How to Grow Hibiscus

A dinner plate sized Lady Baltimore Pink Hibiscus in the garden.

A Lady Baltimore Pink Hibiscus.

Photo Credit
Bryan Pollard/Shutterstock
Botanical Name
Hibiscus syriacus, H. moscheutos, H. coccineus
Sun Exposure
Bloom Time
Hardiness Zone

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Planting, Growing, and Pruning Hibiscus

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With huge, colorful dinner-plate size flowers, perennial hibiscus plants add a bold, tropical effect to the garden. They are also highly attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds! Here’s how to plant, grow, and care for hibiscus flowers.

About Hibiscus

There are many types of hibiscus. This growing guide covers perennial hibiscus grown for their strikingly beautiful, big, disc-shaped, hollyhock-like flowers that can measure up to 12 inches across!

Perennial hibiscus can grow up to eight feet tall, but dwarf varieties are only two to three feet tall. 

Hibiscus are members of the mallow family, which has over 300 members of annuals, perennials, trees, and shrubs.


When to Plant Hibiscus

Hibiscus can be purchased as young plants from nurseries and are best planted in the spring. Or, they can be rooted from a cutting in the spring.

If you wish to grow hibiscus from seed, sow indoors 12 weeks before the last spring frost date. Soak seeds in very warm water for one hour before sowing. Alternatively, seeds can be sown outdoors after the last expected frost date.

Choosing and Preparing a Planting Site

  • Choose a site that gets full sun; they’ll grow in partial sun but will not flower as well.
  • Hibiscus prefers well-draining soil with plenty of organic matter and neutral to slightly acidic soil.
  • To avoid breakage of the long stems, plant hibiscus where they won’t be exposed to strong winds.

How to Plant Hibiscus

  • Plant potted hibiscus plants so that their stems are just at the soil surface.
  • To root a cutting in the spring, cut off a branch 5 to 6 inches long and strip off lower leaves. Plant the cutting in a pot with a mix of three parts sand and one part peat. Roots should form within a few weeks. Transplant the cutting from the pot into the ground.
  • The hibiscus species that die back each year can be spaced 2 to 3 feet apart. Consider the potential height and width (up to 12 feet and 10 feet, respectively) of a mature plant before planting.
  • Water the plants well at the time of planting.


How to Care for Hibiscus Shrubs

  • Hibiscus needs frequent watering, especially when young and new. When watering, do so deeply and thoroughly, drenching the plant.
  • Mulch around the plant to retain moisture and to provide winter protection for the roots.
  • To encourage rebloom, either remove the spent flowers before they form seed heads or prune plants back by one-third after a flush of bloom is finished.
  • Perennial hibiscus will freeze back to the ground each winter; cut old stems to the ground.
  • Hibiscus blooms on new wood (this year’s growth), so pruning is best done in the spring.
  • In early spring, remove dead stems from established plants and apply a balanced fertilizer.
  • Over the growing season, hibiscus can benefit from a fertilizer that is high in potassium, medium to medium-high in nitrogen, and low in phosphorus, as the plant can be sensitive to phosphorus.
  • Mature plants can be divided in the spring, not fall.
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Wit and Wisdom

  • The plant has been used to soothe headaches, aching limbs, coughs, and inflammations. 
  • Hibiscus tea is made from parts of a different type of hibiscus, Hibiscus sabdariffa—also known as Roselle or Florida Cranberry. It’s native to West Africa but is now grown across Central America, the Caribbean, and even Florida.
  • In Victorian times, giving a hibiscus blossom to a person meant that the giver acknowledged the receiver’s delicate beauty. Learn more about the language of flowers.


Insect pests of hibiscus include aphids, whiteflies, and Japanese beetles. 

Clean up all plant debris to avoid fungal diseases which can cause leaf spots. Don’t crowd plants, and keep mulch from touching the stems to avoid blight. 

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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