Hibiscus is well known for its beautiful, large, colorful flowers. Although native to warm, tropical regions, these stunning plants can be found decorating homes and gardens across the globe.
Hibiscus is actually a genus of plants with over 200 species which come in a vast array of colors including white, orange, yellow, purple, red, pink, and blue. But it’s not just the attractive flowers that make these plants so special. Hibiscus is healthy, has many uses, and has become a part of tradition in some countries.
The best way to grow hibiscus is in a planter which will allow you to move the plant around to different locations throughout the year. They love the sun, and its blooms will flourish, given six hours of sunlight every day. The optimum temperature for your hibiscus plant is over 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep it outside in the summer but bring it indoors at the first signs of frost. They also prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6.5 and 6.8. Try using a potting soil that’s designed for acidic plants and drains well.
During its blooming phase, your hibiscus will require large amounts of water. In the summer and warmer months, it will need watering every 1-2 days. As the weather becomes cooler, hibiscus needs much less water. In winter, check the soil and only water when it’s dry to the touch.
Hibiscus also requires lots of nutrients to bloom. Feed your plant a high potassium fertilizer every two weeks during the summer months only.
Care for this special plant and your hibiscus will thrive, giving your home or garden the look of a tropical paradise wherever you are in the world.
In countries where it grows naturally, hibiscus has taken on a level of cultural importance. Species of hibiscus have become the national flowers of Haiti, Malaysia, and South Korea. Hibiscus brakenridgei, the yellow hibiscus, is the state flower of Hawaii.
Hindu’s believe that hibiscus flowers emit divine energy and consciousness. In certain rituals, red hibiscus is offered to the Lord Ganesha and Goddess Kali.
In Tahiti, women use a hibiscus flower to show their marital status. They tuck the flower behind the right ear to indicate they’re single or the left if they’re married. However, in Kerala, a southern state of India, this custom instead indicates madness.
The traditional Indian practice of Ayurvedic medicine is one of the oldest holistic healing systems. It considers white and red hibiscus to have many medicinal properties. Ayurveda incorporates the plant’s leaves, roots, and flowers into remedies for headaches, menstrual cramps, swelling, hair loss, venereal diseases, constipation, and colds. It also uses hibiscus to induce short-term infertility.
Hibiscus is full of vitamins and minerals that help strengthen the immune system. With large levels of vitamin C, hibiscus tea is a great way to prevent cold and flu in the cold winter months. Hibiscus is also full of antioxidants that help boost overall health. And, although studies are still ongoing, there is evidence that this special plant could also help lower high cholesterol.
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the US. Research into the health benefits of hibiscus shows that the plant’s antioxidants can reduce inflammation in blood vessels. By doing so, it prevents the build-up of blood cells that would lead to clotting and high blood pressure. Hibiscus also helps to treat upper respiratory pain and inflammation. A daily dose of hibiscus tea really is good for the heart and lungs!
A great way to enjoy hibiscus and take in all its healthy goodness is by using it to make tea. Brewing the dried leaves gives the beverage a deep ruby color. In Egypt and Sudan, hibiscus tea is known as karkade and drunk hot to lower body temperature. It’s also popular as a refreshing iced drink.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should speak with their physician before drinking hibiscus tea.
Hibiscus is edible and has a citrus-like flavor and is a tasty addition to many dishes such as soups, salads, sauces, curries, chutneys, jellies, and jams. Dried and cured hibiscus flowers make a delicious snack that Mexicans consider a delicacy. Boiled hibiscus leaves make a great alternative to spinach. Adding hibiscus to a dish is sure to add a burst of flavor and color.
Coming in such vibrant colors, hibiscus is becoming ever more popular as a natural dye. The food industry is turning to hibiscus as an alternative to artificial food colorings, especially red. For years, Chinese women have used the flower extract to dye their eyebrows and hair. Try making your own hibiscus coloring and experiment with dyeing fabrics, yarns, or even transforming eggs at Easter!
The Chinese commonly refer to hibiscus as the shoe flower as it’s used to polish shoes. They also crush hibiscus flowers and leaves to make a homemade shampoo which they believe helps with dandruff and stimulates hair growth. In Polynesia, fibers from the bark of the hibiscus tree are used to make grass skirts. And the species hibiscus cannabinus is widely used in the paper industry.
Starting your hibiscus journey requires careful attention to planting. The foundation you set can significantly influence the plant's health and vibrancy. Opt for a well-draining soil mix, ensuring the roots have ample space to spread. Position the plant in a location where it can receive abundant sunlight, as this tropical beauty thrives in warmth. Watering should be consistent but avoid over-saturation. With the right initial care, including choosing a suitable spot and ensuring proper soil conditions, your hibiscus is set on a path to showcase its mesmerizing blooms.
Every gardener knows that plants, no matter how robust, can fall prey to pests and diseases. Hibiscus, with its lush leaves and vibrant flowers, can attract aphids, whiteflies, and other pests. Regular inspections are crucial. If you spot any unwanted guests, a gentle application of insecticidal soap can be beneficial. Additionally, ensure your plant isn't sitting in stagnant water, as this can lead to root rot. By maintaining a proactive approach, addressing issues promptly, and ensuring a clean environment, your hibiscus can remain healthy and radiant.
While hibiscus loves the sun, winter can pose challenges. In colder regions, it's essential to prepare your plant for the drop in temperatures. Consider relocating your hibiscus indoors, placing it near a sunny window. While indoors, reduce the watering frequency but ensure the soil remains slightly moist. Remember, overwintering is about providing a temporary, comfortable environment until warmer days return. With a bit of foresight and care, your hibiscus will weather the cold and be ready to bloom with renewed vigor in spring.
For those with limited garden space, container gardening offers a fantastic solution. Hibiscus, with its adaptable nature, can thrive in pots. Choose a spacious container with adequate drainage holes. Position the pot in a sunny spot, ensuring the plant receives its daily dose of sunlight. While container plants might need more frequent watering due to limited soil, be cautious not to overwater. With the flexibility to move the container based on sunlight and temperature needs, you can ensure your hibiscus remains vibrant and healthy year-round.
Temperature plays a pivotal role in the well-being of a hibiscus plant. Ideally, aim for a range between 60-90°F (15-32°C). Consistency is key. Sudden drops, especially during nighttime, can stress the plant. If you're growing hibiscus indoors, avoid placing it near air vents or drafty windows. Outdoors, consider using a protective cover during chilly nights. By maintaining a stable temperature range and being attentive to the plant's needs, you can ensure a thriving hibiscus that rewards with a profusion of blooms.