Are you looking for a garden plant that produces beautiful blooms and adds some colour to your outdoor space? Look no further than Chinese Hibiscus!
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is an absolutely gorgeous species of tropical hibiscus and a must-have in every gardener’s collection. Member of the Malvaceae family, this flowering plant is a very popular ornamental worldwide, cultivated mostly in tropical and subtropical regions. One interesting fact about this plant is that its specific native distribution is uncertain, being somewhat unknown in the wild, though some say that it may originate from tropical Asia.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis goes by various common names including Chinese hibiscus, Shoeblack plant, Hawaiian hibiscus, Rose mallow, China rose, or Tropical hibiscus. In cultivation, this plant comes with many other superb cultivars to enchant our senses. Some of these are ‘Bonjour’, ‘Brilliant’, ‘Cajun Cocktail’, ‘Cooperi’, ‘Magic Moment’, ‘Rainbow Sherbet’, and ‘Red Dragon’. Plus, the ‘Cooperi’ cultivar has gained the prestigious Award of Garden Merit.
Ready to learn more about Chinese hibiscus? Keep reading our article!
About Chinese Hibiscus
- The flowers of Chinese hibiscus have lots of nectar to offer. Thanks to this, they attract nectarivore birds, such as stripe-breasted starthroat, sapphire-spangled emerald, or hummingbirds. They are also highly attractive to butterflies.
- Chinese hibiscus plays a big part in traditional Chinese medicine. The plant works as a great treatment against bleeding, irritated tissues, cystitis, cough, feverish illnesses, spasms, colds, venereal diseases, sores, and many others.
- In China, its flowers have numerous daily uses. The juice from their petals is an excellent substitute for black shoe-polish, black hair dye, and mascara. The extract from the flowers can absorb ultraviolet radiation and function as an anti-solar agent.
- People use Chinese hibiscus as a pH indicator. This flower can turn acidic solutions into a magenta or dark pink shade. Likewise, when used, it will turn basic solutions to green.
- The roots, leaves, and blossoms of Chinese hibiscus are edible. Some folks use young leaves as a spinach substitute. The flowers are wonderful for salads, pickling, food colouring, alcoholic beverages, and tea. The roots are very fibrous and do not have very much flavour.
- Hindus use Hibiscus rosa-sinensis flowers, especially the red ones, for the worship of Devi, having an important role in tantra. Moreover, in the Bengal area of eastern India, red flowers are common in the worshipping of Kali.
- Chinese hibiscus is the national flower of Malaysia since 1960. In Malay culture, the red of its blooms is a symbol of courage, rapid growth, and life. The flower is also on the notes and coins of their currency, Malaysian ringgit.
- This plant can make for a fabulous addition to several landscape decorations like flowering hedges, screening, specimen plantings, borders, or containers.
- Chinese hibiscus is a wonderful companion to other eye-catching species of plants including Allium, Bearded Iris, Daylily, Delphinium, Peony, and Poppy.
- Luckily, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is not toxic to either humans or pets, so you can grow it safely in locations where your curious kids or furry friends might reach them.
Chinese Hibiscus Features: An Overview
- Chinese hibiscus is an evergreen small tree or shrub. The plant has an overall bushy appearance. In proper growing conditions, it can reach from 8 to 16 feet (2.5-5 cm) in height and 5 to 10 feet (1.5-3 m) in width.
- Its foliage consists of many medium-sized, glossy, oval, petiolate, and greenish leaves that emerge from long, aerial, erect, relatively thick, cylindrical, branched, greenish stems. The leaves may have toothed margins.
- The blooming period of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis can vary depending on the environment. While the plant blooms only from summer to fall in colder climates, in tropical climates it will produce blossoms throughout the year.
- This plant has stunning flowers that feature prominent orange-tipped red anthers. They usually have solitary flowers with five petals, but some cultivars can exhibit double flowers with numerous petals. The flowers measure up to 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter.
- Although the Chinese hibiscus species generally bear red blossoms, the cultivars and hybrids are more generous. Their flowers can appear in various shades of white, yellow, peach, orange, pink, purple, and mixes of these colours.
- Chinese hibiscus is a tropical plant that is sometimes mistaken with its relative Hibiscus syriacus, commonly known as Rose of Sharon. While Chinese hibiscus is more common in tropical Asia, the Rose of Sharon is winter hardy and very popular in temperate and continental climates.
- In non-tropical climates, Chinese hibiscus should be grown in containers that can stay outdoors during the warm summer months. Outdoors, this plant requires partial shade and protection from harsh weather. Indoors, Chinese hibiscus thrives in temperatures between10°C and 15°C (50°F – 60°F), well-draining soil that’s kept a little moist, and plenty of natural light, but not direct sun.
Growing Chinese Hibiscus
The amount of sunlight this plant needs will directly depend on the region you are growing it in. In cooler, northern climates, the Chinese hibiscus will be the happiest if you can provide it with plenty of full sunlight daily. In hot and dry areas, however, your plant will benefit from a location where it can receive partial shade. But this is not always a rule! In case your Chinese hibiscus produces many flowers, you can just keep doing what you are already doing and quit overthinking.
