Types of Hibiscus Plants


Hibiscus is a popular plant among gardeners around the world, due to its beautiful flowers and its many uses. There are many different varieties of this plant and each one has its own special qualities. However, they also do share some common characteristics: they produce beautiful blooms and are available in a wide range of colors including double or single in form. 

If you’re having trouble deciding which type of hibiscus to grow in your garden, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ve put together a list of the most popular types of hibiscuses planted in gardens around the world. Let’s take a look. 

Native Hibiscus 

native hibiscus flower

Native hibiscus is a fast-growing, herbaceous plant that can grow to a height of 4 to 15 ft and a width of 4 to 8 ft, depending on the species. They grow naturally in wetlands, but they can also thrive in dry areas and bloom well in full to partial sunlight. 

As most of these plants grow quite large, they need enough room and should be spaced far apart from each other when planted in rows.  They can be propagated by seeds or stem cuttings.

Here are some examples of native hibiscus plants: 

1. Blue Hibiscus (Alyogyne huegeliii)

dwarf hibiscus flower

Blue hibiscus is an evergreen shrub belonging to the Malvaceous family which is a native to Western Australia. This plant prefers the coastal shrubland’s sands and has beautiful, trumpet-shaped blooms that are lilac-blue to mauve purple in color. It’s a sun-loving plant that is ideal for gardens, containers, and shrub or wall-side borders.

Blue hibiscus doesn’t require a lot of watering and fertilizing. It’s a low-maintenance plant with a lower risk of getting pest infestations and diseases. The foliage consists of medium-sized dark green leaves which are 3-4 lobed deeply. It belongs to the USDA zones of hardiness 5-8.

2. Dwarf Hibiscus (Hibiscus divaricatus)

With its dense, large green foliage this plant usually produces bright yellow blooms but there is also a rare white and pink species. It’s a drought-tolerant plant that grows well in the full sun and well-drained soil. Dwarf hibiscus is native to Queensland and Western Australia. 

This plant blooms in spring and summer, growing up to about 5 meters in height, and has smooth stems with large leaves. It grows well in USDA zones 5 through 9 at a medium growth rate.

3. Native Rosella (Hibiscus heterophyllus)

native rosella

This genus of hibiscus grows up to 3-6 meters high and has linear to oval-shaped leaves. The large flowers come in many colors including white, pink, and yellow with a red-colored center. The flower buds can be boiled or used raw in various types of salads and dishes. They’re also made into jam, making this a very useful plant to have in your garden.

Native Rosella mostly prefers warm yet moist environments. However, when taken good care of, it can also survive in cooler climates. It grows well in full sun and likes well-drained soil with a basic to neutral acidic level. It can be grown or propagated in the USDA zones 8-11.

4. Pink Cottonwood Hibiscus (Hibiscus splendens)

nice pink hardy hibiscus plants

Also known as the “Native Hollyhock Tree”, pink hibiscus is another well-known species native to Australia. It has large, beautiful leaves and flowers as large as 150 mm in diameter which bloom in different shades of pink from spring to summer. The hairs on the flower capsules can cause skin irritation, so these plants should be handled with care.

Pink hibiscus typically flowers from spring through to summer and the flowers only last for a day or two. It requires well-drained, moist soil and can be grown in USDA zones 9-12. 

5. Coast Cottonwood (Hibiscus tiliaceus) 

coast cottonwood hibiscus
Coast cottonwood hibiscus by Floridatrees.

 Also known as the ‘Cotton tree’ or ‘beach hibiscus’, this plant has beautiful yellow flowers with a dark maroon or blackish center. Their color deepens to orange or apricot as they mature and they have beautiful, heart-shaped to circular leaves.

This plant can be grown easily in ordinary garden soil in the full sun or partial shade and require very low maintenance. It belongs to the USDA hardiness zones 10-12 and has a wide native range such as Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Pacific islands. In Sri Lanka, the bark and leaves of this plant is often used as a traditional ayurvedic treatment for fever, coughs, bronchitis, dysentery, and pulmonary diseases.

Tropical Hibiscus

tropical hibiscus

Tropical hibiscus plants are mostly native to Asia and constantly produce beautiful flowers in a wide range of colors. However, each flower blooms for just one day. In colder climates, these plants are grown as annuals. 

Tropical hibiscus plants are very easy to care for since they only require adequate light and water. They’re also easy to propagate from soft-stem cuttings and don’t usually attract pests or get diseased.  If you’re looking to grow a beautiful plant with vibrant, dramatic flowers, this is the right choice for you. 

Below are some examples of popular tropical hibiscus plants that could add color and beauty to your garden. 

