By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
Also known as Chinese hibiscus, tropical hibiscus is a flowering shrub that displays big, showy blooms from spring through autumn. Growing tropical hibiscus in containers on a patio or deck is a good option; hibiscus performs best when its roots are slightly crowded. Read on to learn more about tropical hibiscus container gardening.
Container Culture for Chinese Hibiscus
Tropical hibiscus thrives in warm, humid climates. The plant performs best when it receives at least six to eight hours of sunlight per day; however, afternoon shade is beneficial in hot climates.
Move tropical hibiscus to a sheltered location or bring it indoors during the winter if you live in a climate with chilly winters. The shrub doesn’t tolerate temperatures below 45 F. (7 C.).
Place the plant in a shady location for two weeks before you move it indoors so it can acclimate to its new environment. Move the container outdoors gradually in the spring when the temperature reaches 45 to 50 F. (7-10 C.).
Planting Hibiscus in Pots
Plant hibiscus in a pot filled with a lightweight, well-drained potting mix, such as a product that contains compost and perlite or vermiculite.
Although tropical hibiscus loves sunlight, it helps to place a newly-planted hibiscus in the shade for about two weeks so the plant has time to adjust, then move it into bright sunlight.
Be sure the pot has a drainage hole in the bottom to prevent root rot and other diseases causes by poorly drained soil and excess moisture.
Hibiscus Container Care
Growing tropical hibiscus in containers can be tricky. The plant requires consistent watering because potting mixture dries quickly and tropical hibiscus tends to turn yellow and drop flower buds without adequate water. Check the plant often because it may require watering twice daily during hot, sunny weather.
Tropical hibiscus requires nitrogen and high levels of potassium. Feed the plant lightly but regularly, using a water-soluble fertilizer formulated for hibiscus. You can also use a slow-release fertilizer, which lasts for up to six weeks.
Watch for pests such as:
- Spider mites
Most pests are easily controlled with insecticidal soap spray. Apply the spray when the sun isn’t directly on the foliage, as the spray may burn the plants. Never spray when temperatures are above 90 F. (32 C.). A cool morning or evening is best.
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What Type of Pots to Put Hibiscus Plants In?
For large, showy flowers, few plants surpass the tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), a frost-tender plant that does well as a potted specimen. The hibiscus is available in dozens of cultivars, with flowers that can be single or double and come in a wide array of single or mixed colors. Growing this impressive plant in a container allows it to overwinter indoors in cold-winter areas, and choosing the best type of container can help ensure its health and long-term survival.
It's best to transplant tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), also known as Chinese hibiscus, and its hybrids in spring. While most species and hybrids are hardy in USDA zones 9 through 11, some of the more tender hibiscus species, such as Hibiscus schizopetalus and Hibiscus tiliaceus, can only survive winters in the frost-free USDA zones 10 and 11. The National Gardening Association points out that the frost tender cultivars, such as 'Brilliant' (Hibiscus rosa-sinesis 'Brilliant'), can also be grown as annuals in colder climates.
Tropical hibiscus doesn't need a winter rest period, so keep the soil evenly moist throughout the year. Tropical hibiscus grows up to 10 feet tall with a spread of up to 8 feet, and the shrubs make exceptional specimen plants or screening hedges.
How to Grow: Tropical Hibiscus
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
Blooms from spring to fall and is a broadleaved evergreen
Mature Height x Spread
8 to 15 feet x 5 to 10 feet, although can be larger in tropical areas such as Hawaii
Tropical hibiscus is an evergreen shrub that is only hardy to USDA zone 10-11. This means it’s limited to growing outdoors in the United States to subtropical areas of California, Texas, Arizona and Florida as well as Hawaii. It’s often grown as a foundation plant or mixed with other subtropical plants and flowers in the landscape. The large, disc-shaped flowers come in a myriad of colors and can be single or double. It blooms from spring to fall.
Tropical hibiscus is grown as a potted plant in most of the U.S. Even in areas where it can survive the winter in the ground, it still is grown in containers for ease of cultivation and ability to move the plant around in the yard. Tropical hibiscus doesn’t grow well with temperatures below 45F. Move it outdoors in late spring in cool areas, and indoors with the first hint of cold weather in fall.
When, Where and How to Plant
Grow tropical hibiscus in the ground or containers from spring to fall. Tropical hibiscus needs a good supply of water to grow well, so planting before a rainy season is best in subtropical areas. Purchase tropical hibiscus plants from a garden center. If planting in the ground, choose a well-drained location that gets full sun for best flowering. In hot areas, tropical hibiscus can stand some afternoon shade, especially if grown on sandy soils. Amend the soil with compost if it’s sandy or has poor fertility. Space plants outdoors 4 to 6 feet apart. Grow tropical hibiscus as an informal hedge plant. Space plants closer if growing as a hedge.
Grow tropical hibiscus in containers one size larger than the root ball. Grow tropical hibiscus with a potting soil mix that’s high in organic matter and is well drained.
