Will Braided Hibiscus Live in Northeast Ohio?

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Several species of hibiscus (Hibiscus spp.) are commonly grown in U.S. gardens, and are widely sold in braided form. Different species of hibiscus tend to look similar, however, so it can be difficult to tell which are cold hardy in areas such as Northeast Ohio and which will simply die when the cool season approaches. If you’re wondering about your braided hibiscus, determine which species it is and act accordingly.

Braided Hibiscus

  • Braided hibiscus is not a specific hibiscus species. All of the most common hibiscus species -- Chinese hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) and scarlet rose mallow (Hibiscus coccineus), to name a few, have a shrubbing growth habit, which means they grow on woody stems that thicken into trunk-like formations over time. With proper pruning and training, these trunks can be braided by professional gardeners. Because of the long time it takes to produce a braided hibiscus, they can cost considerably more than a regular hibiscus shrub.

Hibiscus Hardiness Zones

  • When you buy a braided hibiscus to use as a perennial, first determine its hardiness zones. Chinese hibiscus is not very winter hardy, only withstanding U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11. Rose mallow, however, grows in USDA zones 4 through 9 and blooms from summertime through to the first frost, making it a good choice for colder areas. Scarlet rose mallow is slightly less cold hardy, doing well in USDA zones 6 through 9.

Outdoor Planting

  • Northeast Ohio includes USDA zones 6a and 5b. Depending on where you live, you may be able to get scarlet rose mallow to grow, but will definitely have no luck with Chinese hibiscus. Several species of hibiscus or regular rose mallow will grow, however, including Hibiscus coccineus and Hibiscus lasiocarpos, which is winter hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9. The best way to ensure your braided hibiscus survives the winter is to check its hardiness zones before you plant it.

Indoor Care

  • Another option is to keep your hibiscus potted and bring it indoors in the wintertime. This is a good way to use Chinese hibiscus outdoors part of the year, but protect it when temperatures start to drop. Bring it in and place it in your brightest window, using a supplemental lighting source if the plant begins to drop leaves. Water less frequently in the winter to avoid root rot. A good tip is to wait until the leaves look dull before watering it.

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