Animal Information Plant and Garden

Hibiscus is Good for the Yard, You, and Your Pets

The best location for a hibiscus plant is a location that is going to get direct sunlight for five to six hours a day. We grow the hibiscus plant so we can feed it to the iguanas, tortoises, roaches, and other species! Babies to adults there is almost nothing that does not love hibiscus flowers.

Hibiscus can come in the form of a shrub or small tree. This plant belongs to the mallow or Malvaceae family and has a long season that produces huge, colorful, trumpet-shaped flowers.

There are about 35 species of native hibiscus, also called rosemallows, in the United States.

One hibiscus native to Florida, Hibiscus coccineus, is also known as the scarlet rosemallow, marsh hibiscus, or swamp mallow. The long leaves of the marsh hibiscus have slender lobes with jagged teeth. Large, gorgeous deep-red flowers appear in mid- to late summer.

The marsh hibiscus is often used as a specimen plant in the landscape but may go dormant in the winter. It can also be used around ponds or streams. But while the marsh hibiscus is native to wetland areas, which is where its common name comes from, it is also tolerant of somewhat drier soils.

The eight hibiscus species that are considered to be the ancestors of the modern exotic hibiscus were originally native to Mauritius, Madagascar, Fiji, Hawaii, and either China or India.

Similar in many ways to today’s hibiscus, the ancestors were characterized by free flowering, tall and willow bushes.

Hibiscus is placed into two groups, tropical and hardy. Knowing which you have can mean the difference between you being able to place it out in the landscape or having to bring it in for the winter. The care for the two groups is about the same, however.

Common names include Chinese hibiscus and tropical hibiscus.

The basic characteristics of Hibiscus are single or double forms with variations in the number of arrangement of petals.

Although the six basic colors are red, orange, yellow, white, lavender, and brown, there is a broad range of color combinations, color shades, and flower forms.

Temps For Hibiscus

They do well in Florida generally speaking!

A hibiscus plant will flourish the most in temperatures that remain between 60 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the temperatures are close to 32 degrees Fahrenheit mark, the plants must remain indoors so that the cold weather does not cause damage to the plant.

The use of Hibiscus as an evergreen shrub is Florida is limited to the southern half of the state. The limiting factor in north FL is low temperatures.

Plants are highly susceptible to death when ground temperatures dip to 28-30 degrees.

Fences, screens, buildings, other trees, frost cloth, or blankets may help to protect your hibiscus during a few cold nights. However, hibiscus is not tolerant of salts, salt spray or saline irrigation.


Soil For Hibiscus

It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it

A wide range of well-drained soils is suitable for hibiscus if proper fertilization is provided. A soil pH of 5.5 to 6.5 is preferred.

Hibiscus grown on alkaline soils may suffer from micronutrient deficiencies; consider choosing a hibiscus-specific fertilizer, like HibisGain 12-6-8 to ensure your plant is receiving important nutrients.


Watering Hibiscus

Not saltwater!

Hibiscus requires well-drained soils. They do not tolerate saturated soils or “wet feet.” However, they do need adequate water and will need routine watering during periods of drought.

Consider watering very heavily once a week during a drought. We say to water the roots is more important than the leaves. Especially when it is hot.

Fertilization For Hibiscus

Fertilizer is food for hibiscus! And they are hungry!

The key to success with heavy-feeding hibiscus plants is to fertilize lightly and often.

Regular fertilization of hibiscus is essential to maintain healthy and vigorous plants.

Hibiscus bloom best when fertilized lightly and often. Irrigation after fertilization with help prevent burn. Avoid fertilization on or near the stem/trunk, spread the fertilizer beneath the canopy to slightly beyond the branches.

Growing Hibiscus In Containers

I know you can not contain your excitement!

Many find that growing hibiscus in a container is easier than growing the plant directly in the garden.

If you plant the hibiscus in a pot, you can move it easily to make sure that it gets the light that it requires to grow.

In the winter, you can make sure that the temperature is warm enough for the plant to survive, and if it suddenly is below freezing outside, you can quickly move the hibiscus indoors.

Make sure that the planter is a pot that drains well. In addition, stone pots tend to encourage hibiscus growth, which is preferred for hibiscus plants rather than using a clay pot that can make the soil alkaline over time.

Prune Or Not To Prune?

That is the real question!


If you grow any kind of plant, shrub, or tree, sooner or later you will have to decide whether or not to prune. But what is pruning really?

Pruning is defined as “trimming or cutting branches to improve growth and appearance.” There are many different pruning techniques, depending on what you want to achieve.

Some people equate pruning with chopping a plant down to the ground. For others, it’s nipping off the green tip of a branch. Any time you physically interfere with the natural growth of your plant, you’re pruning.

Pinching:

This is pruning of the topmost growth tips of branches to encourage a fuller bush.

