Chinese hibiscus, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, can be grown as a houseplant. There are other hibiscus species well suited for growing out of doors; Chinese hibiscus is the best choice for indoor growing.
Chinese hibiscus can grow to 5 feet tall but is easily pruned to 3 feet which is an ideal size for a flowering potted plant indoors. With proper care, Chinese hibiscus will live and bloom for 20 years or more.
Chinese hibiscus flowers are 2 to 5 inches across and can be single or double. The papery flowers can be white, cream, salmon, in red, yellow, or orange, and usually have a dark center. Flowers bloom for just a day or two but are quickly replaced by new flowers. Indoors under proper conditions, Chinese hibiscus can bloom year-round, but flowers are most abundant in summer and fall.
Best indoor conditions for Chinese Hibiscus
- Grow Chinese hibiscus in a warm room where light is direct and humidity is average to high.
- Chinese hibiscus should get as much light as possible, but it should be shaded from the hot sun.
- Plant in a well-drained, soilless medium that is kept evenly moist.
Chinese Hibiscus feeding and watering
- Keep the soil evenly moist but not wet. Reduce watering in winter.
- Fertilize monthly in fall and winter and every two weeks in spring and summer. Use an all-purpose organic fertilizer such as 5-10-5.
Chinese Hibiscus care
- Chinese hibiscus can be kept small by regular pruning. Prune Chinese hibiscus in late winter or early spring if the plant becomes too tall. Nipping off growth buds will encourage bushy, compact growth. Chinese hibiscus can be trained as a standard.
- Repot Chinese hibiscus every year; this will renew the soil and will allow for gentle root pruning if needed.
- Stem cuttings taken in late spring can be rooted to create new plants.
Chinese Hibiscus pests and diseases
- Chinese hibiscus can be damaged by aphids, scales, mealybugs, and whiteflies. These pests can be controlled by insecticidal soap.
- Leaf spot and stem rot can occur. To avoid these problems do not overwater Chinese hibiscus and make sure there is plenty of light and air circulation.
Chinese Hibiscus frequently asked questions
Q: How do I care for Chinese hibiscus growing indoors?
A: Prune the plant back in spring to maintain bushy, compact growth. Repot the plant each year in a well-drained potting mix. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Give the plant full sunshine in winter and shade the plant from direct sun in summer.
Q: How do I care for my potted hibiscus in winter?
A: Keep the plant in a room with full light where the temperature is not less than 40°F, but not warmer than 50°F. Give the plant only enough water to prevent the soil from drying out completely.
Q: What causes hibiscus flower buds to drop?
A: Dry soil is the usual reason for hibiscus flower bud drop. Overfeeding and a sudden change in temperature can also cause bud drop.
Q: What causes hibiscus leaves to curl?
A: Dry air will cause leaves to drop. Mist the leaves in spring and summer. Other reasons for leaf curl or leaf drop is dry soil, overwatering, and drafts.
Other Hibiscus varieties
- Hardy hibiscus, rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) largest flowers of all hibiscus; grows 6 to 8 feet tall with smaller cultivars; plants die back in winter but reappear in spring.
- Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) deciduous shrub grows to 12 feet tall and 6 feet wide; upright and compact. Blooms from mid- or late-summer until frost; resembles hollyhocks with single, semidouble, or double flowers to 3 inches across.
- Japanese hibiscus (Hibiscus schizopetalus) grows to 9 feet tall with drooping branches and deeply fringed scarlet or pink flowers.
- Red-leaf hibiscus (Hibiscus acetosella) grown mostly for green or purplish-red leaves; bears dark-centered red or yellow flowers; grows to 5 feet tall.
- Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) known as the Jamaica flower; annual grows to 5 feet tall; has a fleshy red base of yellow flowers; used to make a sauce, jelly, cold drinks, and tea.
Hibiscus moscheutos – (H. palustris) – Rose mallow, Swamp mallow
Hibiscus moscheutos bears large saucer-shaped flowers measure 6 inches to 1 foot across and are made up of red, pink, or white petals that are crinkled like tissue paper. Blossoms form in clusters at the tops of tall plants beginning in late summer and continuing until frost. The 8-inch, broadly oval leaves are dark green on top with downy white undersides. Native to marshy areas in eastern North America, rose mallow adapts to moist gardens, forming long-lived clumps that do not spread.
- Size: 5 to 8 feet tall.
- Light: Full sun to light shade.
- Soil and moisture: Fertile, humus-rich, moist to wet soil; constant moisture.
- Planting and propagation: Plant container-grown plants in spring, spacing 3 feet apart, or sow seed in spring. Division not necessary, but divide in spring if desired.
- Special care: Moisture availability influences height. Needs no staking. Emerges late in spring; avoid digging up.
- Pests and diseases: Japanese beetle and aphid often troublesome.
- Climate: Zone 5-9.
- Cultivars: ‘Sothern Belle’ series, 10-inch-wide pink, red, or white blossoms, 4 to feet tall; ‘Anne Arundel,’ 9-inch pink flowers; ‘Lady Baltimore,’ pink with red centers, 4 feet tall; ‘Lord Baltimore,’ 10-inch red flowers, 4 to 6 feet tall.
- Garden use: Excellent for damp or wet spots in borders or naturalized in bog garden or along steam. Plant in groups.
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