How to Grow Hibiscus

hibiscus flower
Red swamp hibiscus hibiscus coccineus grows in the Corkscrew Swamp in Naples, Florida

The large, colorful blossoms of Hibiscus (Hibiscus sp.) create an eye-catching display during summer, attracting hummingbirds and butterflies and providing the look of a tropical paradise, no matter what the variety. Hibiscus plants are members of the Mallow family, and there are many different species that are used in gardening, agriculture, and manufacturing.

To grow hibiscus in your home garden, it’s important to know the three main types of plants:

  • Tropical hibiscus
  • Hardy perennial hibiscus
  • Hardy shrub hibiscus

Here are some tips for growing and caring for all three.

tropical hibiscus (Suanpa, Pixabay)
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. (Suanpa, Pixabay)

Tropical Hibiscus

With its sturdy shape and colorful blossoms, tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) is a popular choice for container plants and tropical gardens. It grows as a small shrub or tree, with stiff woody stems and thick, glossy, dark green leaves.

Blossoms are usually 3”- 6” in diameter and come in many different colors and varieties including red, orange, yellow, salmon-pink, multicolored, and even double blossoms.

How to Grow Tropical Hibiscus

  • Climate: Can be grown year round in zones 9-10 but will not survive frost or heavy freeze. Cooler zones (8 and lower) usually grow it as an annual, or in containers that can be brought indoors during cold weather.
  • Light: Full sun.
  • Soil: Rich and well-draining. Container-grown plants are often grown in a soilless potting medium to prevent compaction. Keep moist, but don’t let it stand in water.
  • Fertilizer: Tropical hibiscus blooms on new growth, so it benefits from regular feeding with a balanced, organic, liquid fertilizer.
  • Flowers: Blooms spring through fall, but flowering may slow in the heat of midsummer.

To keep your tropical hibiscus over the winter, bring it indoors before night temperatures fall into the 40s F. Keep in a cool, bright spot (55°-70° F). Reduce, but don’t discontinue, watering. Your plant may lose some leaves as it adjusts to the change.

A few weeks before moving outdoors in the spring, give your hibiscus a rather heavy pruning – shortening leggy stems and removing rubbing branches. Remove the top couple of inches of soil and replace with fresh compost. Add some organic fertilizer, and your plant will be well on its way to a spring growth spurt!

Some varieties of tropical hibiscus overwinter better than others. If yours doesn’t bloom well the second year, you may want to consider replacing it.

Hardy Perennial Hibiscus

If you look at your local garden center for winter-hardy hibiscus, chances are you’ll find the enormous dinner-plate-sized blossoms of Hibiscus moscheutos. Commonly called Rose Mallow or Swamp Mallow, this plant is an herbaceous perennial, which means it will die completely back to the ground in the winter then sprout anew in the spring.

Compared to tropical hibiscus, the stems and heart-shaped leaves of hardy hibiscus are much softer, dull green, and tender. Blossoms are usually flat and large and the texture of tissue paper. They are available in colors of red, pink, and white.

How to Grow Hardy Perennial Hibiscus

  • Climate: Hardy to Zone 4. Does not transplant very well, so choose your location carefully.
  • Light: Full Sun.
  • Soil: Well-draining and rich. Loves water and should remain moist in summer. Grows naturally near ditches and swamps. During the winter, however, the roots should not be soggy. Add mulch to hold in moisture and prevent damage from late spring frosts.
  • Fertilizer: Hardy hibiscus is a heavy feeder. Organic fertilizers with plenty of phosphorus will encourage blooms.
  • Flowers: Blooms in July and August. Each flower is short-lived, but there are plenty more to come.

In the fall or late winter, cut back the dead stems of hardy hibiscus to near ground level. Compared to other perennials, this plant can be a little late to sprout in the spring, but by midsummer it will be sprawling several feet high. Stake long stems if needed.

In addition to Hibiscus moscheutos, other perennial hibiscus species include the slender petals of Scarlet Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) and the ruffled pink blossoms of Confederate Rose (Hibiscus mutabilis). If you live near water, try growing the marsh-loving Giant Rose Mallow (Hibiscus grandiflora).

