Growing Hibiscus Outside and In
The blooms of this popular tropical shrub are real showstoppers. Get tips for growing hibiscus outside or indoors.
Some plants have tiny subtle flowers, so small and hidden you have to seek them out to enjoy them amidst the foliage. Hibiscus is not one of these plants. The flowers of hibiscus are big, brilliant, and show-stopping. They draw the eye (and hummingbirds) with large petals, fancy centers, and vibrant colors. There’s nothing subtle about hibiscus – and that’s probably why so many people love them.
Hibiscus is part of the mallow family (Malvaceae). The genus Hibiscus is native to tropical and temperate regions around the world and contains several hundred species, including the popular Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus). But when most people think of hibiscus, they think of the many varieties of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, grown in tropical regions around the world (though native to Asia). This hibiscus has been bred to a variety of cultivars with stunning colors and color blends, some with double flowers, and it seems that new varieties are always popping up to collect and grow.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is a tropical plant, and can’t tolerate freezing temperatures. That doesn’t mean that growing hibiscus is limited to folks in California and Florida, though. Hibiscus does very well planted in large pots that can be brought outdoors for the summer months, and then moved back inside when temperatures begin to fall. Give it as much sun as possible whether you grow hibiscus inside or out, and well-draining soil. Outdoors in zones 9 – 11, hibiscus is fairly drought-tolerant once established, though it may not flower as often during dry spells. Indoors, keep soil moist but not wet for best flowering.
Hibiscus is a shrub, and can get unwieldy in smaller spaces. Prune it as needed, but be aware that hibiscus blooms on new growth, so don’t prune constantly or you’ll never see any flowers. If growing indoors, fertilize once a month or so, and don’t expect much in the way of flowers in the winter (though they can produce blooms year-round, and the sight of a large brilliant hibiscus flower inside when the ground outside is covered with snow is downright thrilling). Outdoors, protect your hibiscus from a day or two of frost or freezes by covering with a sheet or frost cloth. Hibiscus can be bothered occasionally by white fly or aphids – remove them with a hard blast from your garden hose, or spray with an insecticidal oil.