The Hibiscus Flower
The hibiscus is a delicate, attractive, sweet-smelling flower that has been a gardener's delight for decades. It is a hardy plant and doesn't require a “green thumb” to grow. There are many lovely varieties from which to choose..
Hibiscus is a member of the mallow family Malvaceae in the genus Hibiscus. The word "hibiscus" (marsh mallow) is derived by way of Latin from the Greek word hibisko. There are over 200 species of hibiscus in the mallow family.
One of the most popular is Hibiscus rosa-sinensis which originated in China.Hibiscus has a large flower that contains hundreds of species native to tropical, subtropical and warmer temperate areas of the world such as Africa, Madagascar and the Caribbean.
It is also known as rosemallow and in its natural habitats it commonly grows in thickets, forests and along rivers. The hibiscus flower has been seen growing in the wild in some areas of the United States such as Texas, Tennessee and Hawaii.
Cultural Significance and Symbolism:
In the western world the hibiscus is considered the symbol of delicate beauty. In Korea it is the symbol of immortality. Hibiscus is the state flower of Hawaii and Hibiscus syriacus is the national flower of South Korea.Hibiscus is used as an offering to Lord Ganesha and the Goddess Kali in the Hindu religion.
Description and Characteristics
Most hibiscus plants have simple, alternating leaves and large, trumpet-shaped flowers with five or more petals that come in a variety of colors.
Following are some varieties of hibiscus:
The Hibiscus grenache has large bright pink blossoms and deep green leaves. It is also known as rose mallow and grows best in fertile, well-drained soil that holds moisture well.
Hibiscus sabdariffa is a bush that has yellow hibiscus flowers and dark green leaves that are divided into five thin lobes. It likes to be fed and mulched well and kept very moist.
Common names for Hibiscus syriacus are Shrub Althea, Rose of Althea and Rose of Sharon. It has prolific flowering and comes in many shades of pinks, roses and white hibiscus flowers. The leaves have three lobes and it prefers full sun and hot weather.
Perennial hibiscus are those that bloom for several years. These hibiscus are becoming more favored each year by gardeners across the United States. They are easy to care for, come in many varieties of amazingly vibrant colors and will add beauty to the landscape for years to come.
Cultivation and Care
Plant hibiscus in nutrient rich soil that has good drainage. If a hibiscus plant is in poorly drained soil or is over watered it can easily develop root rot. Hibiscus should be planted in hot, sunny areas during the warm months of the year. Dig a hole only as deep as the root ball and 2 to 3 times as wide. Fill soil in the hole and water the plant.
This will cause the soil to sink and fill in the air pockets. Cover the indentation made by the water with additional soil and water the plant thoroughly. Pour a layer of organic mulch around the plant to hold in moisture and prevent weed growth.
Hibiscus care is not difficult. Water the plants only when the soil is very dry to the touch. Fertilize about every 3 weeks using low nitrogen fertilizer. During spring and summer use only half the label recommendation. Care of outdoor hibiscus includes carefully guarding your plants from insects and watching for signs of distress.
Pruning hibiscus is very important. Tip prune and pinch off branch tops to encourage growth further down the stem. Removing faded flowers will discourage insects that like to hide in curled up petals and leaves. Watch very closely for insects that could threaten the plants.
Hibiscus winter care includes moving plants in containers to a protected areas. Outdoor plants in the ground need to be covered when temperatures dip below freezing. Caring for hibiscus plants in this manner will reap rewards with vital, bushy and prolific flowering plants.
The hibiscus tree makes a wonderful decorative accessory for any room. Hibiscus tree care is very similar to that of the hibiscus bush. People often ask, "Can I plant my hibiscus tree outside?" You can plant a hibiscus tree outside in the same way as detailed above for a hibiscus bush. Plan carefully so that it is not placed to near other trees or flowers. Growing hibiscus trees need space to grow their roots and branches.
Diseases and Pests
Physiological, viral and fungal diseases can all attack hibiscus. When you buy hibiscus flowers examine them carefully to make sure they appear strong and healthy. Buy from a reputable nursery or garden center.
Physiological diseases often give the same symptoms as viral or fungal diseases but are actually caused by an unsuitable factor in the manner in which the plant has been grown. Examples of these are deficiencies in trace elements, too much or too little sun or shade, improper soil chemistry and improper irrigation. Some signs of physiological diseases are buds dropping or yellowing leaves.
Viral diseases may cause cupped leaves or mottling or deformation of the leaves. These diseases may be spread by insects or other affected plants. These plants are not as strong as others. There is no cure or treatment for viral diseases.
Fungal diseases will cause brownish or black spots on the leaves. Affected leaves should be taken off and burned and anti-fungal spray used on the plant. Various fungi may also cause rotting of the leaves or stems. These are usually caused by poor drainage or overwatering. Less watering, better drainage and the use of certain fungicides may help these plants.
Numerous insect pests infest hibiscus plants. These include chewing insects such as caterpillars and grasshoppers and sucking insects such as mealybugs, aphids, spider mites and white flies. Mealybugs and aphids excrete honeydew which attracts ants to the hibiscus plants. Many of these pests attack new leaves and buds and cause leaves to curl and plant parts to be malformed.
Japanese beetles are the most common insect pests of hibiscus in the United States. They will voraciously chew the leaves. Their larvae eat roots and bore holes in branches and stems. A good garden supply store or nursery can advise the best methods and products to rid plants of diseases and pests in a particular area. The Department of Agriculture for your locale will also have good advice.
In addition to the aesthetic pleasure this lovely hibiscus plant brings to gardens, it also will attract birds such as barbets, flycatchers and robins to eat insect pests. The large blossoms also lure useful pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Hibiscus are used for cut flowers and flowering plants to decorate gardens across the globe.
In the Okavango Delta of Botswana in southern Africa, hibiscus flowers are eaten when food is scarce. In some countries they are used for papermaking. Hibiscus sabdariffa are consumed as a vegetable and made into jams and herbal tea in the Caribbean.
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