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While this tree and its flower have become a common household name in both indoor and outdoor gardening, they actually belong to a genus with over 200 species. The hibiscus comes as both shrubs and small trees, and with proper care can even be raised indoors. They are ideal annual or perennial plants.
Not only are some flowers edible, but different varieties of the hibiscus tree can be kept in different climates, making it a perfect ornamental piece that grows stunning flowers all throughout its growing season for all passersby to see.
Teas are often made from the edible varieties of the hibiscus flower which are recognized through their red color, and the fibers of the tree are often used in paper and construction materials, making them particularly useful.
How to Identify Hibiscus Trees
The hibiscus tree is often recognized for its large trumpet-like flowers, which are a few inches in diameter. Usually, five or more petals make up one flower, with a long stigma protruding from the center. These flowers can come in a variety of colors ranging from pink and red to blue or purple.
On average the Hibiscus tree can grow 10 feet high. The leaves are a deep green and often have toothed edges. The leaves are glossy, have long petioles, and are four to eight inches long. Its woody exterior is durable and when not kept pruned can branch out in many different directions. The wood is an ash brown color with a thin trunk, often branching out in many directions.
Where Does the Hibiscus Tree Grow
Hibiscus trees tend to prefer the warmth and don’t appreciate the winter months. They are most often found in tropical or subtropical climates, and while it is possible for them to be planted outdoors as perennial plants it is more often recommended to bring them inside for the season.
Hibiscus trees used for landscaping and grown outdoors are best in US Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 5 through 11, depending on the species. These species are usually hardy or tropical hibiscus. The tree prefers locations with plenty of sun, which results in more flowers throughout its growing season.
Other Hibiscus species can be grown indoors. Tropical Hibiscus will enjoy a sunny spot inside with lots of warmth and when provided with the right amount of water.
Uses of the Hibiscus Tree
The hibiscus tree isn’t just a beautiful flower. While it is often used as an ornamental plant in landscaping and indoors, it has some more practical uses.
Papermaking is a necessity but also a fun pass time. While companies make their own form of paper out of a species of hibiscus, the Hibiscus Cannabinus, it is also possible for a plant parent to attempt to make some themselves out of the old trimmings of their plant.
The fiber, known as kenaf, which is harvested from the wood of the Hibiscus is also part of the group that makes up jute.
Hau is the name of a material found in the Hibiscus Tiliaceus. Hau is the inner bark of the hibiscus that is treated and used as rope and for the construction of canoe floats. The rope is strong and used on ships and the fibers of the tree are used for construction materials.
Many species of Hibiscus have edible flowers, including the Hibiscus Sabdariffa. Different countries use these flowers and other parts of the plant to make teas that are served both hot and cold. The tea is red and tart, with a high content of Vitamin C, and is enjoyed in the average household.
The flower is also eaten as is, displayed as a garnish, or cooked with vegetables for a dish. Some countries even are dipped in sugar or candied for a sweet dessert, or place them on top of a cake.
How to Grow Hibiscus Tree From Seed
Hibiscus seeds can be purchased online or in-store. Big box stores like Walmart and Home Depot often carry seeds in the spring, and online retailers such as Amazon often sell them year-round. Be sure to identify the seeds appropriately, as your climate might not appeal to some varieties of hibiscus.
Seeds should be sowed 6-12 weeks before the last frost if the intention is to put them in the ground. Soaking them overnight in water helps them start the process, and be sure to place them ½ inch deep into some wich, well-draining soil.
After 4-5 weeks, once the sprouts have reached a size where they have begun crowding one another, transplant them into a slightly larger pot. Pinch back tips at 6-8 inches to encourage more branching and more flowers.
After the final frost, you can harden off the sprouts by placing them outdoors during the day, making them more resilient to the weather. This will encourage their growth. Once they no longer fit in their pots, the saplings can be planted outdoors.
Hibiscus Tree Growing Conditions
When living in colder climates, hibiscus trees prefer full sun. When indoors, placing the plant in a South facing window or porch will be preferable to allow for more sunlight. Outdoors, the hibiscus tree should be planted where there is as much sun as possible.
There is such a thing as too much sun, and in the Southern regions, it might be best to be planted facing East or North to allow for a bit of respite.
The Hibiscus appreciates high heat, but any plant can be burned. When indoors, place the hibiscus tree close to a heat source but not to the point where its pot can become hot to the touch. Try to also avoid next to open doorways, as drafts can be uncomfortable for the plant. Good air circulation without harsh winds or drafts is ideal.
The Hibiscus enjoys nutrient-rich soil, slightly on the acidic side. Sandy soil will need some added organic matter and occasionally fertilized.
