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  HOME AND GARDEN » House Plants  

Plants for your home (By Mary Efanti)

Hibiscus "Rosa Sinensis"

Origin and Description

"Chinese hibiscus" are among the most showy flowers of the tropics. The geographical origin of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, which literally means "Rose of China" is obscure. Some early references claim it is a native of China. Hibiscus forms grown in that country, some of which eventually found their way to Europe. Others suggest the species was cradled in India.
Early botanists suggest Polynesian migrants may have brought Hibiscus with them from South-East Asia. And so to Hawaii, Tahiti and Fiji. These exotic places feature them in many areas of life. Hibiscus became the national floral emblem of Hawaii. Earlier crossing of Chinese and native Hawaiian Hibiscus species has given rise to the development of most of the thousands of hybrids grown today.

The original tropical hibiscus had a red flower, but breeders have produced a wild variety of colors including tricolors of pink, orange and yellow,. Recently, many hybrid polyploid plants with multicolor or double blooms have been developed. Chinese hibiscus, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, is a beautiful, easy-to-care-for interior plant. It is closely related to Hibiscus syriacus, Rose of Sharon or Shrub Althea, which is grown outdoors. Chinese hibiscus, however, is not winter hardy.



Many people use Chinese hibiscus as a patio plant in the summer as it will grow in full sun, but keeping a hibiscus outdoors for part of the year creates some special problems with its care. The leaves that develop outside in full sun are quite different from leaves that develop indoors, so don't be surprised when the leaves of your hibiscus turn yellow and drop off in the fall after you bring the plant inside. Leaves on an indoor hibiscus will be larger, darker green and thinner than leaves on a hibiscus that spends its summers outdoors.

Find the brightest window in your home to keep your hibiscus happy; usually this will be a south or west window. Place it as close to the window as possible but keep the leaves from touching the glass. Turn the plant weekly to encourage uniform growth.

Pest Control

Keep your hibiscus clean to reduce the chance of insects making a home there. If it is a manageable size, put it in the shower and give a good bath every couple of months. Always clean plants and pots thoroughly before bringing into the house. Insecticidal soap may be used on hibiscus to treat insect infestations; use precautions and follow all label instructions.


A healthy, growing hibiscus will use a lot of water. Use your fingers to check the soil moisture and water thoroughly when the soil dries out. Water should drain freely from the bottom of the pot, but do not let the plant sit in water. If your hibiscus is outside during the summer, it will need to be watered every day. Interior plants will need to be watered weekly during active growth periods, less often during the cooler winter months. Leaves will wilt, yellow and drop off if the soil dries out completely.


Hibiscus need a lot of fertilizer during spring and summer to promote healthy leaves, but too much nitrogen will keep it from flowering. Use 10-10-10 or a similar fertilizer monthly from March to October. Hibiscus should flower all summer and fall; many plants will flower year round if the conditions are right.


Hibiscus is a vigorously growing plant that will require annual pruning to maintain its shape and keep the plant within the bounds of your home. Prune in early spring when the new growth is beginning. Tree-form hibiscus need to have the lower sprouts removed from the trunk and the top will need to be shaped. Shrub-form hibiscus will also need to be shaped to remove excess legginess. Cut each branch back by approximately 1/3 to 2/3 of its length; be careful to make your cuts at an outward facing bud so the new growth will grow out away from the trunk and not towards the center of the plant.

With proper care your hibiscus should reward you with prolific flowering throughout the summer and fall.


Mary Efanti




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