Chinese Hibiscus, Tropical Hibiscus
Big, brilliant flowers on plump shrubs rank this among the showiest flowering shrubs in Western gardens. Some are very tender tropical species grown in Hawaii, others very hardy. Plants typically bear funnel-shaped blossoms, often with prominent stamens.
Giant whitefly is the most important pest of hibiscus in central and Southern California, coating the undersides of leaves with wax and eventually defoliating the plant. A parasitoid wasp has been released to control it, and research continues on its control.
This evergreen shrub is probably from tropical Asia; has been in cultivation for centuries. One of the most flamboyant flowering shrubs, it reaches 30 ft. tall and 15–20 ft. wide in Hawaii, but typically grows to 8–15 ft. tall and 5–8 ft. wide on the mainland. Glossy leaves vary in size and texture, depending on the variety. Growth habit may be dense, or loose and open. Summer flowers are single or double, 4–8 in. wide. Colors range from white through pink to red, from yellow and apricot to orange. Individual flowers usually last only a day, but the plant blooms continuously.
There are many series with a full range of flower colors. The TradeWinds series puts full-size plants in the Winds group and 2–3-ft. dwarfs in the Breeze category. The Luau series includes selections in most colors on 2–3-ft. plants.
Provide overhead protection where winter lows frequently drop below 30°F/–1°C. Where temperatures go much lower, grow in containers and shelter indoors over winter; or treat as an annual, setting out fresh plants each spring. Hibiscus also makes a good houseplant.
This shrub requires excellent drainage; if necessary, improve soil for best drainage or set plants in raised beds or containers. Can be used as a screen, espalier, or specimen. To develop good branch structure, prune poorly shaped young plants when you set them out in spring. To keep a mature plant growing vigorously, prune out about a third of the old wood in early spring. Pinching out tips of stems in spring and summer increases flower production. All varieties are susceptible to aphids.
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