When to Plant Hibiscus Tree
With the intention of planting seeds and growing the tree outdoors, the seeds should not be started sooner than 12 weeks before the last frost. If intending to keep the plant indoors, seeds can be sown at any time.
Once the warmer months arrive in the spring, the hibiscus tree can be planted outside. With access to enough sun and no frost, the plant will thrive with the right amount of water and care.
How to Plant Hibiscus Tree
Before planting the Hibiscus Tree, make sure to choose a variety that will thrive in your environment. There are so many different species of hibiscus that it is a common mistake to plant a tropical hibiscus tree in a zone in which it would not survive or a hardy hibiscus tree in a location that becomes too hot.
Be sure to plant the hibiscus well into spring, after the last frost. Hibiscus trees love the warmth and the sun, and an unexpected frost can result in their immediate demise. Create a soil mix that is high in potassium and low in phosphorous. This is a preference for the Hibiscus, and when planting it is best to provide it with a nutrient-rich soil that will encourage growth.
When digging the hole for the hibiscus, whether it be or a sapling or a sprout, make sure that it is deep and wide enough. The hole for the hibiscus should be a couple of inches deeper than the roots, and at least twice as wide, to allow for better drainage and to not crowd the plant.
Place the hibiscus tree in the hole without damaging the root ball. Top up with the soil mixture until it reaches the stem. Give the hibiscus tree a substantial amount of water, and monitor for a few days to make sure that it is receiving the right amount of sun.
Hibiscus Tree Water Requirements
Hibiscus trees love the water. Since many varieties are tropical and prefer the moist earth and humidity, making sure the tree is receiving the proper amount of water is essential to its growth. Throughout the growing season, the Hibiscus needs to be watered regularly to prevent the roots from becoming dry. Hibiscus in the garden should be watered every other day or every afternoon when it is particularly warm.
Be sure to check that the soil is becoming slightly dry before watering. Overwatering can result in a waterlogged hibiscus, which can lead to root rot and the tree eventually falling ill and dying.
Be sure to water the hibiscus trees with lukewarm water. Coldwater fresh from the hose can shock the tree and cause damage. It’s best to add water to a watering can and leave it out in the sun, allowing it to warm and be the same temperature as the environment before being used on the tree.
Hibiscus Tree Sun Requirements
Like many tropical trees, the Hibiscus tree loves the sun. With lots of direct sunlight, the more the Hibiscus flowers will bloom and will shower the tree with beautiful flowers every day. The hibiscus tree will handle a bit of shade but the lack of sun will result in fewer blooms.
The ideal amount of sun for the hibiscus tree is 8 or more hours a day. The tree should be planted away from fences or tall buildings to ensure that the maximum requirement of sunlight is met.
Best Hibiscus Tree Fertilizer
Because soil contains different levels of nutrients and acidity, it is often required for fertilizers to be added in order to replenish the soil for the tree. There are different forms of fertilizers that can be applied in different methods, but because the Hibiscus is so picky, it also depends on the type.
Fertilizers make up 3 main components, nitrogen “N’’, phosphate “P”, and potash “K”. The Hibiscus Tree enjoys a high amount of nitrogen and potash, but a low amount of phosphate. These ingredients are labeled on fertilizer containers with their ratio. Hibiscus prefers a 7-1-2 or a 12-4-8 ratio.
Fertilizer can be delivered to the plant in a dry or liquid state. Dry fertilizer should be sprinkled onto the soil without making direct contact with the plant. The hibiscus tree should then be watered, allowing the dry fertilizer to become saturated. This prevents the fertilizer from coming into direct contact with the hibiscus tree’s roots and causing burns.
Liquid fertilizer comes in a concentrated form. It should be diluted with water and can be used while watering the hibiscus tree. A low concentration of fertilizer in the water allows the hibiscus tree to receive a little bit of fertilizer every day without becoming damaged.
The hibiscus should receive its fertilizer in the morning. This is when the temperatures are cooler and prevents the evaporation of the water mixed with the fertilizer. It also aids in preventing burns on the roots of the plant.
Best Hibiscus Tree Companion Plantings
Because the Hibiscus tree is planted for its beautiful blooms, many companion plants are chosen based on the flowers that will accompany the Hibiscus. The right plants can create beautiful flower arrangements for any garden.
Companion plants can also improve the growing environment for the Hibiscus Tree. By having companion plants that provide the ground cover they maintain the moisture that is so loved by the hibiscus. Companion plants also aid in maintaining the soil’s nutrients and provide protection from erosion.
The ornamental sweet potato vine is a perfect example of a complementary ground cover. The sweet potato vine provides a lush green color that pairs well with the blooms of the hibiscus tree and serves as a strong ground cover that is tolerant to heat and sunshine.