1. Chinese Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

Chinese hibiscus

Also known as the “China rose”, this variety of hibiscus produces large flowers with a vivid deep red color. It grows as a bushy shrub or a small tree and has glossy green leaves. It thrives in temperatures above 60 degrees Fahrenheit – anything less than that and it will wither. 

This plant is fairly large, growing up to a height of 15 meters. It grows well in the USDA hardiness zones 9-11 and prefers well-drained, moist soil with a neutral to basic alkaline level. The flowers and young leaves are edible and used for various culinary purposes.

2. Butterball Triple Yellow Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

Chinese butterball flower

Butterball hibiscus produces beautiful, round flowers that are a lovely golden-yellow color. It prefers well-drained, fertile soil and is known to tolerate salt up to a certain extent. This makes it a popular ornamental plant in inlands as well as coastal regions.

 Butterball hibiscus has deep green foliage and nectar-rich flowers that often attract friendly pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. They’re grown in USDA zones 9-10 and under correct growing conditions, they can produce flowers throughout much of the year.

3. Checkered Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

This plant has beautiful blossoms that come in several different colors including red, pink, green, white, and burgundy which bloom throughout the summer. It has a variegated foliage with randomly splashed shades of green, burgundy, and even white. 

Checkered hibiscus is a wind-tolerant plant that thrives in the partial shade. The plant grows as medium to large shrubs and can even tolerate salt up to some extent. Like many other tropical hibiscus species, this type also belongs to the USDA sones 9-10. It prefers nutrient-rich, well-drained soil and a lot of watering.

4. Coral Hibiscus (Hibiscus schizopetalus)

coral hibiscus flower

Also named “Japanese Lantern”, coral hibiscus is an easy-to-grow hibiscus variety with unique coral-red flowers which gave it its name. This plant is native to Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique. It’s a popular plant in most gardens because of its pollen- and nectar-rich flowers that attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

Coral hibiscus can survive under temperatures of 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) and thrives in alkaline or neutral soil. It can be grown in the USDA hardiness zones 9-10.

5. Poodle Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

poodle hibiscus

Poodle hibiscus comes in yellow, orange, apricot, and red colors. It produces large flowers with a protruding pedicel that ends with a frilly cluster of petals. When planted and taken good care of, this plant has the ability to produce flowers all throughout the year. It can be grown as a large shrub, small trees, and even shaped into hedges. 

This plant also grows well in USDA zones 9-10 which makes it a draught and a heat resistant plant that’s easy to care for. The leaves are dark green in color and have dark burgundy veins with sharp edges. The preferable soil type is well-drained and moderately to rich nutrient soil. 

6. Dainty White (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

dainty white hibiscus

This plant is also known as “white swan hibiscus” due to its elegant, pure white color. It’s a constant bloomer that produces flowers all throughout the year. Its five-petaled flowers are about 3 inches in width and contrast with the dark green leaves, making the plant more radiant to the eye.

This plant can grow up to 1-3 meters tall in moist, well-drained soil with full sun to semi-shade in USDA zones 9-10. It can be propagated by stem cuttings and has moderate water requirements. Dainty white is considered a very rare and valuable hibiscus species among gardeners. 

7. Fiji Island tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis “Fiji Island”)

This is another rare species of tropical hibiscus that is adored by many hibiscus lovers. This sun-loving plant generates exotic and beautiful flowers in a pinkish purple with dark centers. Unlike many other similar types, the Fiji island hibiscus plant develops a weeping habit as it grows giving it a graceful look.

It’s an evergreen shrub with deep glossy green foliage and can generate flowers throughout the whole year. It grows well in mildly alkaline, acidic soil and has average watering needs. Fiji island hibiscus grows well in USDA hardiness zones 10-11.

8. Black Dragon Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

This hybrid tropical hibiscus species is popular for its outstanding big blooms. It produces dark burgundy flowers with black centers that are about 6-12 inches in diameter. It’s a slow-growing shrub that needs ample amounts of sun, water, and fertilizer. Due to its unique blooms, the American Hibiscus Society named it the “Hibiscus of the Year” in 2005.

Black dragon hibiscus prefers temperatures above 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius). It belongs to the USDA hardiness zones 9-11 and grows well in slightly acidic to neutral soil. The shrubs have a round structure with an equal height and spread of 3-6 feet.

Perennial Hibiscus 

perennial hibiscus flowers

These grow from 3 to 6 feet tall and produce huge flowers that are 8-12 inches wide. The flowers come in a wide range of colors such as rose-pink, scarlet, white, plum and there are also multicolored flowers that mostly bloom in late summer and early fall. They typically last for up to 2 days. 

Perennial hibiscus needs full sunlight but grows well in partial shade. However, it can affect the blooms.  How well the flowers bloom depends on the amount of light the plants get so if you’re planting these in your garden, make sure to do so in an area that’s exposed to enough sunlight. 

