Learn to grow Hibiscus & where to buy in the UK

Want a plant with a trumpet-like, exotic, impressive flower? Need one that comes in a range of sizes and colours? Then, a hibiscus is what you need – with more than 200 species and multiple hybrids and cultivars in the genus.

BUY: Hibiscus here from UK Sellers
Double Flowered Chiffon Hibiscus Collection

Double Flowered Chiffon Hibiscus Collection

Even though all hibiscus are similar in ways that go beyond their appearances, their growing and care requirements are quite distinct. That said, let’s delve right into what hibiscus looks like and everything else you should know about the plant.

What Does Hibiscus Look Like?

Let’s start with a physical description of hibiscus

Hibiscus leaves are usually lobed and can either be smooth or covered in plant hairs known as trichomes. Also, the flowers can be borne in clusters or singly – the flowers of a lot of species bloom for only a day.

What else?

It’s common for hibiscus to have a whorl of leaflike bracts surrounding the sepals – this is referred to as an epicalyx. Also, it has its stamens fused into a tube. Even more, members of the genus are characterised by spiny pollens and fruits known as capsules. 

Already sounds pretty, doesn’t it?

Difference Between Tropical and Hardy Hibiscus

Even though we have over 200 species of hibiscus, we have two major varieties – tropical hibiscus and hardy hibiscus.

Do you want a remarkable houseplant? Or, do you live in a warm climate and need a plant that can survive under that condition? Then, tropical hibiscus varieties, ‘Hibiscus rosa-sinensis,’ are your best bet.

On the other hand, if you live in cooler environments in North America, then you might want to go for the shrubby Rose of Sharon or any other hardy variety. Why? Well, they are easy to grow and can tolerate cold temperatures.

One thing you should note is that hibiscus flowers are attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies regardless of the variety.

The major difference between these two varieties is where these plants can thrive. For instance, tropical hibiscus grows in hardiness zones 9 – 10, unless you take them indoors in winter – temperatures below 25oF will kill them. Contrarily, depending on the species, hardy hibiscus grows well in zones from 5–8.

Even though these varieties belong to the same genus, you can find some differences between them – like care needs, leaves, blooms, and plant types.

Chinese hibiscus ‘Hibiscus rosa-sinensis’ and Rose of Sharon ‘Hibiscus syriacus’ are actually cousins – they belong to the mallow family which is a large group of different plant species. But, even though the flowers of the Chinese hibiscus and Rose of Sharon look alike, the plants come from different climates as mentioned earlier – one is tropical while the other is temperate.

Hibiscus Plant Types

Just like we mentioned earlier, hibiscus comes in different plant types. While the tropical hibiscus is evergreen – it keeps its leaves all year – the hard hibiscus variety is deciduous – its leaves die and falls off during winter.

Also, hardy hibiscus can grow up to 4 – 8 feet wide and as high as 15 feet tall. Tropical hibiscus, on the other hand, is shorter – it grows up to 5-8 feet wide and 4-10 feet tall.

We have hundreds of hardy and tropical hibiscus cultivars and hybrids. But some of the popular varieties include:

  • Hibiscus coccineus or Swamp hibiscus – a hardy species with large flowers that look like a pinwheel.
  • Hibiscus mutabilis or Confederate Rose – a hardy rose mallow with showy, large flowers that are white when they open but change colour later on.
  • Hibiscus rosa-sinensis or Cajun Cocktail – a tropical cultivar with distinctive yellow and orange ruffled blooms which give each flower a unique appearance
  • Hibiscus moscheutos or Perfect Storm – a compact and hardy hybrid cultivar with flowers that don’t come out till late in the season.

Bloom Colours and Sizes

True, tropical hibiscus blooms are many. But, the thing is that each bloom only lasts for about a day or two. These blooms come in different colours – including shades of yellow, orange, peach, or salmon – that dazzle in double or single layers of petals that get up to 3-4 inches wide.

Hardy hibiscus flowers are larger than those of tropical hibiscus and can be found in colours red, pink, or white. Even more, you can find hybrid hibiscus varieties in different flower colours.

Hibiscus Chiffon Pink

Hibiscus Chiffon Pink

Leaf Properties

Generally, the leaves of a tropical hibiscus are glossy and dark green while those of a hardy hibiscus are heart-shaped and medium green. But, while this is another way to easily tell one from the other, it isn’t always the case.

