Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

Few exotic plants have won such popularity as the hibiscus; rarely will one find such magnificent, large, colourful flowers in the plant realm. There is one drawback, however — hibiscus takes up too much space. Growers can therefore thank the growth regulating chemicals commonly used by nurseries nowadays for the plant’s comeback in recent years.

Hibiscus is probably truly a native of China, as its name sinensis indicates. But its beauty has been prized for many years and thus it spread to the subtropical and tropical countries of the whole world — hence the author’s use of the word ‘probably’.

If left unchecked the shrub grows to a height of 6 m (20 ft). Its growth, however, need not be kept within bounds by chemical means; this can also be done by a good pair of secateurs. The principal requirements of the hibiscus are heat, light and good nourishment. Overwintering in a cool room, though recommended, is not a must. However, if you can put the shrub in a cool spot and limit watering, then profuse flowering the following year is assured.

Besides many cultivars differing in shape and col-our the variegated H. rosa-sinensis ‘Cooperi’, with leaves edged white and spotted crimson and pink, is also frequently encountered. The flower, however, is not as nice – the petals are narrow and coloured an unattractive pink. Gorgeous, on the other hand, is the African species H. schizopetalus, which has pendant, turban-like flowers with blood-red, fringed petals. It requires ample heat even in winter and is thus very suitable for modern centrally-heated homes.

All hibiscuses can be readily multiplied by spring prunings used as cuttings and inserted in a warm propagator. Hard pruning is a must, particularly in the case of H. schizopetalus, which otherwise readily grows too big.

The soil should be a nourishing mixture composed of rotted turves, leaf mould and a smaller portion of peat and sand. Feed should be applied liberally throughout the entire growing season.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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