Hardy only in frost-free parts of Zones 9 and 10, Chinese hibiscus -- also called Hawaiian hibiscus or rose of China -- is widely used as an annual elsewhere. It is a member of the mallow family and is found throughout the year in garden centers as a blooming pot plant for indoor enjoyment, but it can be used outdoors as well.
Description of Chinese hibiscus: In nature, they're shrubs up to 15 feet tall, but for summering outdoors they will probably reach a maximum of 3 feet tall and wide. The glossy, evergreen foliage is a handsome background for the large -- up to 6-inch -- flowers. These flaring bells with a distinctive column of yellow stamens in the center are red, yellow, pink, salmon, orange, or white.
Growing Chinese hibiscus: Hibiscus needs full sun for best bloom production, but it can tolerate partial shade. Soil should be rich, high in organic matter, and be well-moistened. Hibiscus also grows best in high humidity. Primary use in all but frost-free areas is as a container plant. Apply slow-release fertilizer to the soil before planting in the container. Hibiscus can be pruned to make it more shapely by pinching out the tips of young growth to induce branching.
Propagating Chinese hibiscus: By cuttings. Semi-hardwood cuttings root quickly in summer under mist.
Uses of Chinese hibiscus: Hibiscus is best used in containers. It can be cut back severely in the spring to maintain its size.
Chinese hibiscus related species: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis cooperi has brightly variegated leaves in pink and white; blooms are red. Hibiscus schizopelalus has finely divided, pink blooms. Hibiscus moscheutos, or rose mallow, is a perennial with large flowers. Disco Belle Mixed, grown from seed, has large flowers in red, pink, and white.
Chinese hibiscus related varieties: There are hundreds of named varieties of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis.
Scientific name of Chinese hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis