Friday, December 17, 2010

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

A great addition to any warm climate garden is the evergreen Hibiscus rosa-sinensis.  They are remarkably sun, heat and drought hardy - tolerating the heat and intensity of our mid-Summer sun and the high humidity levels without much fuss at all!

Of course, when you say the word Hibiscus, thoughts immediately pop into your head of tall palms swaying on long stretches of pristine white sand with the sound of gently lapping waves in the background.  

Did you know that, in fact, many species of Hibiscus are in fact, native to China and South-East Asia?   No!  Thought they were all from the South Pacific or Hawaii?  Well ... you're half right.  Most of the now oh so familiar, very colourful Hibiscus are the result of the hybridisation activities that took place there.

My little collection of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis shrubs includes the original red flowering plant .. what's often referred to as 'the common red'!  It's been a standard for any tropical garden here over the last two generations of gardeners.  I have two of these old-fashioned shrubs with the simple, yet beautiful, single dark red blooms in my garden.

You will not find any brightly coloured double or semi-double blooms on my Hibiscus shrubs.  In fact, I've never had any of those hybrids in any of my gardens ... I've just never been tempted!  I think it has something to do with the nostalgic memories of the Hibiscus shrubs in my Grannie's old garden! 

Hibiscus really need full sun.  One of my old Hibiscus shrubs is indeed growing in the ground in full sun.  It is now a magnificent huge old thing and it puts on a great display almost all year round. 

The other old original Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is growing under the canopy of some tall Eucalyptus trees.  Whilst it's the tallest of the two ladies, reaching over 4 metres high, it does not flower as profusely.

When Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is still quite young, they need a well-drained soil.  Take care though as they hate to dry out, so they need to be watered regularly when they are becoming established. Apply a thick mulch around the base of the shrub, but do not let the mulch touch the stem. 

They relish a decent prune in early Spring ... here that's September to October - to shape the plant and encourage flowering.  It's important to remove the old wood at this time.  These plants are also heavy feeders when they are still quite young. Apply complete fertiliser after pruning and during the flowering season. Water well before and after fertilising. 

Of course, my two old specimens really don't need any of this care and attention any longer.  They are grand old ladies now who just need the occasional tipple from a rain cloud and some golden sunshine!  

Just a couple of oddities about my two old dames:  the old Hibiscus rosa-sinensis growing in front of my house  - now around fifteen years old - will put out rather lovely new blooms that look almost pink, but they quickly turn darker and more red in no time.

The slightly younger old dame growing under the gum tree canopy has flower petals with lovely ruffled edges.   They're like a pair of old maiden aunts ... each with their own particular characteristics and charms and out of touch with the modern world of Hibiscus!

There are two other Hibiscus rosa-sinensis hybrids in my garden ... but again these two varieties have single dark red blooms.  I've previously written a post about these, so if you're interested just follow this link:
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis variegata 'Roseflake' and 'Snowflake'


  1. Wow !!! Your hibiscus is amazing. I have one in my garden, but is so small.

  2. Your hibiscus is just beautiful! Where I live, we buy them in pots and set them out over the summer. They are not hardy here, although I do have a couple of varieties of hibiscus that do winter over: Rose of Sharon and the name of the other escapes me now; maybe it's simply Hardy hibiscus: the ones with the white blooms that are almost as large as dinner plates. Loved your post today Bernie. It was good to see something so pretty blooming in Australia when all I see is snow and trees without leaves! It has its own special kind of beauty too, but's cold! lol
    Christmas blessings,

  3. Merry Christmas and Happy New year. jim and pat

  4. Those are beautiful hibiscus!

  5. Hi Bernie, interesting info about the hibiscus. I've just discovered recently the Aust. hibiscus - not the alyogyne. The flowers look similar to yours but I think a bit smaller? And I think paler in colour - certainly I have seen an apricot coloured flowered one. Sorry for the vagueness, it's this busy time of the year, it's making me if not brain dead exactly, then at least brain slow and lethargic. cheers, cm


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