You do this by nipping off the top 1/4″-1″ (1-2 cm) of green growth. Pinching works best on younger plants.


Selective Pruning: 

As the name indicates, pruning is carried out on selected branches and stems. At no time are more than one-third of all the branches trimmed back.

This is usually the best compromise for hibiscus, as it keeps some branches undisturbed and blooming while letting other new branches develop.

Full Prune:

Here you cut back all the branches at once down to 2-3 nodes per branch. You have to wait a bit before the next flowers come, true, but this usually yields the best, most harmonious plant.

Rejuvenating or Hard Prune: 

This is only carried out on old plants with lots of dead wood and scrawny growth.

You cut back rather low down, but no lower than one foot above soil level, and remove much larger branches than in a normal pruning.

Hard pruning is a drastic measure for mature plants that aren’t growing or blooming well. It is particularly good for those old plants that are tall with lots of sticks and stems but few leaves and flowers. A hard prune will force the plant to regrow a more compact, rounded bush.

Corrective Pruning: 

This means only pruning those branches that are undesirable or damaged. Pruning off dead tips or branches that have been damaged by cold is one type of corrective pruning.

Another type is cutting off very long stray branches that stick out in unattractive ways or reshaping a lopsided plant. The goal is to prune only enough to create a healthy, balanced plant.

Do You Have To Trim Hibiscus?

That sounds like so much work!

Hibiscus plants do not need to be pruned, but with that being said, the plant will love the additional attention. If you are going to prune a hibiscus plant to rejuvenate its look, it should be done in early spring.

This will stimulate the budding process furthermore helping the plant thrive throughout the summer months.

If you happen to prune your hibiscus plants late in the season, do not trim the branches too far back because it can hinder the blooming process.

Propagating Hibiscus

Its not just for insects!

Propagating a hibiscus plant begins with a hibiscus soft-wood cutting. This is a branch of an existing plant that has not yet matured. The limb will still be a bit soft, so be careful when trimming it.

The cuttings should be four to six inches in length, and it should still have leaves on the end of it. Place the cutting into some well-draining soil to encourage it to take root.

Adding root toner to your cutting will encourage fast healthy growth of roots.

Cover the cutting to create a greenhouse effect for the young plant and keep the soil moist until the plant takes root. Using this method, a duplicate plant will form.

Propagating with a seed is also a possibility, though the conditions need to be just right for it to work in most situations.

Use the tip of a pen to create a small hole to place the seeds in, then you can cover the holes and water the soil where the seeds have been planted. Seedlings should peek through the soil in about two to four weeks.

Turning Bushes Into Trees

Like MAGIC!

Many people enjoy the look and convenience of the “tree standard” form of popular ornamental plants such as roses, miniature citrus trees, and even garden variety hibiscus. The look of plants grown this way is neater, perhaps more sophisticated than the look of a typical potted plant.

What characterizes such plants is a straight, bare main stem that supports a “head” of branches, leaves, and flowers. Such plants are considered easier to grow than regular bushes since there is less foliage to attract insects, they use less water due to less foliage, and have a neater appearance.

Prune them a little from time to time to keep the shape of the round “head” and that is about it for routine maintenance. Over time a standard will continue to grow taller until the 2-foot (60 cm) plant purchased in a 6″ (15 cm) pot will stand 4-6 feet (1.2-1.8m) tall in a 5-10 gallon (20-40 L) pot.

Standards have been grown since Roman times, and are still as popular as ever.

How to Create Your Own Hibiscus Standard

Select a plant that has one straight main stem with a minimum height of two feet.

Cut the top off the main trunk about 2-4″ (5-10 cm) above where you want the “head” of your tree to be.

Cut away all lower side branches close to the main trunk, leaving only branches within 6″ (15 cm) from the top of the main stem.

Prune back the remaining branches that will form the “ball” on top of the standard, leaving 2-3 nodes that will grow out.

Continue trimming off new growth as it appears on the main stem. Make the cut flush with the main stem so it will not regrow from that point.

As the top branches grows out, which will take 2-4 months depending on variety, pinch back the tips on the new growth, leaving 2 to 3 nodes on each branch.

Trim off overlong or lopsided growth wherever it occurs to create a round, well shaped crown. By continuing to trim away any new growth on the main stem and pruning the crown, your standard will keep its shape and appeal for a long time to come.

Braided hibiscus trees are created with pruning and training. Multiple hibiscus stems are intertwined to form single, upright support for the plant.

Over time, the individual stems will grow together, creating a single trunk with a gnarled appearance.

The growing ends of each main stem are allowed to flourish, while any stems that branch out from the central trunks is removed. This encourages the hibiscus plant to produce rounded foliage above a central trunk that can reach 10 feet in overall height.

Hibiscus Tea

It is not for everyone, but those who like it… like it!

Hibiscus tea is made from dried parts of the hibiscus plant. It is deep red in color. It has sweet and tart flavors, similar to cranberry. Consumed hot or iced, doe drinking it offer people any health benefits?