Temperature-wise, the Chinese hibiscus is cold-hardy in the USDA zones 9 through 11. In general, this plant prefers temperatures that range from 55 to 70 °F (13-21 °C) all year round. If your flower will experience a few nights below 50 °F (10 °C), this may kill it in an instant. Because of this, it would be wise to bring it inside before the weather begins to get this cold.
Let’s talk about overwintering a Chinese hibiscus since this is an important step in case you live in a northern region. You can overwinter this plant indoors, but make sure it experiences about two or three hours of bright and direct light daily. Although the plant requires less water in winter, the conditions from indoor settings can be particularly dry from the heaters. During the cold season, we recommend you spoil your Chinese hibiscus with frequent shallow waterings. In the spring, cut the buddy back, then place it outside once the temperatures are consistently above 50 °F (10°C).
Planting Chinese Hibiscus
In terms of growing medium, Chinese hibiscus is not super fussy. In outdoor settings, plant this flower in soil that comes with excellent drainage and also has lots of organic matter in it. For container-grown plants, a well-draining commercial potting mix designed for tropical plants is more than ideal. It can grow in neutral to acidic substrates.
When it comes to fertilizing, you will not have to think too much about it. You should know that store-bought Chinese hibiscus usually has a slow-release fertilizer mixed into its soil. Due to this, you can forget about fertilizing your new plant in the first few months. But after this period has ended, you must feed your Chinese hibiscus with a balanced fertilizer diluted at half strength four times every year. The best periods to fertilize it are early spring, after the first round of blooming, midsummer, and early winter.
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No matter what setting you are growing your Chinese hibiscus in, it will need regular pruning to stay in shape. The perfect time to prune your plant is typically in autumn. Throughout this process, you will have to remove some branches along the way to make room for new growth and even flowers to show up. Moreover, pruning will help your plant to let in more of its much-needed sunlight.
If you are growing your Chinese hibiscus in a pot, it will typically demand repotting once every one or two years. Make sure you always transplant your plant in a pot that is slightly larger than the current one. And in case you are asking what type of pot is best for this plant, we have the answer! Plant it in a wide but relatively shallow, unglazed clay container that features several draining holes at the bottom.
Watering Chinese Hibiscus
In general, the frequency of watering a Chinese hibiscus depends on the environmental conditions and region. For example, in extremely dry conditions, this plant might require water even twice a day. Likewise, if it experiences prolonged periods of warm temperatures, you will have to water it daily. While yellowing leaves are a common indicator that your plant receives too much water, an underwatered plant will typically have dropping leaves.
Keep in mind that the Chinese hibiscus thrives with about one or two inches (2.5-5 cm) of water per week. If you want to avoid over-watering, remember to always check its soil in-between waterings. After this, provide your plant with another drink only when the top two inches (5 cm) of soil feels dry to the touch.
Propagating Chinese Hibiscus
The greatest way to make more Chinese hibiscus plants at home is none other than propagating it through cuttings. This easy process consists of taking soft-stem cuttings from your plant in either late spring or early summer. Do not let yourself be intimidated by it, you can do it!
First things first, look for a greenish stem that measures about 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) in length. Once you have spotted it, cut the stem using a sharp, sterilized cutting tool. Remove all but the top leaves from the stem, trim it just below a leaf node, then dip the cut end in rooting hormone for optimal growth.
Fill a container with a well-draining mix of half potting soil and half perlite. Water the soil until it is a bit moist and plant the cutting in it. Cover the pot with a clear plastic bag without touching the leaves. The cutting will begin to grow actively if you place the pot in a partially shaded spot. When you notice some growth, you can transplant the cutting in a larger container and treat it as an individual plant.
Chinese Hibiscus Pests and Diseases
Chinese hibiscus may encounter some issues with aphids, spider mites, or ants once in a while. But nothing too serious! If you notice this suspect presence on your plant, you should remove the intruders by spraying the plant with water or using neem oil or a liquid detergent.
Like most garden plants, hibiscus plants are usually bothered by aphids in spring. The juicy stems and foliage of hibiscus attract Aphis gossypii, a type of aphid that is commonly known as melon aphid or black aphid. The first signs of an aphid infestation consist of leaf curling and distortion, yellow spotting, leaves that turn brown and eventually fall off, and the presence of black sooty mould on the leaves.
Early infestations with aphids can easily be washed away by using a strong stream of water once every two days. You can also use natural oils such as Neem oil, lavender or rosemary oil, or a hot pepper mixture. Another effective way to get rid of aphids consists of using beneficial insects that feed on aphids such as ladybugs and aphid lions.
You should also check your hibiscus plants for spider mites. These small insects live on the underside of hibiscus leaves and can go undetected for a long time. Big lovers of tropical climates, spider mites can become a problem when left to their own devices. The most effective ways to get rid of spider mites include washing them with a hose, using essential oils, removing the affected parts of the plants, and quarantining infested plants when possible.
Beloved by gardeners worldwide, Chinese hibiscus is the most common type of hibiscus plant found in nurseries and garden centres. The beautiful blooms of Chinese hibiscus can spruce up your outdoor area and make it feel and look tropical and vibrant.
This relatively low-demanding ornamental is truly spectacular and deserves all our recognition. If you want to add a Chinese hibiscus to your plant family, make sure you check out all the cultivars until you find the ideal companion. And if you already have one or more specimens around, you can share your journey with us in the comments!