Hibiscus syriacus plants go perfectly in butterfly and hummingbird gardens. (manfredrichter, Pixabay)

Hardy Hibiscus Shrubs: Althea or Rose of Sharon

Last, but certainly not least, we come to the larger shrubs and trees known more commonly as Althea or Rose-of-Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus). These carefree plants brighten up any landscape and are a must-have for hummingbird and butterfly gardens. The blooms are smaller than its tropical cousin, but it has a sustained, prolific bloom period in mid to late summer.

Hibiscus syriacus is a deciduous shrub or small tree, growing up to 10 feet tall and wide, with dark green foliage and flowers in shades of pink, blue, lavender, and white.

How to Grow Hardy Hibiscus Shrubs

  • Climate: Grown in zones 5-9. Used as a border or specimen shrub. Loses its leaves in winter. Upright shape, fairly dense, with a coarse texture.
  • Light: Full sun, with a little afternoon shade in hotter climates.
  • Soil: Rich and well-draining, although it’s pretty adaptable to a range of growing conditions.
  • Fertilizer: Average water and nutrient needs. Generally carefree.
  • Flowers: A rapid grower that can be pruned heavily in the early spring to encourage larger blossoms. May self-seed and sprout around the base.

Further Information


  1. Squirrels apparently love to eat Hibiscus leaves. So beware, they will strip the plant bare. Chili powder or hot sauce sprinkled on the leaves seems to be a temporary fix.

  2. My rose of Sharon half is dead the other half green and alive. What’s going on? Is the rose of Sharon a short lived tree?

  3. I have just purcased a “Bahama Bay” Hibiscus Plant in a 1 gal. container and planning on planting in the ground.

    When it flowers out,and the bloom falls off leaving the empty pod do you cut pod off from the stem or does create a new flower in empty pod.

  4. Don, you need to cut off the empty pod – it won’t form a new flower.

    Hilda, Rose of Sharon usually lives quite a while. I’d cut off the dead portion and see if the tree can regain its shape. If it’s diseased, cutting off the dead part might keep it from killing the whole tree. Can you see any bark or leaf damage that might indicate a disease or insect problem?

  5. I purchased a rose of sharon tree (dormant) and am concerned about the site that I was considering. I live in zone 4 (on the shore of Lake Superior) and it stated that it can be planted in full to partial sun. I would have the latter if I plant in front yard as a specimen. Problem is this spot is next to a driveway where snow gets piled up 3-4 feet. Will a new planting survive the first winter if I stake the trunk well and protect with chicken wire and mulch? Should I opt for a sunnier location in my back yard?

  6. Help! After it bloomed, the leaves on my beautiful potted topiary hibiscus are turning yellow and the entire tree is wilting–and there has been no change in its TLC or its location. What can I do to save this pretty plant?

  7. My Question is the same as Carol W. I have a tropical H that I have indoors. I have watered but portion of the plant are dying! What might I do to save this?

  8. I was wondering why my giant hibiscus limbs are growing almost on the ground instead of upright?? Does anyone have any suggestions. Thank you


  10. I have several beautiful hibuscus plants. Earlier today I found that one major branch that starts at the root was sawed off, presumably by an animal. I found the branch with the beautiful blooms on the ground, and the flowers torm off from it. There were marks on the branch near the cut that looked like teeth marks, but the cut itself was so straight, like someone used a sharp instrument to cut it. I’m baffled. I’m worried that whatever the creature, it would attack the rest of my plants (about 13 altogether). What animal could be the culprit and how do I get rid of it?

  11. I love hibiscus plants i just planted two in some pots outside on my porch and i noticed that before i planted them the flowers had bloomed and a couple of hours after i planted them the flowers shrivled up!! 🙁
    Did i do something wrong when i planted them?

    MAY 20 2012

  13. I transplanted a plant from my parents yard that I think is an Althea. I have had it for several years but it has not grown much. Many of the leaves turn yellow & fall off. In past summers, the blooms have formed but did not open. What can I do to have a healthier plant?

