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Hibiscus

Fact sheet: Hibiscus

Hardy hibiscus are an overlooked group of perennials with tremendous potential for the landscape. Hardy hibiscus are herbaceous perennial members of the genus, Hibiscus. They are large-flowered, fast-growing plants up to 15 feet tall and 4 to 8 feet wide. They are close relatives of the tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) seen commonly in the landscapes of southern and central Florida. Unlike their tropical counterparts, however, hardy hibiscus are much more cold hardy, vigorous, and long lasting, and they have larger flowers.

In north and central Florida, these plants emerge from the ground in mid to late spring and bloom from late spring through fall. With the exception of some of the herbaceous species, a hard freeze kills the above-ground growth but below-ground stems overwinter and produce new shoots the following spring. Some species require freezing (chilling hours) to release vigorous new growth making them better suited for north and central Florida than for south Florida. Hardy hibiscus prefer full sun or partial shade and any soil that is not too dry. Hardy hibiscus are especially useful in areas where the soil is too wet for other perennials. In the landscape, they are often used as colorful, flowering specimen plants, as borders or as taller components of perennial gardens. Many are well suited to semi-aquatic conditions and can be a great way to plant marshy areas that are otherwise maintenance problems. Some, such as swamp rosemallow (H. grandiflorus), are salt tolerant and are very adaptable to coastal areas. Hardy hibiscus is the perfect centerpiece plant in large mixed containers or planted alone. The bigger the container the bigger the impact it makes.

Fact sheet: Hibiscus

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