Answer: There are different kinds of hibiscus. The tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) is sold in the spring generally for use as a patio container plant. (It can be planted in the garden, too, if you wish.) It is not winter hardy so you would need to bring it indoors each fall if you want to keep it from year to year. It has dark green, glossy foliage and the traditional hibiscus flowers in colors from red to yellow to pink to orange, and so on.
There is also the Hibiscus syriacus or Rose of Sharon shrub. This is a winter hardy, deciduous shrub and I suspect what your friend has. Flowers are usually pink or purple or white and may be double or single. Plant this in a spot that gets full sun all day long and in well drained soil, it should get bigger and better every year.
There are also some perennial hibiscus flowers that die back to the ground each winter and resprout in the late spring. You should be able to grow these, look for varieties such as "Lord Baltimore" or "Disco Belle" for example. They do best in full sun and rich soil that is evenly moist.
(Mandevilla is a tropical vine and is killed by freezing weather so I don't think that would be it.)
Based on your description, I am not sure what is wrong with your Homalomena. This plant does well in moderate to low light, too much direct sun could cause the foliage to burn. But, some types actually have bronzing or other coloration naturally. It needs an evenly moist soil, dry soil could cause foliage problems. Overfertilizing could cause foliage spots, too. Insects or disease could cause discoloration as well. I would suggest you consult with your local Penn State county extension to see if they can diagnose the spots and based on knowing that, decide how to proceed.
The water droplets are the result of guttation which is when the plant is taking up water fast and it exudes out of the foliage, it is related to environmental conditions and nothing to worry about.
You do not need to dig the tulips every year, no. (In the old days, some gardeners did this routinely, but it is not necessary.) Some varieties of tulips tend to last only one year while others perennialize well and can last for many years. Also, you must allow the foliage to grow and turn brown before you remove it. This process rebuilds the bulbs so they can return the following year. If the foliage is removed too soon, the bulbs become weakened. Look for tulips described as kaufmanniana or cottage tulips for best perennializing.
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