  14. My potted hibiscus tree is growing on front porch with dark green leaves, but doesn’t bloom. Why? I fertilize with Miracle Gro.

  15. Nancy-sounds like not enough sun and/or water or it is root bound in the pot.
    I came home today to find my Lord Baltimore, 7 foot tall in full bloom destroyed by something. The main stem was bent in half. It was fine this AM and it is staked up to 5 feet. The top 2 feet, where most of the flowers are was bent in half along with some lower stems.I can’t imagine a squirrel doing this, because it would have attacked my potted one first. I am so angry, I wait all spring for it to bloom, I had to cut it off and I put it in water, but the rest of the buds probably won’t open.

  16. In your photo under Hardy Perennial Hibiscus the leaves are being eaten away – mine has the same exact problem – the leaves look skeletal but the flowers bloom day after day (closing and dying each day, I deadhead them and remove the debris). What is the bug eating the leaves? I’ve tried homemade soap/spice remedies but nothing seems to help.

  17. My perennial Hibiscus( lady Gladmore) or something similar reached aht. of 7+ ft. It is rather stalky and has smaller leaves than my tropical Hibiscus. Is something wrong? Also the leaves are more scattered.

  18. I live in Ohio and have a hibiscus tree that I bring indoors every winter, it is about 8 years old. I place it in my basement in front of a sliding door so it gets a good amount of daylight. It blooms all winter long, it is unbelievable. The problem is that when I plant it outdoors in spring, usually early May, it doesn’t bloom until late July or early August. Is it meant to bloom all year long? Or should I be doing something to stop it from blooming in winter months, so it blooms more in Summer? Thank you.

  19. I live in nashville, Tennessee and I put my trees in big pots and keep them moist. I have four pink hibiscus trees and the winter I move them all in the basement. I see budding and some leaves. This is the first time I grown them. I love them and the big blooms. I want to sit them out on the patio, but the weather here is sometime rain or sun or snow. Can I sit them out in the morning and bring them back in before dark. The weather at night get 37 dg

  20. I am a zone 4 in southern Minnesota and want to try blue Rose of Sharon here. I saw Lisa posted from Lake Superior area and am curious if they actually survived. I’ve been able to do zone 5 wisteria and others if I treat them like a rose bush….cover with leaves and in mesh all winter plus mulch…and the wisteria vines go nuts. Just stunning. But I’m reluctant with even a “more weed than a shrub” hibiscus. Can anyone advise or tell me their zone 4 or less experience? I’m if anyone can advise me on this stunning hibiscus.

  21. My Hardy Hibiscus blooms great for one month. Then all of a sudden the buds turn brown and don’t open. What is causing this?

  22. Really it is interesting to know the variety of hibiscus especially about hibiscus shrub. Your suggestion on how to plant is good. But how to do pesticides. I am living in India, Chennai – tropical area. In all the hibiscus Plant one kind of white insects or ant that I don’t know, which is spoilig the Plant. If any remedy let me know to the above mail. Earlier we used to see hibiscus plant every where with nice flowers. Due to this white insect, generally growth of hibiscus plant come down in all areas. What to do?

  23. I just purchased the double red Althea bushes. We want to make a hedge out of them, but live in Iowa. Am afraid they won’t come back. The article says to plant them 10 ft apart but I don’t want to wait 10 yrs for them to fill in either. Menards has an awesome deal on them right now and was going to purchase more. What do you suggest?

  24. I have 3 hibiscus in my backyard that flower beautifully. This year one of them has much shorter stalks, but still big flowers. Some of the stalks bend over at the ground and grow sideways and flower along the ground level.l cut a stalk off the first time i saw this because i thought it might be a rodent or a disease, but it happened again with another stalk. This plant has less stalks and less height than the others so it shouldn’t need support, right? The taller 2 next to it do not have a problem. What causes this?

  25. I just purchased 2 luna red hardy hibiscus. The problem is that we are going to have 100º-104º temperatures over the next week. Should I wait to put them in the ground? Can I keep them in their pots for a few days? Anxiously waiting. Thanks.

