How to Care for Hibiscus Plants – The Ultimate Guide

Growing hibiscus plants is a fun way of adding a lot of beautiful color to your garden. While they do require a certain amount of extra care than some other varieties of popular flowers, it’s not difficult to master the basics of caring for hibiscus plants. You’ll also find their stunning, vibrant blooms are well worth the effort.

If you’re considering growing hibiscus plants in your garden, it would be useful to know as much as you can about these plants and how to take care of them. Let’s take a look!

What is Hibiscus?

orange hibiscus flower

Hibiscus is widely grown as an ornamental plant in tropical and subtropical regions. It’s widely known by many names including;

  • Chinese hibiscus,
  • China rose,
  • Hawaiian Hibiscus
  • Rose mallow
  • Shoeblack plant

The hibiscus is native to tropical and subtropical regions in the world. There are various species of hibiscus used for ornamental, medicinal, and culinary purposes as well as in certain spiritual traditions.

There are two types of hibiscus: hardy and tropical. Hardy hibiscus plants are easier to grow and can tolerate freezing temperatures whereas tropical hibiscus cannot survive outdoors in winter.

These two types of hibiscus differ in appearance as well. Tropical hibiscus is usually available in one or two colors including yellow, orange, salmon, or peach while hardy plants come in just one color including pink, red or white. They’re also much larger than the tropical flowers, almost the size of dinner plates. They have dull green, heart-shaped leaves while tropical flowers have glossy leaves, deep green leaves. Hibiscus blooms can grow as large as six inches in diameter.

There are several types of hibiscus plants native to the state of Hawaii.  Of these, the yellow hibiscus is the state official flower, although the most commonly seen variety in the state is Hibiscus rosa-sinensis.

Uses of Hibiscus

As we’ve mentioned before, the hibiscus plant is used around the world for various purposes due to its soothing and astringent properties:

Medicinal Uses

Hibiscus blooms have medicinal properties and are usually made into tea. This tea is rich in powerful antioxidants and will help to reduce the harmful effects of free radicals. It’s consumed both hot and cold. Hibiscus is said to lower fever and high blood pressure. It’s also used as diuretics as well as in the treatment of cancer.

In Africa, hibiscus tea was used for the treatment of cancer, constipation, cold symptoms and liver diseases. The pulp that was left over from making tea was used to treat wounds. For the Iranians, sour hibiscus tea is a popular and effective treatment for high blood pressure and even today, it continues to be used.

Culinary Uses

Chefs around the world have used and continue to use hibiscus flowers as a colorful garnish. However, the stalks and leaves of this plant are also popular for seasoning curry dishes and in salads. The flowers can be prepared in many ways, stuffed and then fried, or sautéed. The buds can be boiled or pickled.

In Jamaica, hibiscus is known as ‘sorrel and is combined with various spices, roots, herbs and cane sugar to produce a delicious drink. It’s also enjoyed mixed in Jamaican rum.

How to Take Care of Hibiscus Plants

Here are some important factors to consider when taking care of hibiscus plants:

1. Soil Type

Hibiscus plants flourish when planted in slightly acidic soil. If your garden soil isn’t acidic, you can try increasing the level of acidity by adding peat moss to it. Plant the hibiscus 2-3 feet away from each other since they’ll grow quite large over time.

2. Watering Needs

During the warmer seasons you’ll need to water your hibiscus daily and when the plants are blooming they require lots of water. During cooler weather, however, these plants need a lot less water. In fact, overwatering can kill them. During winter, make sure to water your hibiscus plants only when the soil feels dry.

3. Temperature for Growth

Hibiscus plants can’t tolerate very cold or very hot temperatures. The ideal temperature for these plants is between 60-90 degrees Fahrenheit which is 16-32 degrees celcius. During the summer months you can place your hibiscus plants outside, but then the weather gets colder you’ll have to bring them indoors.

Hibiscus plants thrive in humid, warm conditions, but too much heat can scorch them, so think about the ideal spot before you decide to plant them.

4. Fertilizing

Tropical hibiscus plants need a lot of nutrients to bloom well. During winter, you won’t have to fertilize your hibiscus plants at all, but during the summer, feed them a high potassium fertilizer. There are two ways you can fertilize these plants:

  • Use a liquid fertilizer once a week
  • Use a slow-release fertilizer just once a month
  • Mix high potassium compost with the soil

Hardy hibiscus plants hardly require any fertilizer, but you can always choose to feed them some to promote rapid growth and help it bloom.

5. Pests and Other Problems

The best way to maintain your hibiscus plants is by checking them regularly for signs of issues like dropping blossoms. If you’ve noticed the blossoms of your hibiscus plants falling off, it’s most likely caused by pests.

Some common pests you’ll need to watch out for include spider mites, aphids, mealy bugs, hibiscus beetles and whiteflies. These pests eat the flower buds of the plant, which makes them fall off before they can have the chance to bloom. To fix this problem, use an organic insecticide at least once a week.

Insects can also cause the leaves of your hibiscus plants to turn yellow, so you would have to keep some insecticide on hand to apply regularly. One safe and natural option is neem oil, which you can spray onto the leaves or mix with the soil once a week.

Apply neem oil in the evening since the colder temperature and low light will help prevent the leaves from getting damaged.

6. Pruning

Hibiscus plants should be pruned to grow well, at least once a year. The best time to do this is in early spring. Cut off a third of every branch, making sure to leave behind 2-3 healthy nodes and remove any unhealthy, dead branches. This will make the plant grow bushier and encourage more buds.

How to Grow Hibiscus Plants

The process of planting hibiscus isn’t difficult. You can grow these plants from seeds or cuttings and plant them during the spring. If you’re planting seeds, sow them indoors about twelve weeks before the last frost. You can also sow them outdoors once the final expected frost date is over. With these simple steps, you’ll soon get your hibiscus garden growing beautifully:

  1. Choose a hibiscus plant you like. Some popular varieties include Rose of Sharon, Rose Mallow and Swamp Hibiscus.
  2. Choose an area in your garden that’s exposed to partial or full sun. If you’re planting in containers, make sure there’s a spot in your home where your plants will get enough sunlight. Avoid planting them in an area that would be easily exposed to strong winds.
  3. Prepare the soil for planting. Soil should fertile and well-drained in order to produce healthy hibiscus plants. Hibiscus can thrive in alkaline soil, but it grows best in soil that’s slightly acidic.
  4. Plant the hibiscus. Take your hibiscus plants out of the container they came in and plant them in the soil carefully. If you’re planting potted hibiscus, make sure the stems are just at the surface of the soil.
  5. Space the plants out. Consider the potential width and height of your plants before planting. Some hibiscus plants can grow up to 12 and 10 feet respectively, so make sure to leave enough space between them (about 2 – 3 feet apart).
  6. Water the plants well. As soon as they’re planted, water your hibiscus well.

Growing Hibiscus Plants in Containers

hibiscus plants in containers

Most people tend to grow hibiscus plants in containers since it makes them easier to move around to proper locations during certain times of the year. Potted hibiscus plants should be placed where they can get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight which will give them lovely blooms.

If it’s too hot in the afternoon, you may want to place your plants somewhere where they’re not exposed to direct sunlight and this is easier to do when they’re planted in containers. The plants should always have excellent drainage and they need only a little room in the container for the roots to spread out.

The Take-Away

So there you have it! As you can see, caring for hibiscus plants isn’t difficult to do. The best part is, these plants don’t require advanced gardening skills. In fact, anyone can grow a hibiscus plant successfully. With minimal effort, you’ll be able to enjoy lovely plants with gorgeous, luxurious blooms that will light up your home and garden.