Got any pictures of your seedlings, Rick? I have lots of the red-leaf Hibiscus acetocella, and I think it may be similar to what you're growing. Dark red leaves that look a bit like maple leaves?
They seed themselves all over the yard, and I see new seedlings all summer popping up here and there. If I don't pinch them they do go straight up. I had one reach over 10ft. tall this summer just because I was curious how big it would get. Trunk was 2in. thick. They look much nicer if you can encourage bushy growth by pinching them, but I've never pinched mine until they are about 2ft. tall.