Grow tropical hibiscus with a constant supply of water. Apply 1- to 2-inches of water a week and mulch plants for best flowering. In containers, keep the soil evenly moist with drip irrigation or regular hand watering. Empty the water drainage trays under the pots regularly to remove standing water. Standing water can make the container soil too soggy and cause root rot. Fertilize tropical hibiscus monthly from spring through summer with a balanced fertilizer for tropical plants..
Tropical hibiscus looks and flowers best if allowed to grow into its natural shape. Hibiscus forms flowers on new growth, so pruning stimulates more branches and more flowers to form. Prune out of control tropical hibiscus plants, or plants needing to be stimulated to produce more branches, in late fall in warm areas. In areas where the plants are marginally hardy, prune in spring. When growing in containers, prune in early fall before bringing indoors for the winter. Tropical hibiscus can tolerate severe pruning in spring and will grow back and flower later in summer. Otherwise, prune to reduce crowded branches, open up the shrub to more light and shape the plant. Remove dead, diseased or broken branches anytime.
Overwintering Tropical Hibiscus
When overwintering tropical hibiscus indoors in cold winter areas, expect to get some yellowing and dropping of the leaves, even if you place the shrub in a south-facing winter. This is natural due to the low light levels in winter. Place the plant away from cold drafts in a warm room. You can prevent leaf drop by growing the plant under grow lights. Bring the plant indoors at first sign of cold weather in fall. Isolate the plant indoors at first to check for hitchhiking insects such as aphids, white flies, spider mites and mealybugs. Spray with insecticidal soap to kill these pests before they spread to other houseplants. Don’t expect much flowering in winter unless you’re growing plants under lights. Keep the soil on the dry side all winter and don’t fertilizer.
Companion Planting and Design
Grow tropical hibiscus shrubs around the home, grouped with other subtropical shrubs in the landscape or as a specimen in a container or in the yard. Grow tropical hibiscus paired with cordyline, plumbago, and bougainvillea. Even potted plants placed outdoors in summer look nice with canna lilies and fountain grass growing near them. Grow tropical hibiscus under vines such as jasmine, mandevilla and passion flower. These colorful hibiscus shrub providing a good anchoring plant growing under these vines.
There are many colorful tropical hibiscus varieties, often with 8-inch wide flowers, available in single and double flowers. Try the Shades of Summer Series and Tropical Escape series for a broad range of color choices. ‘Golden Gate’ has ruffled golden petals with a pink and red eye. ‘Love Story’ is an award winning double red. ‘Bright Hope’ has yellow, pink and red color petals all on one flower.
Hibiscus, Tropical Plant Features
Few plants offer the tropical touch of tropical hibiscus. These sun-loving plants feature bold, plate-shaped flowers in a dazzling array of colors. You’ll most commonly find these flowering plants blooming in shades of red, pink, yellow, and orange, but there are also purple, lavender-blue, white, and bicolor varieties available. Some also have variegated foliage that adds appeal.
Tropical hibiscus are summer-blooming plants that grow well in containers or in the landscape. Potted hibiscus are bold flowering plants that add dramatic décor to decks, patios, and other spaces. Use them as focal points to accent your outdoor rooms, or group a number of these sun-loving plants together to form a hedge or privacy wall.
Hibiscus, Tropical Growing Instructions
Tropical hibiscus are sun-loving, flowering plants that grow best with 6 to 8 hours of direct light each day to bloom the most. They can grow in part shade, but they tend to bloom less.
Hibiscus appreciate plenty of water, especially when you grow them in in container gardens. During the hottest part of the season, these summer-blooming shrubs may need watering every day (especially if their roots are cramped in a small pot). It's common for hibiscus plants to drop their flower buds if they dry out too much in summer.
Fertilize hibiscus monthly with a general-purpose fertilizer, following the directions on the product packaging, to ensure they produce the most blooms possible. You don't need to use special bloom-boosting fertilizers regular, general-purpose products work just fine. Dwarf hibiscus grow 2-4 feet tall standard varieties typically grow up to 5 feet tall.
Hibiscus typically don't need much pruning if you grow them in containers. But, if you do wish to prune your hibiscus, you can do so at any time to encourage a bushier, fuller plant.
Tropical hibiscus is not recommended for human or animal consumption.
Tropical hibiscus are excellent flowering plants in frost-free climates where they bloom on and off all year long. They grow much larger in the South than in the North it’s common to see some hibiscus grow 15 feet tall and wide or more! These sun-loving plants are often grown as hedges to create a beautiful living privacy wall.
Indoors: High light
Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, Variegated, White, Yellow
Super-easy to grow
Complement your Hibiscus, Tropical with these varieties:
Because tropical hibiscus do best outdoors in full sun, they don't usually make for good long-term houseplants unless you have a sunroom or conservatory with lots of light. That said, if you live in a cold-winter climate, you can bring your hibiscus indoors before frost and treat it like a houseplant until all danger of frost has passed in spring. Learn more about caring for tropical hibiscus over winter.
