While almost everyone is familiar with hibiscus grown in our area, there are some other types that may be new to gardeners. One such type is known by the common name of Coral Hibiscus, Fringed Hibiscus, Skeleton Hibiscus, Chinese Lantern or Japanese Lantern. We’ll pick “Fringed Hibiscus” just to simplify things. Botanically known as Hibiscus schizopetalus, this extra-fancy, deluxe model of hibiscus is a rare gem that can grace your landscape.
This lacy-flowered botanical curiosity can be grown in our area. In fact, I found one located at the History Park in Punta Gorda tucked away in a somewhat shady nook, flowers dangling like otherworldly chandeliers. This native of Africa hailing from Kenya, Tanzania, northern Mozambique, grows to about six-feet tall and six-feet wide with narrow, dark green evergreen leaves on somewhat arching, limber branches – practically weeping in form. Best in full sun for the most blooms, use the fringed hibiscus as a hedge, screen or just a specimen as a conversation starter.
The flower of this hibiscus is the prize of this plant and needs a good description. Imagine a dangling flower with five, highly frilled, pink to red upcurved petals hanging from a relatively long stem. The stamen hangs well below the lantern-like, three-inch wide flower, adding a further dimension to this already breathtaking flora.
Unlike most hibiscus, the fringed hibiscus does best with little to no pruning as their flowers develop on the previous year’s wood. If pruning is needed, do it every three to four years and then expect a lack of flowers for a season.
While the fringed hibiscus has been used in breeding other hibiscus hybrids, its unique nature makes it shape, form and structure beyond compare in nature. Easily propagated from rooting hormone-assisted cuttings or air-layering in the spring, you can make more for friends and neighbors. Getting your first specimen may involve finding one on-line from a specialty mail-order nursery, or a local one found at a family-run nursery. As the fringed hibiscus suffers from the same ailments as other hibiscus including aphids and nematodes, monitor regularly. Bottom-line, find one of these coveted hibiscus to add to your plant collection and embrace its complex wonder! For more information on hibiscus and other flower shrubs suitable for our area, or to ask a question, please visit https://www.facebook.com/CharlotteMGLifeline/ . Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Charlotte County Extension Service. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or email@example.com.
Mahr, S. (2021) Hibiscus schizopetalus. University of Wisconsin – Madison – Division of Extension.
Hibiscus schizopetalus. (2021) Missouri Botanical Garden – Plant Finder.