Hibiscus is a versatile and varied genus of flowering plants in the mallow family Malvaceae.
In the United States Hibiscus is pronounced [high-BISS-kiss], in the United Kingdom [hih-BISS-kiss].
Its name comes from the Greek ibiskos, the name the ancient Greek botanist and physician Pedanius Dioscorides gave to the marshmallow plant. Hibiscus is also known as rose mallow.
There are over 200 varieties of Hibiscus, including annuals, perennials, and woody shrubs.
Most of these varieties fall into two main categories:
Tropical Hibiscus originated in Asia and the Pacific Islands. It requires a consistent warm climate.
Hardy hibiscus originates in North America. It can withstand winters and other extreme conditions.
The Features of Hibiscus and How It’s Used
Hibiscus plants have large, trumpet-shaped flowers, five petals, and conspicuous orange anthers.
The colors of Hibiscus flowers depend on the variety and may change throughout the plant’s lifetime.
Hibiscus green leaves and sometimes variegated are large and often lobed. They usually have spiny pollen and fruit enclosed in capsules.
You’ll find Hibiscus plants often used in landscaping and other ornamental purposes. Hibiscus tend to do well when grown in pots and planters with well drained soil.
In temperate climates, tropical Hibiscus varieties need to move inside before a frost.
Make sure the pot drains well since hibiscus roots will rot from overwatering.
In addition to landscaping, some varieties of Hibiscus are used for food and beverage.
One type of Hibiscus, Hibiscus sabdariffa, or roselle, is used to make a popular Hibiscus tea in countries worldwide. Serve the tea hot or cold, it has a tart flavor and is high in vitamin C.
Types of Hibiscus
There are over 200 varieties of Hibiscus. Let’s look at some of the most popular ones.
Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis (Chinese Hibiscus)
The Chinese Hibiscus is the most prominent variety of tropical Hibiscus. It has many different common names, including:
- Hawaiian Hibiscus
- China Rose
- Tropical Hibiscus
This evergreen shrub blooms all year round in tropical climates or areas with no frost. The petals have a slight ruffle and are:
- Bright Pink
- Golden Yellow
… and may change color as the plant grows older.
Chinese Hibiscus requires direct sun and slightly acidic soil. It is more sensitive to changes in conditions than other Hibiscus varieties.
Hibiscus Syriacus (Rose of Sharon)
In contrast to the temperamental Chinese Hibiscus, Hibiscus syriacus is a hardy perennial Hibiscus plant. It can survive various conditions, including:
- Harsh winters
- Humid summers
- Heavy urban pollution
For this reason, it is also known as a common garden hibiscus.
Hibiscus syriacus got its name after being “discovered” in Syrian gardens. But, it originated in China.
More On: Hibiscus Syriacus Care
It is the national flower of South Korea and is even in its national anthem.
In North America it’s known as the Rose of Sharon. This species of Hibiscus is a deciduous shrub whose petals can be white, red, blue, purple, or a combination of these colors.
It stays in constant bloom from July to September.
Midnight Marvel Hibiscus
The Midnight Marvel Hibiscus is an impressive cultivar with massive, dinner plate size dark red flowers.
This Hibiscus blooms longer than most other deciduous hibiscus types. Midnight Marvel flowers from midsummer through the end of autumn.
More On: Hibiscus Midnight Marvel
Hibiscus Moscheutos (Swamp Rosemallow)
This plant is another hardy North American hibiscus variety, found in wetlands. This wonderful Hibiscus grows alongside streams or ponds.
Its petals are white, pink, or rose. It has a distinctive red “eye” at the center, earning the nickname “crimson eyed rosemallow.”
Like Hibiscus syriacus, the Swamp Rosemallow is a tough plant. It withstands both drought and humidity, and does best in full sun.
More On: Hibiscus Moscheutos Care
Alyogyne Huegelii (Blue Hibiscus)
Technically, Alyogyne huegelii is not a hibiscus. It was part of the genus in the past. It has since moved to the Alyogyne genus, also in the mallow family.
Even so, Alyogyne huegelii is still known as the Blue Hibiscus, or Lilac Hibiscus, due to its similar petal structure.
This flower is native to western Australia and is partial to sandy or shrubby coasts. It is grown in gardens and greenhouses across Europe and the United States.
More On: Growing The Blue Hibiscus Flower
Hibiscus Mutabilis (Confederate Rose)
The Confederate Rose is another type of hibiscus plant with a misleading name. It originated in China and is popular worldwide. It is a hibiscus, not a rose.
The cup-shaped flowers of Hibiscus mutabilis are so impressive they may as well be roses.
Some hibiscus varieties have petals that change color over their lifetime. Hibiscus mutabilis flowers can change color several times throughout the day under ideal conditions.
Petals start white in the morning, turn hot pink by midday, and red by evening.
Mutabilis is a popular flower to showcase in a garden or landscape. It is easy to grow and maintain.
More On: How To Care For Hibiscus Mutabilis
Hibiscus Coccineus (Texas Star Hibiscus)
The Texas Star Hibiscus, also called the scarlet rosemallow. This hardy hibiscus variety is native to the southeastern United States.
Despite its name, it is not found in Texas. But there is a white-petaled type called the Lone Star Hibiscus.
Hibiscus coccineus is known for its five scarlet petals and shiny, attractive leaves. It is tolerant of heat and humidity but will die back in winter cold.
Like Hibiscus moscheutos, the Texas Star Hibiscus is partial to swampland and a terrific addition to garden streams or ponds.
More On: Hibiscus Coccineus Care