Take the leaves of the hardy Hibiscus mutabilis or Confederate Rose, for instance – their leaves are lobed, hairy, and large rather than being heart-shaped when grown in USDA zones 7-9. 

Another example is the leaves of the hardy Hibiscus grandifloras or Giant Rose Mallow which are grayish-green and fuzzy when grown in zones 7-10. Also, the leaves on Kopper King have an unusual reddish-copper colour when grown in zones 4-9.

Also, the tropical Hibiscus rosa-sinensis or Red Hot cultivar sports eye-popping white, green, pink, red, and maroon foliage when in zones 10-11.

Hibiscus for sale in the UK – Buy online here:

How To Grow and Care For Hibiscus

The type of care your hibiscus needs depends largely on if it’s a tropical or hardy variety and if you’re growing it outdoors or indoors.

A common question when it comes to growing caring for hibiscus is ‘how long do hibiscus plants live?” Technically, the lifespan of a hibiscus plant also depends on the variety you go for. Also, even though new hybrids may not live over a decade, you can easily see older varieties living over 50 years.

Now, back to growing and caring for your hibiscus plant.

If you have a tropical hibiscus, then you should note that they need sunny environments with moist, well-amended soil. After planting it, ensure they are fertilised and well-watered – during the growing season, apply small amounts of complete fertilisers intermittently and water thoroughly but infrequently.

What if it’s a hardy hibiscus plant? Then, you should grow it in partial shade or full soil – a lot of species thrive in wet soil. With some species, you’ll need subfreezing temperatures when it’s winter – they release new blooms in spring.

If your hibiscus plant is potted, you need to fertilise and water them more frequently than those you plant out in your garden.

Let’s expand on things you’ll need to properly grow and care for your hibiscus plant.

How much light does Hibiscus need?

Hibiscus thrives in bright environments. If you’re in the North, full sun is the best bet when growing hibiscus. But, if you happen to be in the South with dry, intense heat, then filtered sun is the best option – if your plant isn’t blooming as it should, then move it to a sunnier area.

With an indoor tropical hibiscus, you’ll need to place it in a bright spot close to a sunny window – make sure it’s kept from direct and strong sunlight. When the weather is warmer and you want to transfer your plants outdoors, gradually familiarise them with the brighter condition.

Soil Condition requirements for Hibiscus

Regardless of the variety, hibiscus thrives in a moist, fertile, well-drained, loamy soil. If you’re in an area that’s too wet for other plants, the hardy variety is the best one to go for – they are wetland native and grow well in these conditions.

Also, even though most hibiscus do better in slightly acidic soil pH, the Rose of Sharon can tolerate alkaline soil pH. Plus, the soil acidity level can affect the colour of hibiscus blooms.

If your landscape is facing dry conditions, you can mulch around the base of your hibiscus to improve its moisture retention. Also, you can amend the organic matter of your soil if it lacks nutrients.

How much water does a Hibiscus need?

Hibiscus are thirsty plants, so you need to ensure they are always moist. For indoor tropical hibiscus plants, reduce watering significantly when it’s a dormant period – during the growing season, water them regularly from spring to early autumn.

If you have container-grown hibiscus, make sure the top inch of the potting mix completely dries out before watering again. Plus, ensure the containers have enough drainage holes – saturated soil can be a problem.

Also, hibiscus might need to be watered daily to help produce a lot of blooms. But, this all depends on the conditions it is grown in. If you have a hardy hibiscus and it’s not planted in a wet environment, like close to a pond, then you need to water them regularly so that they stay moist.

How To Get Your Hibiscus To Bloom

Like we mentioned earlier, hibiscus has exotic flowers that are short-lived – they last from one to three days. But, healthy plants produce many flowers during their growing season.

So, to prevent these flowers from dropping, ensure you’re not exposing your plant to temperatures that are too cold or too hot. Even if you have a hardy hibiscus, frost can be a problem.

Also, putting the plants in prolonged temperatures over 850F will cause flowering issues. Plus, even though you don’t need to deadhead your plant, blooming can be affected if your plant is overly dry or doesn’t get enough sunlight or nutrients.

Summary – To Wrap It Up

Before you go, know that, just like other plants, hibiscus need proper care for them to thrive – not meeting their requirements can cause issues like yellow foliage and buds droppings. But, at this point, you already know what and how to meet these requirements. So, go right ahead and grow this exotic plant – sit back and watch them bloom and add colour to your space.