Hibiscus are flowering shrubs, sometimes considered small trees. They are a welcome addition to just about any landscape. They attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds with their large colorful blooms, the flowers are also edible and very tasty. They are tart like cranberries.
Hibiscus can grow up to 15 feet tall with flowers at 6" in diameter in warmer climates, but standard varieties usually average out to a much more manageable size. Flowers range from red to varying degrees of purple, pink and orange.
There are actually many different types of Hibiscus, all of which fall into 3 primary categories.
Hardy perennial hibiscus
Hardy shrub hibiscus
Hibiscus sabdariffa is commonly used to brew Hibiscus Tea, wine and preserves. The flowers and leaves are both used. Other varieties are used somewhat like spinach, and in India some are even used to make flour. Now that's true Flour power, or flower power as the case may be.
Hibiscus also has medicinal properties, scientifically proven, as well as folk lorish . Some of its active ingredients include the flavanoid anthocyanin, which is effective in reducing cholesterol. The leaves contain Hydroxycitric acid, a derivative of citric acid [Vitamin C], it has been gained popularity as a weight loss aid. It increases lipid oxidation which in effect helps to rid your body of fatty acids. It should never be used by pregnant women.
Hibiscus does well in containers, as well as standard gardens. It does best on a site with with full sun. Like nearly all plants the soil should be well-drained, clay will not suffice. It can be planted in spring, summer or fall.
All varieties of Hibiscus are intolerant of cold, some more than others and should be sheltered when temperatures dip below 40 F. For flowering, temperatures have to be 60-90 F.
Hibiscus Seeds, all varieties do not grow true to the parent variety. To start hibiscus seeds, soak them overnight in room temperature water. I like to put a drop of fish emulsion in the water - but this is not absolutely necessary. Some people like to nick the seeds to ensure moisture penetration - I don't really advise this as it frequently does more harm than good. The rest of the process is pure common sense - plant your seeds as you would any other flower seed - spacing dependent on variety and conditions.
Starting from Cuttings
Hardy and tropical hibiscus can be started from cuttings. A cutting will be a clone of the parent plant. Cuttings should be from new growth, branches on the hibiscus that have not yet fully matured. New growth naturally is found in spring or early summer. Some rooting hormone will help help to improve the odds of success, but is not absolutely required.
Place the cuttings in well drained wet potting soil with perlite or vermiculite. Place the hibiscus cutting in a hole you made and back-fill it. Keep the cutting in partial shade till it roots. Hibiscus has also been successfully propagated in water.
Spacing varies dependent on the variety and its anticipated mature height and spread. AS a rule of thumb common sizes should be spaced about 3 - 3 1/2 feet. The planting hole should roughly match the depth of the root ball, and be slightly wider. The rest is basic common sense - some water, a wee bit or compost and or fertilizer, depending on your soil condition and your off.
To thrive Hibiscus needs an inch or more of water every week. They are moisture pigs . Watering is especially crucial when they are in their flowering stage. In cooler temperatures , water should be cut back considerably.
Fertilize lightly bi-monthly with a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 in the spring. When summer and the blooming stage arrives, a high potassium fertilizer is best. After petal fall do not add any more fertilizer.
Pruning might be necessary to contain the plant size and aesthetic shape. Branches being removed should be cut back to a lateral shoot.
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