Hooray for Hibiscus

Hooray for Hibiscus

When it comes to the word “Hibiscus” it can cause a hubbub of befuddlement for some understanding the broad descriptive terminology for what is a “Hibiscus?” It is a diverse genus of hundreds of species that are deciduous, perennial or tropical.
You then hear “Rose of Sharon” or “Althea” thrown into the mix and soon the bewilderment. The primary types of “Hibiscus” we enjoy in our yards and gardens are a “woody” hibiscus, an “herbaceous” perennial hibiscus and a “tropical” hibiscus. When they bloom in the heat of summer it’s “hooray for Hibiscus!” Here is a brief tutorial with pictures.

In August the giant dinner plate blooms of herbaceous Hibiscus moscheutos or “Mallow” hibiscus are stunning and a real showstopper. The plants grow to 4 to 5 feet tall and the blooms can be 6 inches to a foot across. They die back to the ground in winter and start slow in spring. But once warm summer temperatures arrive they are off to the races to wow admirers to their impressive blooms.

In July and August the “woody” type of Hibiscus blooms in abundance on trees and shrubs and is known as Hibiscus syriacus. It was given the epithet “syriacus” because it had been collected from gardens in Syria but is native to Asia. People commonly refer to them as “Rose of Sharon” or Althea. Good for late season flowering (July to September) it can get “leggy” as a woody landscape plant so it responds well to pruning.

And last but not least is the “tropical” Hibiscus we put out on our decks and patios or around the poolside in summer. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. The word “tropical” should clue you that we enjoy it outside in summer and have to bring it indoors as a “houseplant” in winter or grow as an annual and replace next year.