It's fairly common to see hibiscus drop their flower buds in response to stress. One of the most common types of stress we see is inconsistent watering -- when the plant dries out, then stays wet for a while, and is allowed to dry out again. Keeping a more regular level of soil moisture can help.
If you've just purchased your hibiscus, it may drop buds as it adapts from the change in conditions from your local garden center to your home. In this case, as soon as the plant gets settled -- usually in a week or two -- it should stop the bud drop.
If your plants are regularly overwatered or are fertilized too much, the damage to the roots can also cause them to drop their buds. Temperature can also play a role -- if it's excessively warm or cold, the weather can stress the plants enough that they drop their buds.
Also watch for pests. Some insects, including thrips, can cause hibiscus bud drop. If you see tiny insects in and around the buds before they drop, you may need to treat your plant with insecticidal soap, horticultural oil, neem oil, or an insecticide.
Great question! It depends on where you live. Because tropical hibiscus don't tolerate frosty or freezing temperatures, to keep your plant alive over the winter, you'll need to bring your hibiscus indoors if your area experiences more than just a couple of light frosts. The good news is that tropical hibiscus is fairly easy to care for as a houseplant if you have a bright spot and water it regularly!
Look for these plants at your local garden center, home improvement center, or mass merchandiser. Or, check out our list of Costa Farms' retail partners. If you still can't find a retailer, send us an email!
Varieties: Our Favorites
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis HibisQs® Longiflora Laluna
Bahama Mama is a cute dwarf variety that practically covers itself in orange, petal-packed double blooms that last longer than most other hibiscus varieties.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis HibisQs® Longiflora Boreas White
A dwarf variety, Beachside Bubbly is especially good for containers. A profuse bloomer, this flowering plant offers a steady show of long-lasting white blooms with rich burgundy centers.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis HibisQs® Longiflora Adonicus Pearl
Blushing Bellini offers a reliable show of extremely long-lasting blush-pink flowers on a dwarf, compact plant.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Cherry Mojito
Cherry Mojito bears dramatic, velvety-red blooms with a nearly black center. Its 8-inch-wide blossoms make this flowering plant a showstopper.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Light My Fire'
Island Hurricane hibiscus shows off dazzling golden-orange bloom with reddish-pink centers. It grows 4 to 6 feet tall and wide.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Mango Daiquiri
Mango Daiquiri may be unlike any tropical hibiscus you’ve seen before this sun-loving plant shows off 8-inch-wide double purple flowers that fade to golden yellow at the edges.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Creole Lady'
Monsoon Mixer is a lovely variety that shows off big, 8-inch-wide blue-purple flowers edged in apricot-gold. The plant grows 4 to 6 feet tall and wide.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Who Dat'
Peach Bellini produces a plethora of huge blooms (more than 8 inches wide!) in a breathtaking shade of peachy-orange. It’s stunning on its own and a knockout paired with any other color.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis HibisQs® Multi-Tropic Yellow
A profuse bloomer, this small-stature tropical hibiscus variety shows off a nearly constant supply of golden-yellow flowers. It's perfect for adding a fresh touch to your favorite tabletop.
Rum Runner Remix
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Eye of Kali'
Rum Runner Remix shows off especially large 8-inch-wide, bold yellow flowers that have stunning red-and pink centers.
Sex on the Beach
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Sex on the Beach
Sex on the Beach features large, exotic flowers that capture all the tones of a beach-side sunset. It grows 4 to 6 feet tall and wide and flowers all summer.
South Pacific Sipper
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Nectar Pink'
South Pacific Sipper offers some of the largest double flowers around! Each ruffled bloom on this flowering plant is a soft shade of pink.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Cajun Cocktail'
Like a work of art, no two blooms are exactly the same! Each 6-inch-wide red flower is playfully splashed with yellow speckles.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis HibisQs® Multi-Tropic Orange
Tequila Sunrise is a dwarf summer-blooming plant that bears an abundance of bold orange flowers all season long.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Golden Halo'
Bold and exotic, Tiki Temptation hibiscus features large, golden-yellow blooms decorated with a reddish-pink center.It grows 4 to 6 feet tall and wide.
Chinese evergreen is a can't-go-wrong houseplant. It grows practically everywhere, from low to bright light and doesn't mind if you forget to water from time to time.
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If you want to keep your patio tropicals from year to year, move them indoors when nighttime fall temperatures start dropping below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. While those temperatures won't kill most tropical plants, they can damage the foliage and send tropical plants into tailspins of stress. In addition, fall frosts can come without warning.
Make the move indoors gradually, and give your plants as much natural light as your home allows. Place them away from heating vents, and monitor their changing needs. Once indoors, tropicals require less frequent watering and less fertilizer than they needed outside. The essential nutrients and micronutrients in Pennington UltraGreen Palm Tree & Hibiscus Plant Food 9-4-9 keep tropical foliage rich and green indoors.
From eye-catching summer tropicals to your favorite garden veggies, Pennington is here to help you achieve your gardening dreams. With premium lawn and garden products, timely email newsletter tips and helpful gardening resources, you can celebrate sizzling tropicals and enjoy hot summer days with ease.
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