Tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) is a shrub that can grow up to 15 feet tall and is commonly pruned into hedge form. More than 200 species of plants make up this genus that is not native to North America. It is grown in the landscape year-round in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 to 10. In cool climates it is grown as an annual and can be overwintered indoors in pots. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is commonly called Chinese hibiscus or rose-of-China.
Tropical hibiscus is sought after for its large, trumpet-shaped flowers that can grow up to 6 inches across and come in nearly every color with red one of the most popular. Its fragrant flowers are short-lived but are quickly replaced by new blooms. Their long stamens draw in valuable pollinators to the landscape -- hummingbirds and butterflies. Some lovers of the shrub have been known to graft more than one color onto a single bush.
This shrub likes well-drained soil that is acidic. It needs about one inch of water per week but doesn’t like to stand in water, so amend clay soils with organic material to improve drainage. In cooler climates it does well in full sun; in warmer climates it likes full sun to part shade. The more light it receives, the more it produces flowers. Because of its size it needs to be pruned regularly.
Tropical hibiscus can be used as a featured shrub in the yard or a foundational plant near buildings. Grown in a pot it can be pruned into a small tree and placed around the landscape to give color and a tropical feel. The pots can be moved inside for the winter and brought back out in the spring. Roots on potted plants are exposed to cold more quickly then those on plants in the ground, so when temperatures fall toward the 30s, move pots inside.
When you overwinter tropical hibiscus indoors In cooler climates, place it near a window where it will receive bright light for most of the day. In these conditions it will retain its foliage and continue to flower somewhat. If you don’t have an area where it can receive bright light, it can still be overwintered in a cool, above-freezing, area with minimal light. Suspend fertilizing while the plant is indoors and reduce frequency of watering. The plant will lose its foliage, but in the spring it will come back to life after a thorough pruning.
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