Hibiscus does not have to be limited to houseplant status

August 17, 2010

Hibiscus does not have to be limited to houseplant status

Our customers are often impressed with the dramatic collection of tropical hibiscus ( Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) in our tropical greenhouse.  As Hawaii’s state flower, tropical hibiscus makes a great houseplant with its lush, bright green foliage and vivid trumpet-shaped flowers.  We are often asked if it is possible to grow tropical hibiscus here in Minnesota in a garden setting as a perennial.  Our answer is always “No”.

There is, however, a hardy hibiscus, Hibiscus moscheutos, commonly known as rose mallow or swamp mallow, which is a multi-stemmed shrub-like perennial growing 3 to 6 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide with red, white, pink or bi-colored flowers 6 to 12 inches wide.  The mallow-like flowers, the largest of all hibiscuses, are borne from late summer onwards and are the attraction of these perennials.  They look best en masse planted 3 feet apart.

Hibiscus moscheutos is native to the swampy areas of northeastern America.  They are slow to appear in the garden, breaking bud in early June.  They make a useful addition to poorly drained sites and prefer full sun and soil high in organic matter.  They need no pruning unless they grow too large for the space allotted to them.  It is best to prune in late fall or early winter, after a killing frost, and remove whole branches to their point of origin.

We have three hardy hibiscuses growing in our display gardens, two reds and a white.  The abundant flower buds make a spectacular display when they are in bloom.

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