A tropical beauty, hibiscus is a vibrant, stunning flower. While you may be fortunate enough to live in an area that will support this plant, for many people, it is simply too cold out. We’ll explain where you can plant hibiscus and how to care for it.
When to plant hibiscus: Hibiscus loves warmth so be sure to plant in late spring, once the soil is warm enough. You can start with seeds but this takes time and it is not guaranteed that they will take. Instead, most gardeners start with cuttings from mature plants. Tropical varieties of hibiscus need constant heat but there are hardy varieties that can grow outdoors in colder climates. If you love hibiscus but are worried about your winter, simply plant the flower indoors. Keep the soil moist and add fertilizer regularly to ensure you get a steady stream of gorgeous blooms. This is a flower that can brighten a whole room.
Planting Hibiscus in Different Climates
Hibiscus thrives in a tropical climate. This plant is native to tropical areas, so if you live in a warm, humid area, you can surround yourself with hibiscus flowers.
Growing hibiscus in a dry climate is pretty tricky. This plant loves moist soil so you will have to be very diligent with watering.
There are some hardy varieties of hibiscus that can withstand a temperate climate. As long as you don’t have prolonged periods of freezing temperatures, this plant will survive outdoors.
Growing hibiscus in a continental climate is a bit tricky. While it will be fine during summer, most winters are too cold, even for hardy varieties. It is better to keep your plants indoors, or else move them inside for winter.
As a tropical plant, hibiscus won’t be able to survive in a polar climate.
Choosing Hibiscus Seeds
There are two types of hibiscus flowers and you want to be absolutely sure which one will actually grow in your climate before you make a purchase.
Traditional hibiscus is a tropical plant and needs warmer weather or an indoor location. However, if you love hibiscus and live in a cooler climate, there are hardier varieties that can withstand some colder temperatures.
Here are a few common varieties to choose from:
This is a hardy variety that can grow in zones 5 to 10. It has large flowers that look like pinwheels.
Another hardy variety, this option has petals in a subtle pink. It is pretty to look at and won’t overwhelm your garden with too much color.
This is a tropical variety, which means it will only grow in zones 9 to 11. With deep red colors, the blooms really stun.
How to Plant Hibiscus Seeds
Seeds vs cuttings
Most gardeners will start their hibiscus from a cutting rather than seeds. The plant can be quite finicky when it is young and having a cutting means the plant is already established and thus easy to transfer.
If you do want to try growing hibiscus from seed, there are a few tips to follow. Start by gently cutting a small nick in the seed coating and then placing the seeds in a bowl of water for six to eight hours. This will kickstart the germinating process.
Plant your seeds in the soil after it is nice and warm. The temperature should be at least 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cover the seeds with a quarter-inch of dirt. The germination process can take two to three weeks for sprouts to emerge.
Be careful with these new sprouts. They are quite delicate so if you are weeding, be careful of their shallow roots.
Hibiscus doesn’t like the cold so whether you are planting from seeds or cuttings, make sure it is warm enough outside. All threats of frost should be over so wait until early to mid-May.
You may be tempted to start hibiscus seeds indoors to give them a head start. However, these seedlings are quite fragile and may not survive the transplanting process.
For the most part, hibiscus needs full sun to grow. When planting, you want the area to be nice and bright.
However, if you live in a very hot and dry area, then your hibiscus can become overwhelmed by all the light. This is especially true during the afternoon when the sun is at its zenith.
As for indoor planting, you want to place your hibiscus in an area that gets plenty of light but is not in the path of direct sunlight. Think of an open-planned living room that has plenty of windows on one wall.
Hibiscus plants prefer soil that drains well. The soil should have plenty of nutrients in it and be able to keep moist but not soggy. If you are planting a hardier variety, they are more used to wetlands and thus can do with soil that has more moisture content in it.
As for the pH level, hibiscus prefers slightly acidic soil. Aim for a pH level between 6.0 and 7.5.
How to Water Hibiscus
Water is key with hibiscus. You should aim for soil that is always slightly moist.
As you can see, this might be hard to accomplish if your hibiscus is outdoors and you live in a dryer climate. If you are worried about your hibiscus, it might be best to install an automated sprinkler system.
If you are growing your hibiscus indoors, try to keep to a strict watering schedule every two days. You can also mist the plant to keep it moist.
However, with a container, you want to avoid pooling water. Make sure the container has holes for drainage, or if this isn’t possible, fill the bottom of the container with gravel to collect excess water.
To encourage deeper roots in containers, try to wait until the top inch of soil is dry before watering again. This will ensure the soil isn’t a sloppy mess.
During the winter, your hibiscus will enter a dormant phase. It won’t need much water and if you are planting outside, there should be enough precipitation to naturally water your plant.
How to Grow Hibiscus
In order to produce their gorgeous blooms, hibiscus flowers need plenty of nutrients. Start with soil that is rich in texture and then regularly adds fertilizer to your plants.
Hibiscus does well with fertilizer that is high in nitrogen and potassium. You can use chemical fertilizer or a natural one such as seaweed extract.
Start adding your fertilizer about a week before the blooms open up. Then, add fertilizer every three weeks until the plant is finished flowering.
Adding a layer of mulch around your hibiscus plant is a great way to keep it healthy. The mulch will keep the soil moist but not dripping with water, which is important if you live in a hot, dry climate.
If you have a hardy hibiscus variety, it will benefit from annual pruning. Once a year, after the plant is finished pruning, you can cut back any dead or damaged branches.
Pruning in late fall or early winter is best. You can cut back as need be and don’t have to worry as the hibiscus will grow back quite nicely in the spring.
Hardy hibiscus can grow in temperatures that are between 60 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. They can handle the occasional freezing temperature, but if your winter regularly dips below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, it will be too cold for the plant to survive.
Those that live in areas with colder areas can get around this by planting their hibiscus in containers outside. Then, when the temperatures start to cool, you can bring the whole container indoors to keep it warm.
How long does Hibiscus take to grow?
Growing hibiscus from seed can take a few months. The seeds take two to three weeks to germinate and then the seedlings are quite delicate and may not last to full growth.
An alternative is to purchase cuttings from mature hibiscus plants. These are easier to transplant and you can have fresh flowers during that same growing season.
After your hibiscus is two or three years in age, you can expect a full growing season of plentiful blooms.
How long do hibiscus blooms last?
Unfortunately, hibiscus flowers are very short in duration. Once a flower opens, it will only last for two to three days before it starts to die off.
However, the plant should continue to produce more flowers throughout the whole blooming season.
The good news is that you don’t have to deadhead as the hibiscus plant will keep growing new flowers on its own. Just be sure to add fertilizer and keep the soil moist for the best flower production.
Hibiscus flowers are bold and beautiful. This flower prefers a tropical setting although there are some hardy varieties that can withstand a bit of cold. You can always keep your hibiscus inside where it will appreciate the steady, warm temperature.