The beauty of Hawaiian Hibiscus: Add a tropical touch to your garden

Hawaian hibiscus
AI imagined Hibiscus

The Hibiscus is a stunning plan that adds a tropical touch to any garden.

There are many Hibiscus species, both tender and hardy. They have showy flowers that come in a range of colours, including red, pink, white, and yellow, often with contrasting centres. Flowers can span up to 6 inches in diameter, making them true stand out plants.

I’ve grown hardy hibiscus in London and more tender varieties when we lived in Sydney. And the truth is these plants really come into their own where temperatures are generally warm and where cold is not an issue.

Among the tender hibiscus species, the Hawaiian Hibiscus, known as “Pua Aloalo” in the Hawaiian language, stands out as a true tropical gem. These vibrant flowers are not only prized for their breathtaking beauty but also hold significant cultural importance in the islands.

Hibiscus clayi
Hibiscus clayi by D.Eickhoff is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Hawaiian Hibiscus are especially known for their large, colourful flowers that come in red, yellow, orange, and pink. Also grown in Hawaii is the Chinese hibiscus, a related but non-native plant, that is the most frequently seen ornamental species in Hawaii.

These tropical beauties are relatively easy to care for, making them an excellent choice for both novice and experienced gardeners. When grown in the right conditions, these Hibiscus can thrive, providing a stunning display of color and lush foliage. Whether used as a focal point in a garden or as a colourful accent, these plants are sure to create a tropical oasis in any setting.

US readers can buy Hibiscus plants online from Nature Hills Nursery (affiliate link).

All about the Plant

The Hawaiian Hibiscus is a group of seven distinct species that are native to the Hawaiian Islands. Each species has its own unique characteristics, but they all share a common tropical elegance. Here are some key facts about these remarkable plants:

  • Scientific names:
    • Hibiscus arnottianus (Kokio Keokeo)
    • Hibiscus brackenridgei (Ma’o Hau Hele)
    • Hibiscus calyphyllus (Aloalo)
    • Hibiscus clayi (Red Aloalo)
    • Hibiscus immaculatus (Pua Aloalo)
    • Hibiscus kokio (Kokio)
    • Hibiscus waimeae (Koki’o Ke’oke’o)
  • Meaning of scientific plant name: Hibiscus is derived from the Greek word “hibiskos,” meaning “mallow plant.”
  • Common names: Hawaiian hibiscus, Pua Aloalo
  • Plant family: Malvaceae
  • Origin: Endemic to the Hawaiian Islands
  • Type of plant: Perennial shrub or small tree
  • Size: 3-10 feet tall
  • Foliage: Large, glossy, and deeply lobed leaves
  • Flowers: Large, showy blooms in various shades of red, yellow, orange, and pink. Flowering time varies by species, but typically during the summer months.
  • Fruit: Some species produce edible fruits called “roselles.”
  • Toxicity: Non-toxic to pets and humans (source: ASPCA)
WHITE Hibiscus (Hibiscus arnottianus)
White Hibiscus (Hibiscus arnottianus)” by mauro halpern is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Summary of care requirements

  • Light requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Water and humidity requirements: Consistent moisture, high humidity
  • Temperature requirements: 65-90°F (18-32°C), USDA hardiness zones 9-11
  • Soil requirements: Well-draining, nutrient-rich soil
  • Feeding requirements: Regular fertilisation, with a balanced fertiliser during the growing season
  • Propagation: Stem cuttings, seed, or division
  • Pruning: Prune after flowering to encourage bushier growth.
Hibiscus brackenridgei subsp. molokaiana
Hibiscus brackenridgei subsp. molokaiana by D.Eickhoff is licensed under CC BY 2.0

How to grow the Hawaiian Hibiscus

Soil and Feeding

Hawaiian Hibiscus plants thrive in well-draining, nutrient-rich soil with a slightly acidic pH. A mixture of equal parts potting mix, compost, and perlite or sand can provide the ideal growing medium. These plants are heavy feeders, so regular fertilisation with a balanced, water-soluble fertiliser every two weeks, or a slow-release fertiliser according to the manufacturer’s instructions, is recommended during the growing season.

Hawaiian hibiscus
AI imagined Hibiscus

Watering

Consistent moisture is crucial for Hawaiian Hibiscus plants. Water the soil thoroughly, allowing the excess to drain, and never allow the soil to dry out completely. However, be careful not to overwater, as this can lead to root rot. During periods of high heat or low humidity, you may need to water more frequently.

Hibiscus arnottianus subsp. immaculatus by David Eickhoff from Pearl City, Hawaii, USA is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Pruning

Pruning is important for maintaining the shape and promoting bushier growth in Hawaiian Hibiscus plants. After the flowering season, prune back the stems by one-third to one-half of their length. This encourages the plant to produce new growth and more flowers the following season. Additionally, remove any dead or damaged branches as needed.

Propagation

Hawaiian Hibiscus plants can be propagated through stem cuttings, seeds, or division. Stem cuttings are the most common method:

  1. Take 6-8 inch cuttings from healthy, non-flowering stems.
  2. Remove the lower leaves and dip the cut end in rooting hormone.
  3. Plant the cuttings in a well-draining potting mix.
  4. Water regularly and keep the soil moist until roots form, typically in 4-6 weeks.
  5. Once rooted, transplant the new plant into a larger container or the desired location.
Hawaiian hibiscus
AI imagined Hibiscus

Common Problems & Solutions

  • Flowers, Leaves, and Shoots:
    • Bud drop or failure to flower: Caused by cold temperatures, lack of sunlight, or over/under-watering. Adjust conditions accordingly.
    • Yellowing leaves: Often due to nutrient deficiencies or overwatering. Adjust fertilizer and watering schedule.
    • Leaf spots or discoloration: Can be caused by fungal diseases or pests. Treat with appropriate fungicides or insecticides.
  • Roots:
    • Root rot: Caused by overwatering or poorly draining soil. Improve drainage and adjust watering schedule.
  • Pests:
    • Aphids, spider mites, whiteflies: Treat with insecticidal soap or neem oil.
    • Mealybugs: Remove by hand or treat with insecticidal soap or neem oil.
  • Diseases:
    • Leaf spot or blight: Caused by fungal infections. Treat with fungicides and improve air circulation.
    • Root rot: Caused by overwatering or poorly draining soil. Improve drainage and adjust watering schedule.
AI imagined Hibiscus
Love Dahlias?I've written the book on them

Check out my comprehensive step by step guide, with plain language explanations and ultra-useful images and illustrations. This is for you if you love dahlias and want to the best out of the dahlias you grow.

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