These plants are a lot easier to grow than tropical hibiscus. However, they’re not drought-tolerant and require quite a bit of water. They bloom best with enough water and about 6 hours of sun per day. 

Hardy hibiscus is also a type of perennial hibiscus. Most hardy hibiscus grows well when planted in large containers with well-drained, moist, and nutrient-rich soil with organic matter. They should be watered well after the planting is done and you’d need to maintain a watering schedule to make sure they get 1 inch of water per week in the first year.

Hardy hibiscus is cold-tolerant plants that can withstand extreme cold weather which makes them ideal to grow in non-tropical regions with harsh winter conditions.

1. Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris marsh)

swamp rose mallow hibiscus

This plant generates beautiful blooms the size of 1 to 2 inches in diameter. It’s native to the Eastern United States region and grows up to a height of 7 feet. The flowers have a light pink color with a lovely fragrance and can last from six to eight weeks. 

Swamp rose hibiscus is a moisture-loving plant that performs well in wet, damp areas. It’s best grown in nutrient-rich soil and requires full sunlight in USDA zones 5-8.

2. Scarlet Rose Mallow (Hibiscus coccineus)

scarlet rose mallow
Scarlet rose mallow hibiscus by Floridatrees. 

This is a sturdy and erect herbaceous perennial indigenous to the Southeastern United States. It has bright scarlet blossoms and large leaves with toothed edges. It withstands summer heat and humidity and requires moist soil to grow. 

Scarlet rose mallow grows well in USDA hardiness zones 6-13. It’s an ideal hibiscus species for shrub borders in gardens or along with ponds or streams.

3. Halberd-leaved Rose Mallow (Hibiscus laevis)

Commonly known as “smooth rosemallow”, this hardy hibiscus plant is best grown in medium to wet soils with full sun. Its leaves can be distinguished easily due to their specific, three-lobed nature which resembles a spear. Smooth rose mallow flowers come in white to pink colors with a maroon center and bloom from mid-summer to fall.

Smooth rose mallow blooms from fall to summer and each flower only lasts up to 24 hours. It performs well in USDA hardiness zones 4-9 and is native to Southeastern Canada and some parts of the U.S.A. 

4. Fireball Hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos)

This hybrid perennial bears round, huge disk-shaped blooms that are a stunning bold red color with a size of 12 inches across on long and tall stems. The foliage of this plant has a unique appearance with deeply cut leaves and purple-colored veins on them. 

Although fireball is a type of hardy hibiscus that can thrive in cold regions, it’s also popular for its impressive heat-tolerant ability. It grows to a full height of 4 feet and grows well in USDA zones 5 to 9. It prefers evenly moist, well-drained soil types.

5. Blue River II (Hibiscus moscheutos)

Another hybrid perennial, the Blue River II is a hardy hibiscus plant that produces extremely large, fully white flowers with no colored center. It has very good resistance to most diseases and pests and can be grown easily with very little maintenance. 

Blue River II grows in the USDA hardiness zones 5-9 and produces blooms continuously from July to September. This plant prefers organically rich, moist soils, and benefits from regular fertilization in the growing season. For the best blooms, they should be planted in a spot with good air circulation and full sunlight.

6. Aphrodite Hardy Hibiscus (Hibiscus syriacus)

Also known as the “Rose of Sharon”, deciduous shrub with pale yellow-green to medium-green foliage has pink flowers and unique petals which look wavy and ruffled. It can be easily propagated by stem cuttings and flowers continuously from midsummer to fall.

Rose of Sharon grows from 8-12 feet tall with a spread of 6-10 feet, so the plants should have enough space between them. It grows well in average to medium moist and well-drained soil but can also tolerate ordinary garden soil. It grows in USDA zones 5-8. 

7. Rock Hibiscus (Hibiscus denudatus)

Also known as “paleface”, rock hibiscus is a small shrubby plant, mostly found in American and Mexican desserts and hill regions. It produces white to pinkish-lavender flowers from January to October. 

The leaves of this plant are fuzzy, tiny, and oval or triangular shaped, which makes it easy to identify. It grows up to a maximum height of 3 feet and has very thin, twig-like branches. It belongs to the USDA plant hardiness zones 7 to 11.

Wrapping Up 

There are more than 200 hibiscus varieties in the world and many newer hybrids are created every other day. These plants are highly popular among gardeners all over the world because of their versatility and adaptability. If you’re thinking about planting hibiscus in your garden, you’ve got a wide range of options to choose from. 

While this article lists only a few of the most popular varieties, there are hundreds more so the choice is up to you. Regardless of the type you choose, you’ll be adding a splash of color and giving new life to your garden.