Hibiscus: Plant Care and Collection of Varieties

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Hibiscuses are large shrubs or small trees that produce huge, colorful, trumpet-shaped flowers over a long season. They are generally divided into four groups: Hardy Hibiscus, Rose of Sharon, Tropical Hibiscus, and all the various species of Hibiscus. There are also some annual varieties, such as the flower-of-an-hour (Hibiscus trionum).

There are many species of Hibiscus and there is a myriad of ways to propagate them. Many hibiscuses do produce seeds, but some, like Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, rarely do. In any case, most perennial or bush hibiscuses can be propagated by cuttings. Snip a young twig in summer, cut the bottom to a 45° angle, and let it sit in water or soil. Roots will develop in a few weeks. If you want to propagate these plants by seed, the method will vary depending on the species. Some merely need scarification (which you can achieve using sandpaper or by shaking the seed in sand), but those that come from colder climates often need stratification, which you can do by placing the seeds in the fridge or freezer for a few months. Annual hibiscuses may be propagated from seed sown each spring.

About hibiscus
Hibiscuses are deciduous or evergreen shrubs. The plants can grow to 15 feet tall in frost-free areas. Hibiscuses can be planted singly or grown as hedge plants; they can also be pruned into a single-stemmed small tree.

Special features of hibiscus
Hibiscuses are well-known for attracting a myriad of pollinators, like hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects.

Choosing a site to grow hibiscus
Select a site with full sun and well-drained soil. Hibiscuses also adapt well to growing in containers. If you are growing the plant from seed, you may want to gradually harden off the young plant to ensure that it gets used to sunlight.

Planting Instructions
Plant hibiscuses in spring, summer, or fall, spacing plants 3 to 6 feet apart. Dig a hole only as deep as the root ball and 2 to 3 times as wide. If your soil is in very poor condition, amend the soil you've removed from the hole with a small amount of compost. Otherwise don't amend it at all. Carefully remove the plant from the container and set it in the hole. Fill the hole half full with soil, then water it well to settle the soil and eliminate air pockets. Let the water drain, then fill the remainder of hole with soil and water thoroughly.

Ongoing Care
Most hibiscus species require at least 1 inch of rain (or equivalent watering) each week. They like to be constantly moist, but not wet. Feed twice a month during the growing season and prune as necessary to control plant size and cut back errant branches. Cut branches back to just above a side shoot. Many tropical hibiscus species are sensitive to cold and should be protected when temperatures dip into the 30s; container-grown plants should be brought indoors. Check plants periodically for pests such as aphids, white flies, and mealybugs. Use a horticultural oil or insecticidal soap to control these pests.

Hibiscus Tea
The flowers of hibiscus steeped in boiling water produce a delicious and healthy tea with a taste similar to cranberry juice. It is said to lower blood pressure and contains numerous valuable vitamins and essential fatty acids. Some hibiscus species, like roselle, are valuable vegetables and are specifically cultivated for that purpose. Okra was once considered to be a Hibiscus but is now in a separate genus.

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