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Hardy Hibiscus: How to Plant, Grow and Care

Hibiscus moscheutos, Rose Mallow, Hibiscus coccineus, Swamp Hibiscus, Hibiscus syriacus, Rose of Sharon

Hardy Hibiscus, Perennial Hibiscus, Hibiscus Tree, Hibiscus Bush, Hibiscus moscheutos, Rose Mallow, Hibiscus coccineus, Swamp Hibiscus, Hibiscus syriacus, Rose of Sharon

Prized for their huge, flamboyant flowers, hardy perennial hibiscus add an exotic, tropical punch to the garden. Though they conjure up images of the tropics, they can withstand cold winter temperatures as low as -30°F (-34°C).

All you need to know about Hardy Hibiscus

  • Hibiscus is a member of the mallow family of flowering plants, Malvaceae. It includes several hundred species that are native to warm, temperate, subtropical, and tropical regions throughout the world.
  • There are 2 main types of commonly cultivated Hibiscus: Tropical Hibiscus and Hardy Hibiscus. Tropical Hibiscus are native to warm regions of Asia and the Pacific Islands and are hardy in Zones 10-12 where temperatures do not dip below 30°F or -1°C. Hardy Hibiscus, also called winter-hardy Hibiscus or perennial Hibiscus, can withstand cold winter temperatures as low as -30°F (-34°C). In areas subjected to harsh winters and snow, they will die back to the ground in winter, coming back in the spring.
  • The most popular and widely recognized species of Hardy Hibiscus include Hibiscus moscheutos (Hardy Hibiscus or Rose Mallow), Hibiscus coccineus (Scarlet Rose Mallow or Swamp Hibiscus), Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon), and their hybrids.
  • Hardy hibiscus have big, hollyhock-like flowers, sometimes as giant as dinner plates, in shades of pink, red or white. These Hibiscus flowers are amazing conversation pieces!
  • Most Hardy Hibiscus bloom in mid-late summer to fall. They have a shorter blooming season than tropical Hibiscus, as they bloom from spring through late fall and into winter in locations without any frost. Flowers last just one day, but so many buds form that the plant appears perpetually in flower from mid-late summer until frost.
  • Some Hardy Hibiscus are perennials (Hibiscus moscheutos, Hibiscus coccineus) while others are shrubs (Hibiscus syriacus).
  • They can grow from under 3 ft. (90 cm) to 12 ft. tall (360 cm), depending on the species and varieties.
  • Hardy Hibiscus can be incredibly winter hardy (hardiness zones 4-9), depending on the species and varieties.
  • They perform best in full sun to light shade in moist soil that never completely dries out.
  • Hardy Hibiscus add an exotic touch to perennial borders, city gardens, coastal gardens or cottage gardens. Quick to grow and fill a space, they are great for foundation plantings, at the back of the border, or as a flowering hedge. Dwarf Hibiscus varieties are well-suited for patio containers.
  • Hibiscus syriacus is a prolific seeder and is listed in the Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States. It is currently reported invasive in KY, PA, TN, and VA. Avoid unwanted volunteer seedlings by planting sterile cultivars such as ‘Diana’, ‘Helene’ or ‘Minerva’.
  • The large, bright, trumpet-shaped blooms attract butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden. Hibiscus is not generally a plant that deer or other animals seek out to eat, but if other food sources are scarce, they may come along and make a meal out of your Hibiscus.
  • Hardy Hibiscus are not bothered by many pests or diseases. Aphids or Japanese beetles may feed on the foliage. Various fungal diseases such as leaf spot, blight, and rust, may develop when the plant is subject to excessively moist conditions.

Guide Information

Hardiness 4 - 9
Climate Zones 2, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, H1
Plant Type Perennials
Genus Hibiscus
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Summer (Mid, Late)
Fall
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Tolerance Deer
Attracts Butterflies, Hummingbirds
Landscaping Ideas Beds And Borders, Patio And Containers, Hedges And Screens
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Coastal Garden, Informal and Cottage
Hibiscus syriacus ‘Oiseau Bleu’ (Rose of Sharon)
Hibiscus syriacus First Editions® Fiji™ (Rose of Sharon)
Hibiscus syriacus First Editions® French Cabaret™ Red (Rose of Sharon)

When to Plant Hardy Hibiscus?

  • The best time to plant Hibiscus moscheutos (Hardy Hibiscus or Rose Mallow) and Hibiscus coccineus (Scarlet Rose Mallow or Swamp Hibiscus) in the garden is in the spring after the last frost date.
  • To get a jump on the season, seeds can be sown indoors 12 weeks before the last spring frost.
  • Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon) can be planted in the garden in spring or fall. However, if planted in the fall, it might not return as reliably the next spring as one planted earlier in the year.

Where to Plant Hardy Hibiscus?

