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Extension > Garden > Yard and Garden > Hibiscus

Hibiscus

The hibiscus is a member of the mallow family which encompasses nearly 300 species including trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. Although native to the warmer tropical regions, there are a few species known to our southern states.

In our northern climate, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is the species most commonly available through nurseries, garden centers and florists. These are bred specifically for flower size and color and make great house plants as well as being wonderful additions to a summer garden. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is not winter hardy, and therefore must be brought in before the first fall frost.

The beautiful, exotic-looking flowers are short-lived, typically blooming for only one day. Once finished blooming, a self grooming feature begins; the flower will close up and drop off. There is also a shell-like structure supporting the flower. This too withers and drops a few days after the flower fades.

Hibiscus are generally easy plants to grow and should pose few problems if cultural requirements are followed.


These plants benefit tremendously from being placed outdoors after danger of frost. However, before placing them directly in full sun, it is important to acclimate them to the brighter conditions. Begin by first moving the hibiscus to a porch, then to filtered light under a shade tree and finally into the bright sunlight.

Reverse the process in the fall so that the plant is indoors before the first frost. By easing the plant into the different conditions, one can prevent bud loss and minimize foliage loss.

Common problems

Yellow leaves: Abrupt changes in soil moisture, air temperature or drafts. Avoid excessive watering especially with older varieties. Some yellowing is normal in spring or fall when growing conditions are in transition. Yellowing may signal need for fertilizer.

Bud drop: Too cold or too hot. Needs (daytime) 65°F-75°F to develop buds. Avoid drafts. Too little or too much water. Low light conditions.

Pests: Most common insects are aphids and spider mites. Keep foliage clean by washing periodically. Use insecticidal soap or insecticides labeled for use on hibiscus if necessary.


H109H
Reviewed 10/98

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