Sunday, February 21, 2010

Malvaviscus arboreus var. mexicanus - Sleepy Hibiscus

Malvaviscus arboreus var. mexicanus is one of those old-fashioned garden plants that you just don't see all that often anymore!  I remember it so well from my childhood ... there was a beauty growing in my Grandmother's garden ... and I remember the soft tropical look of it and those amazing flowers!   We used to suck the nectar from the flowers ... and we thought it was nectar from the gods!!

Imagine my delight when I spotted one in the garden of this house when we moved in!  I hadn't seen one for so long, it was like meeting up with an old familiar friend.

It's a large shrub that can grow to 12 feet in height and in width and bears big mid-green leaves.  It never really looks very tidy ... unless you prune it into shape.  I prefer the untidy, scraggly look ... seems more natural to me.

It will grow in a lightly shaded to mostly sunny location ... mine is growing in a position that is shaded from the hot afternoon sun.  This shrub will survive drought conditions and periods of monsoonal rainfall ... so well suited to my garden.  High levels of humidity and filtered sun will produce the best display of blooms ...

and the blooms are the most fascinating thing about this plant.

Malvaviscus arboreus bears long pendulous bright red flowers mostly from early summer to mid-autumn... although mine does bear flowers sporadically throughout the rest of the year.  These flowers look like unopened hibiscus blooms.  They never quite open fully.

Malvaviscus arboreus can be referred to by a whole range of common names - Turk's Cap Hibiscus, Mexican Turk's Cap, Sleepy Hibiscus, Lipstick Hibiscus.   Actually I remember calling it the Lipstick Hibiscus as a child ... I think I prefer that common name more.


  1. Yes, kids sucking nectar from that flower is not limited to your area only... Same with us here. We call it hibiscus that never open up its flower. ~bangchik

  2. Yeah I prefer it to be called lipstick Hibiscus due to the colour ;-) Your blooms really look so healthy and the colour is so vivid. Good job Bernie! Btw, for me, there are so many old fashion plants that have their unique beauty and I adore them till now. This is definitely one of them :-D

  3. Obviously we are not alone then Bangchik ... kids all over the world are just as inquisitive as we were! I wonder who was the first to try it!

  4. Thanks Stephanie ... so many great plants just go out of fashion don't they? This one was so common once upon a time ... now very few people know what it is!

  5. What a fantastic colour this bloom has. You've introduced me to yet another beauty I haven't seen before Bernie!

  6. hello! i was looking for a picture of the sleepy hibiscus & happened to find your blog. i just bought this variety few days ago & was going to name it sleeping beauty coz it looks like its always sleeping. i've bee obsessed w/ hibiscus for 5 yrs already & i think ive collected 30 or more varieties.


  7. This plant is still very common in the older suburbs of Sydney. It's everywhere - I just bought one from the Sydney Botanic Gardens. They flower 12 months of the year!


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