties of rose hibiscus are suitable for cultivation in pots. In summer, the indoor hibiscus can also be placed in a sunny location in the garden or on the terrace. However, this frost-sensitive species must spend the winter indoors or in a winter garden.

A rootbound hibiscus plant
When kept as a houseplant, a sufficiently large pot is important for hibiscus plants [Photo: Sheila Fitzgerald/ Shutterstock.com]

Our peat-free Plantura Organic Flower Compost is ideal for cultivation in pots. It provides your hibiscus with ideal nutrients and is also harmless to humans, animals and nature.

Everything you need to know about planting hibiscus in a pot:

  • Sunny and warm location in summer
  • Bright, cooler location in winter
  • Select a sufficiently large pot
  • Nutrient-rich substrate with high humus content
  • Create a drainage layer
  • Water generously

Detailed instructions for planting hibiscus in a pot as well as care tips for keeping it in a container can be found here.

Plantura Organic Flower Compost
Plantura Organic Flower Compost

Peat-free & environmentally-friendly:
for flower beds & plant pots,
ensures beautiful plants that flower all summer,
100% natural ingredients

Propagation

If you do not want to buy a hibiscus plant, you can also propagate the plant yourself. This can be done by seeds, shoots or cuttings. When propagating by seed, the later plant may not have the same flower colour as the mother hibiscus. Propagation via cuttings, on the other hand, requires lots of skill and does not always succeed.

Hibiscus care: tips for a beautiful bloom

The hibiscus is a real diva in the garden: its flower charms everyone but it is also extremely high maintenance. Below we give you an overview of how to keep your hibiscus healthy and happy with the right care.

Person pruning a hibiscus plant
Caring for hibiscus plants includes, among other things, regular pruning [Photo: NagyG/ Shutterstock.com]

Watering hibiscus

The water requirements of different species are very different. For example, the garden hibiscus prefers to be a little drier in the summer. A steady supply of water should still be provided – simply reduce watering to once every three days. Rose hibiscus, especially if it is a potted plant exposed to dry heating air in winter, wants to be kept moist throughout. Waterlogging should be avoided at all costs, however.

Pruning hibiscus

The best time to prune hibiscus is right at the beginning of spring, when the growing season begins. The sooner you cut back the plant, which does not yet have leaves, the longer it has time to recover from the pruning. You should not be too cautious when pruning hibiscus. Even when planting, you can remove any weak and injured branches. For young plants, it is not a problem if only two or three shoots remain at the end. Shorten them again by at least half to encourage branching at the base of the shoot. Hibiscus will recover in the growth phase and in time will form dense branches. This radical pruning can be repeated next spring with a clear conscience. Besides this, there are other prunings such as rejuvenation and maintenance pruning.

For more information on the different hibiscus pruning methods, see our special article.

Fertilising

A regular application of fertiliser can help ensure a richer inflorescence with multiple blooms. If you swear by mineral fertilisation of your hibiscus, you should provide it with a complete fertiliser every two to three weeks from April to September. However, fertilising with a natural fertiliser is more sustainable and environmentally friendly. In early spring, for example, you can use mature compost in the garden and mix in a slow-release fertiliser, such as our Plantura Flower Food. Regular fertilisation from spring to autumn is also essential for potted plants. Again, Plantura Flower Food is recommended to provide the hibiscus with the right nutrients for a beautiful bloom in the long term.

Plantura Flower Food
Plantura Flower Food

With a long-lasting effect, for healthy soil, child & pet friendly

You can read even more interesting facts about the correct fertilisation of hibiscus here.

Overwintering hibiscus

The right place to overwinter hibiscus depends entirely on the species. After the first year or two, the garden hibiscus should be so be hardy that it can overwinter outside. Before that, it is advisable to keep it in a large container so that you can place it in the home or in a greenhouse during the winter months. The rose hibiscus is best kept at room temperature all year around. You can put the plant outdoors exclusively during the warm summer months from June to August, when night temperatures are also high.

More information about overwintering hibiscus can be found here.

Hibiscus care in a nutshell:

  • Water as needed
  • Avoid waterlogging
  • Apply a slow-release, organic fertiliser once in spring
  • Garden hibiscus can be overwintered outside
  • Rose hibiscus must overwinter in the warm
  • For direct planting in the bed: thick layer of bark mulch for thermal insulation

Extensive tips and tricks for hibiscus care can be found in our special article.

Common pests and diseases

Unfortunately, unwelcome pests also enjoy these beautiful plants. We have summarised which diseases and pests are a nuisance to the hibiscus here.

aphids on a hibiscus bud
Unfortunately, aphids enjoy hibiscus too [Photo: Tunatura/ Shutterstock.com]

Aphids on hibiscus

The biggest threat to the hibiscus is aphids. The plant sap-sucking pests, which are about two millimetres in size, can because a great deal of damage, especially to shoots that are still young. Aphid infestation can because death or stunting of leaves, shoots and flowers on hibiscus. Aphids can be controlled by rinsing, collecting or using biological pesticides.

Spider mites

Spider mites are tiny arachnids that can be identified by their characteristic orange colour. They damage the hibiscus by attaching themselves to the underside of the leaves, leaving webs there and thus killing the leaves. The spider mites can be treated by rinsing, with predatory mites or biological pesticide. But most importantly, you should avoid dry heating air to prevent infestation with spider mites.

Whiteflies on hibiscus

Whiteflies also because damage to leaves. The infested areas can be recognised by a slightly yellowish discolouration. Infestations can be controlled with adhesive traps to which the animals stick.

Is hibiscus poisonous?

First of all, the most important thing first: hibiscus is not poisonous. Although there are some wild species that contain toxic substances, all domesticated and hibiscus species thus used in our country are non-toxic. Tea is even made from the flowers of a particular species, the Hibiscus sabdariffa. This dark red hibiscus flower tea is especially popular in Egypt and Mexico.

dried hibiscus and hibiscus tea
There is even tea made from a species of hibiscus [Photo: Africa Studio/ Shutterstock.com]
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