Growing hibiscus

Asked September 13, 2017, 7:59 PM EDT

We would like to grow a hibiscus plant. Where should we plant it? Does it need shade or light? When should we plant it? What other important things should we know about growing a hibiscus?

Clark County South Dakota

1 Response

I am assuming from the wording of your question, that you want to grow this hibiscus in your yard or flower garden. The typical hibiscus that we can grow here that is fairly hardy Hibiscus moschutos. You may also see it listed as hardy hibiscus or swamp rose mallow. Most of the available cultivars are listed as only being hardy to Zone 5 but we have had them at McCrory Gardens for many years. However, they may die out in an open or wet winter. Hibiscus grow best in full sun, in a sheltered location to avoid strong winds and prefer a rich, moist soil. Avoid allowing the plant to dry out during the summer. When the plant loses its leaves following a killing frost/freeze in the fall, cut the stems down to about 4-6” above the ground. Adding mulch over the plants in the fall, when the ground has frozen, can help with winter survival. Hibiscus are slow to begin growth in the spring, so make sure you give them time to start growing. Mark where they are planted so you do not mistakenly dig into the plant.

There are quite a few different cultivars available now, ranging in flower color from white to pink, red and burgundy, many with mixed coloration in the flower petals as well. Flowering usually begins in mid-summer and may continue up until frost. Individual flowers only last one day but most stems will continue to produce additional flower buds, so plants may be in bloom for many weeks. They can grow to be 4-6’ tall and wide in a single season, once established, so make sure you have room for the plant. They may be planted in the spring as growing, potted nursery stock or you may purchase the plants as bare-root stock for spring or fall planting. In my experience spring planting is best, because then you will have a well-established plant going into the winter.

If you meant planting an indoor hibiscus, that is another matter entirely. These subtropical plants may summer outdoors on the deck or in a partly shaded location beneath some trees but they must be brought indoors for the winter months. Indoors, they need to be in the brightest location you can provide if you expect to see them flowering during the winter. They are prone to many different insect pests, so watch carefully for signs of mealybugs, aphids, whiteflies, thrips, and also spider mites. You may find these plants available at some garden centers in the spring and also at discount outlet stores.