Many people are familiar with the beautiful flowers of the hibiscus plant (Hibiscus Sabdariffa). It originated in North Africa and Southeast Asia but now grows in many tropical and subtropical climates. People around the world use various parts of the plant as food and medicine.

The part of the hibiscus plant that protects and supports the flower is called the calyx. The dried calyces are used to make hibiscus tea.

Other drinks made from the hibiscus plant include:

  • red sorrel
  • agua de Jamaica
  • Lo-Shen
  • Sudan tea
  • sour tea
  • Karkade

Hibiscus tea is categorized as an herbal tea. Herbal tea is made from a variety of plants, herbs, and spices. In many countries, herbal tea cannot be called “tea” since it does not come from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis.

Although not as popular as black and green teas, herbal tea sales continue to rise, in part due to their potential health benefits.

Nutrition Facts of Hibiscus Tea

Amount Per 100 grams8 fl oz (237 g)8 fl oz (237 g)
Calories 88
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1.5 g2%
Saturated fat 0.6 g3%
Polyunsaturated fat 0.1 g
Monounsaturated fat 0.2 g
Cholesterol 0 mg0%
Sodium 7 mg0%
Potassium 21 mg0%
Total Carbohydrate 18 g6%
Dietary fiber 0.7 g2%
Sugar 14 g
Protein 1 g2%
Vitamin A14%Vitamin C72%
Calcium0%Iron113%
Vitamin D0%Vitamin B-60%
Cobalamin0%Magnesium0%
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Hibiscus. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly!

I know! Who knew hibiscus could be ugly?

The young, tender leaves of the plant are cooked and eaten in China like spinach. In other places, the most tender leaves are put raw into salads. In various places around the world, the flowers are eaten cooked, raw, pickled, as a spice, or even as a food dye.

The flowers are the most used part of the hibiscus plant in cooking. In China, flower petals are baked in cakes, and in India they are boiled with sugar into a sweet, iced drink.

The petals have a mild, tart, citrus taste and can apparently be used for anything that a tart citrus flavor could go with, like rum drinks, fruity or spicy cakes, or even meat dressings.

Hibiscus stalks are sometimes added to soups in Central America to give them this same flavor. Some say even the root is edible, although it is supposed to be very tough and mostly tasteless.

For generations, hibiscus tea has been used in African countries to decrease body temperature, treat heart disease, and sooth a sore throat. In Iran, hibiscus tea is used to treat high blood pressure.

From the ancient days, it is considered as anti- spasmodic, thus beneficial in healing intestinal disorder and stomach spasms. 

More recent studies have looked at the possible role of hibiscus in the treatment of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Some studies have demonstrated positive effects when examining the effects of concentrated hibiscus on managing body weight.

The heart health benefits associated with hibiscus tea are believed to be due to compounds called anthocyanins, the same naturally occurring chemicals that give berries their color.

A 2013 review of studies reported that very high doses of hibiscus extract could potentially cause liver damage. The same review reported that hibiscus extract was shown to interact with hydrochlorothiazide (a diuretic) in animals and with acetaminophen in humans.

Individuals who drink herbal teas should let their doctors know, as some herbs have the potential to interact with medications.

According to sources, hibiscus consumption is not safe for people who take chloroquine, a medication for malaria. Hibiscus may decrease how well the medicine works in the body.

People with diabetes or on high blood pressure medications should monitor their blood sugar and blood pressure levels when consuming hibiscus. This is because it may decrease blood sugar or blood pressure levels.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not drink hibiscus tea.

Drinking hibiscus tea in moderation is generally considered safe. However, other products containing hibiscus are not regulated and may or may not contain what they claim. These include:

  • supplements
  • capsules
  • extracts

Hibiscus For Reptiles!

They like pretty flowers too!

Hibiscus is not only an attractive foliage plant for the vivarium, but it is also a great dietary addition with both the flowers and leaves being edible.

There are three types of hibiscus flowers, each of which has distinct growing preferences and or values of nutrition.

Tropical Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)
The state flower of Hawaii, tropical Hibiscus is a perennial in its native environment, but because of its bright and vibrant colors, Tropical hibiscus thrives in full sun to partial shade.



Hardy Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
The hardy hibiscus grows the largest flowers, with blooms that can get to be 8 inches across. Although each flower lives only for one day, the plant generally produces hundreds in one season.



Rose of Sharon (syriacus L.)
The rose of Sharon is a hardy, easy-to-grow shrub. It blooms from late summer to mid-autumn and, in proper conditions, can thrive without attention or special care.



Hibiscus is considered to be a good source of vitamin C, calcium, iron, niacin and riboflavin, and is known to be a good source of antioxidants.

Click to read Plants That Are Edible For Tortoises.

Click to read Bad Plants For Animals.

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