Sweet alyssum is another ground cover that pairs well with the hibiscus tree. Its white blooms and ground coverage are perfect for the hibiscus, and it also enjoys the moist soil and high levels of sun.
Red switchgrass is often used as a beautiful garden filler. Its long red stems are perfect when paired with the hibiscus blooms and as a grass, it is low maintenance.
Hibiscus Tree Diseases and Common Problems
The Hibiscus Tree is not immune to pests and disease, so it is important to be on the lookout for any sickness or unwanted visitors.
Keeping the hibiscus tree in a constant state of growth is an excellent way to keep up the immune system, protecting it from disease. As the tree grows, the immune system is working even harder than usual, making it easier for the plant to protect itself.
Dieback disease is often on one branch or section of the Hibiscus tree. Gardeners will identify dieback disease by noticing a certain part of the plant begins to wilt.
By pulling back the leaves to examine the stem, it will often be noticed that the wood at the section of the wilt is beginning to rot. By removing the branch and preventing the spread, dieback disease is simple to treat and will not cause death to the plant if caught early.
Wilt disease is more troublesome than dieback disease. Wilt disease can be identified by the wilting of the entire plant, and if not quickly treated can be fatal. Wilt disease is caused by fungi entering the root system of the hibiscus, preventing it from receiving water. The best cure for wilt disease is prevention, and that is completed by keeping a happy plant in lots of sunshine and with the right amount of water.
Aphids are a common pest for many varieties of plants, and the hibiscus is no exception. These yellow-ish-looking insects come in clusters and cover the plant, sucking out the sap. These pests can be handled by other local insects, but if they persist then do not hesitate to use an insecticidal soap.
Mealybugs are white fuzzy clumps that cluster over the plant. These insects feed on the life of the plant and if left untreated can completely destroy it. Mealybugs also easily spread, and coming into contact with them can result in you spreading them to other plants. Treat mealybugs with a plant-friendly insecticide, or remove with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.
Scale insects come in large groups and cover the stems and leaves of the plant. They have a hard shell exterior, and quickly reproduce in order to cover the whole plant.
An insecticide will help with their removal, but at home, you can add a few drops of dish soap to some water in a spray bottle. Combined with a few drops of neem oil, this concoction uses the soap to suffocate the scale while creating prevention with the neem oil.
Hibiscus Tree Treatments and Maintenance
Hibiscus trees require a certain amount of maintenance in order to be happy and healthy. By keeping up with regular maintenance of the tree, you’ll be able to see blooms all throughout the season.
Pruning is a requirement when it comes to having a healthy hibiscus tree. By removing all damaged or weak branches, and trimming back almost a quarter of the remainder, you should be left with 2 or 3 sturdy main branches that will encourage the production of healthy flowers.
Watering must be a daily routine, especially on hot days. Be aware of yellowing leaves as a sign of too much watering, and wilting leaves as a possible sign of too little watering. Water is essential and the hibiscus tree enjoys moist soil.
Be sure to choose the right fertilizer for your hibiscus tree and follow the recommended instructions. Fertilizing regularly during the growing season encourages growth and more blooms from the tree.
How to Remove Hibiscus Tree
While many might not wish to remove their hibiscus, it is possible that a gardener no longer wants the plant in their garden. Whether it be because the plant has been ruined by disease, or because it will be used for medicinal purposes or paper, there are times when the hibiscus tree will need to come down.
There are a couple of ways to remove a hibiscus tree. Either the tree can be killed with a herbicide or removed from its plot. If the tree is infected with a disease, it is unlikely that its materials can be salvaged and used for anything else. As a result, a commercial herbicide might be best for disposing of the tree.
In the case where the hibiscus tree will be used for teas, papers, or medicines, it is advised not to use a herbicide as it will introduce toxins into the plants. Remove the hibiscus tree by using a sharp spade and digging it out, or simply cut the tree down using a medium-size ax.
Where to Buy Hibiscus Seeds Online
Popular locations to order Hibiscus seeds online include:
Where to Buy Hibiscus Saplings Online
You can purchase hibiscus saplings online at:
Answer: Hibiscus flowers are edible and often used in teas, salads, baking, and medicine. If you would like to consume your own hibiscus flowers, make sure to clean them well beforehand. Then the flowers can be used immediately, or dried and stored for later use in teas or baking.
Answer: During its growing season, the hibiscus will put out new flowers every day. The flowers have a short life span, but with plenty of sun and water, the tree will thrive and constantly grow more beautiful flowers throughout the season to admire.
Answer: The hibiscus tree is a lover of the sun and needs direct sunlight to survive. While the hibiscus tree can handle a bit of shade and indirect light, not enough sun will result in very little blooms, which is part of the appeal of growing the hibiscus tree.