  • Hardy Hibiscus perform well in USDA Zones 4-9, depending on species. Not sure about your growing zone? Check here.
  • Hardy Hibiscus are easily grown in full sun to light shade in moist, fertile soils. In too much shade, your Hardy Hibiscus may get floppy, with a lower bud count and reduced flowering performance.
  • Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon) is well-adapted to dry climates and to prolonged drought and requires well-drained soil. Hibiscus moscheutos (Hardy Hibiscus or Rose Mallow) and Hibiscus coccineus (Scarlet Rose Mallow or Swamp Hibiscus) are 2 wetland species that can grow in marshy conditions. They tolerate sites with poor drainage that are too wet for other plants.
  • Select a planting site that is sheltered from strong winds.
  • Hardy Hibiscus add an exotic touch to perennial borders, city gardens, coastal gardens, or cottage gardens. They create colorful combinations in the garden with other late seasons’ shrubs or perennials. Quick to grow and fill a space, they are great for foundation plantings, at the back of the border, or as a flowering hedge. Dwarf Hibiscus varieties are well-suited for patio containers.

How to Plant Hardy Hibiscus?

  • Set your Hibiscus in the planting hole so that the stem is just at the soil surface. If necessary, add some backfill soil to the bottom of the hole to achieve proper planting height.
  • Hibiscus species that die back each year can be spaced 2 to 3 feet apart (60-90 cm).
  • Water well around the plant after planting.
  • Spread mulch around the plant to keep moisture in and weeds out. This will also provide winter protection for the roots.
Hibiscus moscheutos ‘Disco Belle White’ (Hardy Hibiscus)
Hibiscus moscheutos ‘Luna Red’ (Hardy Hibiscus)
Hibiscus moscheutos ‘Southern Belle’ (Hardy Hibiscus)

Hibiscus Care

Watering

  • Water regularly throughout the summer to keep the soil moist.

Fertilizer

  • Hardy Hibiscus will benefit from fertilization. Feed with a water-soluble or slow-release, balanced fertilizer.
  • If using a slow-release fertilizer, apply it 3 times a year, in early spring, after the first round of flowers, and in mid-summer.
  • Make sure not to over-fertilize as this can cause toxicity and kill your Hibiscus.

Pruning / Deadheading

  • Deadheading Hibiscus flowers will promote new blooms.
  • Hardy Hibiscus flower on new wood (this year’s growth).
  • Hibiscus moscheutos (Hardy Hibiscus or Rose Mallow) dies to the ground in winter. Cut down to near ground level in late autumn or in spring before new growth emerges
  • Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon) requires little pruning. Remove diseased, damaged, congested or crossing shoots. If pruning is necessary, prune in late winter or early spring when the branches are bare.
  • Hibiscus coccineus (Scarlet Rose Mallow or Swamp Hibiscus) is usually cut back after flowering, removing the dried stems to the ground in late winter.

Propagating

  • Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon) can be propagated by softwood cuttings in late spring, by semi-ripe cuttings in summer, or by layering in spring or autumn.
  • Hibiscus moscheutos (Hardy Hibiscus or Rose Mallow) can be propagated by seed or by division in spring, or by softwood or semi-hardwood cuttings in the spring or early summer.
  • Hibiscus coccineus (Scarlet Rose Mallow or Swamp Hibiscus) can be propagated by seed or stem cuttings.

Pest and Diseases

  • Hibiscus are not bothered by many pests or diseases.
  • Keep an eye out for aphids or Japanese beetles may feed on the foliage.
  • Various fungal diseases such as leaf spot, blight, and rust, may develop when the plant is subject to excessively moist conditions.
Hibiscus ‘Ballet Slippers’ (Rose Mallow)
Hibiscus ‘Midnight Marvel’ (Rose Mallow)
Hibiscus ‘Starry Starry Night’ (Rose Mallow)

Companion Plants for your Rose of Sharon

Aurinia saxatilis (Basket-of-Gold)
Forsythia x intermedia (Border Forsythia)
Ilex crenata (Japanese Holly)
Thuja occidentalis (American Arborvitae)
Caryopteris – Bluebeards
Echinops (Globe Thistle)
Hosta (Plantain Lily)
Hydrangea arborescens (Smooth Hydrangea)
Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender)
Phlox paniculata (Garden Phlox)
Syringa vulgaris (Common Lilac)
Echinacea (Coneflower)

Garden Examples

A Colorful Summer Border Idea with Hibiscus and Grasses
A Late Season Border Idea with Hibiscus and Grasses
A Summer Border Idea with Hibiscus and Roses
Compare All Hibiscus
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Hibiscus
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Hibiscus
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 4 - 9
Climate Zones 2, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, H1
Plant Type Perennials
Genus Hibiscus
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Summer (Mid, Late)
Fall
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Tolerance Deer
Attracts Butterflies, Hummingbirds
Landscaping Ideas Beds And Borders, Patio And Containers, Hedges And Screens
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Coastal Garden, Informal and Cottage
Compare All Hibiscus
Compare Now
Explore Great Plant Combination Ideas
Hibiscus
Guides with
Hibiscus

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