Hibiscus as an ornamental plant
From January to December, the hibiscus is blooming in vibrant colours of red, white, orange, yellow, pink and purple all over the landscape. The lustrous leaves also come in dark green and in variegated colours.
Hibiscus is a genus of flowering plants in the mallow family, Malvaceace. The genus is quite large, comparing several hundreds species that are native to warm, temperate, subtropical and tropical regions throughout the world.
Member species are renowned for their large showy flowers and are commonly known simply as “Hibiscus” or less widely known as rose mallow. Other names include hardy hibiscus, rose of Sharon (hibiscus syriacus) and tropical hibiscus (hibiscus rosa-sinensis). The genus includes annual and perennial herbaceous plants, as well as woody shrubs and small trees. The generic name derived from the Greek name (ibiskos) which Pedanius Dioscorides gave to Althea Officinalis (C40-90AD).
Several species are widely cultivated, notably the tropical Chinese Hibiscus or Chia rose (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), which may reach a height of 4.5 meters (15 feet) and rarely exceeds 2 metres (6.5 feet) in cultivation. It is grown for its large somewhat bell-shaped blossoms. Cultivated varieties have red, white, yellow or orange flowers. The East African hibiscus (H.schizopetalus), a drooping shrub with deeply lobed red petals, is often grown in hanging baskets indoors.
Other prominent members of the genus Hibiscus include the fiber plants mahoe (H. Tiliaceus), kenaf (H. Cannabinus) and roselle (H. Sabdariffa), rose of Sharon (H. Syriacus), and many flowering plants known by the common name mallow.
Hibiscus come in eye-catching colours that are unmistakably exotic and beautiful.
Hibiscus, a plant with colorful flowers, has been used for centuries for decorative and medicinal purposes. People have used it to make extracts, tea and supplements.
A tea made from hibiscus flower is known by many names around the world and is served both hot and cold. The beverage is called zobo in Nigeria, known for its red colour tartness with unique flavour and Vitamin C.
How to grow Hibiscus in containers
Choose a container
Plant your hibiscus in a pot that is at least 10 inches (25.4cm) in diameter, or twice the size of the root ball. The container should have drainage holes, preferably on the sides.
Add potting soil and mix. Choose a soil that is loamy and well draining. A mixture of 2 parts potting soil, 1 part river sand and 1 part peat moss works well, as hibiscus prefer to be well drained and aerated. Plant the hibiscus in the soil with 1 inch (2.5cm) of the top of the root ball exposed.
Place your hibiscus in full sun at least 6 hours in your outdoor area.
Water your hibiscus frequently enough to keep the soil moist, but not wet. Frequency will depend upon placement of your plant and how much sunlight it receives. Some experts recommend a drip feed watering system to regulate moisture.
Apply fertilizer specified for hibiscus. Use a 727 fertilizer, as hibiscus plants prefer a low amount of phosphorous and only slightly acidic soil. Fertilize once every two weeks. Container plants require extra fertilization due to a smaller absorption area.
Pruning your hibiscus will result in bushier, fuller-looking plant. It is not necessary to remove flowers. Trim only areas that have become leggy, branches that are sagging back and all yellow leaves with pruning shears.
Grow Hibiscus in the ground. Plant your hibiscus in a sunny location. The plants prefer full sun, but in hot climates, hibiscus will grow in light shade.
Choose an area with well draining soil. Plant the hibiscus in soil that does not hold water when it rains. If the area retains any water, you may choose to amend the ground with at least 2 to 3 inches (5.08 to 7.62 cm) of organic material, such as sand, peat moss or manure, prior to planting. This will allow for improved drainage.
Water your hibiscus frequently enough to keep the ground soil moist. When in bloom, feel free to cut the flowers for bouquets. This will not hurt the plants.
Hibiscus can drown in standing water. Their roots need air, and water prevents them from getting any air. Fungal root diseases also thrive in soggy soil, and standing water definitely makes the soil soggy if it stays too long. The large leaves tend to draw Japanese beetles. Check periodically for pests such as aphids, white flies, and mealy bugs. Use horticultural oil or insecticidal soap to control these pests.
Which Hibiscus Varieties?
Varieties of hibiscus grow well outdoors or indoors. Every hibiscus tested has grown and flowered in and outdoors and with good colour in both foliage and flowers. Flowers will usually be smaller if grown indoors, but as long as the colours are true, which they seem to be as long as the plants are given good nutritional programme, choose any variety you like.
Many species are grown as specimen plants for their showy flowers or used as landscape shrubs, fielding plants and are used to attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.
One specie, known as Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus), is extensively used in paper-making.
The tea made of hibiscus flower is known by many names in many countries around the world and is served both hot and cold. The beverage is well known for its tanginess and flavour. It is known as bissap in some parts of West Africa, zobo’ in Nigeria, Karkade in Egypt and Sudan, agua de Jamaica in Mexico and honduras (the flower being flor de Jamaica), gudhal in India and gongura in Brazl. Some refer to it as roselle, a common name of Hibiscus flower. In Jamaica, Trinidad and many Caribean Islands, the drink is known as sorrel (Hibiscus acetosa, a species sharing the common name sorrel is not to be confused with H. Roselle). Roselle is boiled in an enamel-coated large stock pot as most West Indians believe the metal from aluminium, steel or copper pots will destroy the natural minerals and vitamins.
In Cambodia, a cold beverage can be prepared by first steeping the petals in hot water until the colours are leached from the petals, then adding lime juice (which turns the beverage from dark brown/red to a bright red), for sweetness (sugar/honey) and finally cold water/ice cubes.
Dried hibiscus is edible, and is often a delicacy in Mexico. It can also be candied and used as garnish.
The roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is used as vegetable. Certain species of hibiscus are also beginning to be used more widely as a natural source of food colouring.
The tea is popular as a natural diuretic. It contains Vitamin C and minerals, and is used traditionally as a mild medicine with no side-effects. Dieters or people with kidney problems often take it without adding sugar for its beneficial properties and as a natural diuretic.
A 2008 USDA study shows consuming hibiscus tea lowers blood pressure. In a group of pre-hypertensives, 3 cups daily resulted in an average drop of 8.1 mmH in their systolic blood pressure, compared a 1.3 mmHg drop in volunteers who drank the placebo beverage.
Study participants with higher blood pressure went down by 13.2 mmHg. This data supports the idea that drinking hibiscus tea in an amount readily incorporated into the diet may play a role in controlling blood pressure, although more research is required.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis has a number of medical uses in traditional medicine in Chinese herbology. For example, an extract from the flowers of Hibiscus has been shown to function as an anti-solar agent by absorbing ultraviolet radiation.
In Indian traditional system of medicine, Ayurveda, hibiscus, especially white hibiscus and red hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) is considered to have medicinal properties. The roots are used to make various concoctions believed to cure ailments such a cough, hair loss or graying hair. As a hair treatment, the flowers are boiled in oil along with other spices to make a medicated hair oil. The leaves and flowers are grinded into a fine paste with a little water, and the resulting lathery paste is used as a shampoo plus conditioner.