By: Melissa Martinez
The Hibiscus is a flower that is often associated with the tropics, but it actually originated in Asia. They can now be found in northern Europe, West Africa, the eastern Mediterranean, India, North America and South America. The beauty of the Hibiscus has made it the state flower of Hawaii and they are a favorite by many because they bloom all year round. Unfortunately, the flowers do not last long. Within hours of blooming, their colors can change and by nightfall, many will have fallen off.
The color variations on the blooms, however, can be quite exceptional. The six basic ones are white, red, orange, yellow, lavender and brown. Of course, there are hundreds of possible colors to choose from amongst the numerous varieties of hibiscus available. It is also interesting to note that Hibiscus plants have even more varieties than roses. In fact, the genus Hibiscus is the largest in the Mallow family's 1500 species.
The simplest way to enjoy the beauty of the Hibiscus flower is to plant it in your garden and enjoy the flowers as they bloom. Another fun thing to do with your Hibiscus flowers is to make hybrids with them. Making new varieties by creating a hybrid is not difficult and is exciting because you never know what kind of flower you will get. Once you create a hybrid, it will be six months to two years before the plants bloom because the new hybrid seedlings have a difficult time developing good root systems. In order to give your hybrid a better root system, graft it onto a plant that already has one. The results are worth both the extra effort and the extra wait.
Yet another way to enjoy your Hibiscus flowers is to make fresh flower arrangements with them. Hibiscus flowers make lovely additions to any arrangement but can also be stunning on their own. The best time to pick them is in the morning. They do not have to be put into water after they are picked, and just have to be kept in a reasonably cool or refrigerated place until you need them.
Now before you can begin to enjoy your hibiscus flowers you have to make sure that you are able to successfully grow them. The good news is that Hibiscus flowers are quite easy to grow. Just make sure to choose varieties that complement your climate and soil conditions. If you live in a non-tropical area, don't worry. You can always grow hibiscus in pots.
Also remember that grown hibiscus bushes range in height from an average of 4 feet to a maximum of 12 feet, so plant them accordingly. If you plant them too close to one another, they will be too crowded once they've matured. You also have to plan for extreme weather conditions. Before a frost, cover in-ground plants with plastic all the way to the ground but keep the plastic above the foliage to prevent the plant from being burned. Bring potted plants indoors.
If you live in a tropical climate, remember that light colored Hibiscus are sun lovers; they grow best in direct full sunlight. Those with lavender, brown and green flowers do best in partial shade. Also, Hibiscus need lots of water, but can't tolerate soaking. After planting your hibiscus in the ground, be sure to water them often. Hibiscus plants grow best in sandy soil with a pH of 5.5-6.5. It would also be a good idea to check with a local nursery to find out if your city's water changes the pH of your soil.
Keep in mind that the soil where you plant your hibiscus needs to drain well. If it does not, set them in a raised bed that is 12"-18" off the ground. Also, Hibiscus are not acid-loving plants. If you have acidic soil, you may want to add lime to the soil. If you must mulch, then mulch with small leaves and wood chips.
Finally, we should discuss fertilization. Fertilization ensures strong, healthy hibiscus plants that are more resistant to pests and disease. Since hibiscus plants are heavy feeders, it is best to fertilize them often and lightly. In the winter, be sure to regularly fertilize your hibiscus.
If properly cared for, Hibiscus plants can be enjoyed for many years and will beautify your garden or home no matter how you choose to plant them.