Hibiscus Tree Care – Growing The Perfect Tropical Patio Plant

The Hibiscus Tree. Perhaps no flower has a greater power to evoke the tropics than the hibiscus.

The vivid colors, silky petals, and proliferation of blooms make the hibiscus a striking complement to a garden.

yellow with red center hibiscus tree flower and budsPin

The fact that a hibiscus tree is a relatively low-maintenance, easy-to-care-for plant has made it popular all over the world.

Even in cold climates, it can thrive in containers and produce gorgeous blooms year after year. Hibiscus blossoms also produce a soothing and nutritious tea.

What Is The Plant’s Origin?

The genus hibiscus has several hundred species that originated in tropical climates around the world.

How Is The Name Pronounced?

The name is pronounced “hie-BIS-kus”

Where Did The Name ‘Hibiscus” Come From?

The origin of the name “hibiscus” comes from the Greek “

hibiskos,” name given to the plant in the first century AD.

What Is The Hibiscus Plant Related To?

There are hundreds of hibiscus species, classified in the mallow family, but

they are not closely related to other common ornamental plants.

How Many Species Of Hibiscus Are There?

There are approximately 300 species of hibiscus. [1]

What Is The Botanical Name?

The botanical name is Hibiscus.

What Are The Common Names?

Hibiscus is usually known as hibiscus, and sometimes as rose mallow.

Growing A Hibiscus Tree

Size and Growth

Most hibiscus cultivars are hardy shrubs that are easily pruned into tree forms. They can reach 7-13 feet in height, depending on cultivar.

Flowering and Fragrance

In climates where the weather stays above freezing in the winter, hibiscus will produce flowers all year long. Most hibiscus varieties do not have scented flowers, but some have a very mild fragrance.

Light and Temperature

Hibiscus trees need full sun and shelter from the wind.

In areas where winter nights don’t get colder than 50 degrees, tropical hibiscus trees can live outdoors all year long. Hardy hibiscus trees can live in USDA zones 4 or higher, dying back to the ground over winter, to return in the spring.

Tender hibiscus trees do well in containers, and should be brought indoors once winter nights drop below 50 degrees. Provide bright indirect light and reduce water so that a tender hibiscus tree enters dormancy naturally.

Watering and Feeding

They need frequent watering, especially when blooming, and will benefit from a light feeding every few weeks.

Soil and Transplanting

Hibiscus need moist, well-drained soil. As much as they like moisture, they do not do well when their roots are sitting in water.

Maintenance and Grooming

Hibiscus flowers open daily and only last for a single day. While not necessary for the health of the plant, daily grooming is ideal to remove the dead blooms and show off the new flowers to their best advantage.

Hibiscus trees do best with a good pruning in the spring time, well after any danger of frost, but before the full onset of spring growth. Pruning too late may inhibit the growth of new branches and summer flower production.

These trees often produce more blooms than they can support, so selecting the strongest canes, removing weak or dead ones, and maintaining a good overall shape by spring pruning is the best way to ensure a thriving blooming hibiscus tree in summer and fall. Throughout the year, you can pinch branch tips to help keep it in shape.

How To Propagate Hibiscus Trees

Both tropical and hardy hibiscus trees can be propagated with cuttings or by seeds. Generally speaking, only hardy hibiscus is propagated with seeds, because hibiscus grown from seed will not look like the parent plant, while cuttings will be identical to the parent plant.

How To Propagate Hibiscus Plants From Cuttings

  1. Prepare a pot with well-drained soil, such as a half-and-half blend of potting soil and perlite.
  2. Take a cutting from new growth or soft wood of the parent plant, looking for healthy growing tips and a pliable stem.
  3. The cutting should be 4-6 inches long, cut at ee a 45 degree angle just below the leaf node. Inspect the cutting for disease or insects before propagating.
  4. Remove all leaves from the cutting, and leave only the top leaves at the growing tip.
  5. Dip the cutting bottom in rooting hormone.
  6. Make a hole about 2 inches deep in the soil in your pot, and carefully place the cutting in the hole, without brushing off the rooting hormone. Gently firm the soil around the cutting.
  7. Place a plastic bag over the pot, being careful that the plastic does not rest on the leaves of the cutting.
  8. Place the cutting in partial shade and keep the soil moist until the cuttings have rooted, which should take 6-8 weeks.

Caring For A Hibiscus

True to their tropical nature, hibiscus trees like full sun, and lots of water. They should be watered to saturation, and, in the summer and fall when they are blooming most abundantly, may prefer to be watered every day. However, do not let your hibiscus tree sit in water; make sure that the soil is well-drained.

Pests, Diseases, Or Problems The Hibiscus Tree Encounters?

Hibiscus are susceptible to the usual suspects of garden pests, including Hibiscus spider mites, aphids, scale bugs, and mealybugs, but no more vulnerable than other garden flowers. Be vigilant against pests and use a natural pesticide when necessary.

Related: Controlling Whiteflies on Hibiscus Plants

Tips, Tricks, And Suggestions About The Hibiscus Plant

Don’t water hibiscus with cold water, particularly in winter. Hibiscus prefers water that is 95 degrees, so test it with your hand to ensure that water is neither cold nor too hot.

Hibiscus tea has been enjoyed around the world for centuries, and early studies have shown that it may have promising benefits for your heart and overall health. [2] However, hibiscus plants are sold in a wide variety of cultivars, with a wide range of different plant species called “hibiscus,” and it’s important to know what species you have before consuming it.

While the health risks are low in healthy people, you should consult a reputable source [3] to make sure you use edible hibiscus safely.

Best Ways To Use A Hibiscus Tree In Design

In cooler climates, hibiscus thrive as container plants on sunny porches, decks, patios, and balconies, where their spectacular color shows best in summer, but also allows them to easily be moved indoors for the winter.

In warmer climates, they can be pruned to grow as a magnificent small tree, or trained up a trellis to cover a wall.

Hibiscus Buying Tips

When shopping for hibiscus, check the tag to make sure you are buying the right species. You may want a dwarf variety, or a hardy hibiscus, or a tropical hibiscus, depending on your climate and intentions for the plant. Carefully inspect plants to make sure they are pests free.

Look for deep green leaves because yellow leaves may show illness or stress on the plant. Depending on the time of year, look for lots of flower buds that show that the plant has been consistently and sufficiently watered.

What Are The Most Popular Hibiscus Tree Species And Varieties?

The most popular species of hibiscus trees in the United States are:

Native Hibiscus

This species native to the southeastern US, is also called rose mallow or marsh hibiscus.

Learn more about –> Confederate Rose (Hibiscus mutabilis)

Hardy Hibiscus

These cultivars of native hibiscus can overwinter as low as zone 4, and popular varieties are the Rose of Sharon and Lady Baltimore.

Tropical Hibiscus

These species originate in southern Asia, also known as Chinese Hibiscus.

Florist-grade Hibiscus

These are cultivated to have a deeper foliage color to better showcase the spectacular flowers.


Hibiscus trees are deeply rewarding plants, with easy care and magnificent blooms. Their ability to thrive in soil or containers, hardy and annual cultivars, and tremendous diversity in bloom size and color make this an excellent choice for nearly any garden, provided you have adequate sun and good soil drainage.

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