  26. I have had a variegated hibiscus in my garden for about 10 years. it is a bushy 8ft. high plant that gets full of scarlet coloured buds that never open. is there anything I can do?

  27. I have exactly the same problem as Pete. My hibiscus is the same age as well, it has deep purple/maroon buds, absolutely full of bud but the buds have never opened. I have other hibiscus which have flowered constantly, they are “normal” shrubs.


  28. How do I start growing hibiscus on a large scale. I live in Uganda, one of the tropical countries in Africa. what is the best type to plant to act as a spice?

  29. I have a tropical yellow hibiscis that is blooming very well, however the flowers bloom one day and fall off. How can I make them flower longer?


  31. I live in zone 6, east tennessee and have a hardy hibiscus that was given to me 10 years ago. It is now over 20 feet tall shaped more like an apple or pear tree and has white blooms about 4-6 inches across and blooms all summer. I have looked everywhere for another one and have not been able to find one anywhere. Do you have any suggestions, would also like another color if possible. Thank you.

  32. I have 2 white Althea hubiscus on my front yard. It’s the 2 year and one of them is huge! They survive a super snow and frezzing winters perfect! Texas snow! Like 9f to 10f. We think they will not made it on the first winter, but to our surprise, they made it! So far so good ! And they start blooming on summer. I leave in Abilene tx, my hibiscus are the envy of all my neighbors. Haha! 🙂

  33. I find everytime Hibiscus needs watering use a weak liquid fertilizer such as miracle grow…. I have had super luck with mine since Paul Parent, a great Arborist, gave me that tip many years ago…it works

  34. I have a some hardy hibiscus in a few spots in my rock garden and are doing well, except the same as the picture here, leaves being eaten by something – ants or small bugs? The leaves are almost gone, but they keep flowering beautifully. I have tried bug repellant, and spraying the plants with a mist of water and dish soap, recommended by my mother-in-law, but nothing works. Any suggestions? BTW, I live near Toronto, Ontario

  35. The day after I planted my hybisques I had two blooms the following day they both closed up and look dry. Otherwise the plant looks healthy. It is in full sun from morning to about one in the afternoon. What should I do?

  36. I have three hibiscus in pots. I live in East Tennessee, so very hot and humid. The foliage on my hibiscus are very green and full, but I have no blossoms. During this hot season I watered daily and fertilize with Miracle Grow weekly. I love my plants, but would love to see some blossoms. What do I need to do to produce blossoms?

  37. I have a hibiscus that has a very large flower, it is so large it is the size of a basket ball. I was told it was a dresden plate hibiscus but can’t find any info on it. I got it from a friend while I was stationed in Charelston, S.C. and I moved to WI and it comes back each year. It is the red to deep red flower of the hardy type. Can you help me with some info on it?

  38. Hi! I have the same problem as “Susan Blass”.. I have 3 different types of hibiscus that I’m growing in pots and some type of ant/bug is attacking them even though they still continue to bloom, sometimes they bloom or the bug gets to the flower and eats it away.. Please can you help me with a solution to the problem – Thanks! 🙂

  39. I have transplanted several huge hardy hibiscus and they do just fine, so don’t believe what he said about does not transplant well. As with any transplant, water daily. The food that my nursery recommends is Holly Tone, any nursery should have it and Home Depot and Lowes carry it. It is the best and I have huge blooms on my hibiscus in west Texas by early June. I have 4 and wish I had a place for another one!

    For the bug problem, get what the nursery recommends and you have to spray both sides of the leaves. You will need a pump sprayer to mix the solution and spray your plant really good. It is usually spider mites.

    Hibiscus blooms only last one day. I cut them off each evening or the next morning.

  40. I have 10 Hibiscus plants, planted in 2011. The first three years the plants were upright full of blooms. This year 6 of the ten had the majority of stems growing parallel to the ground. I still had wonderful blooms just on the ground. What can I do to ensure the stems grow upward in stead of outward?
    Thanks Bill Urbana, IL Zone 5

  41. Hi, my name is Karen, I have a lot of flowers on my Hibiscus and wow, this is the second year in the ground. I have a lot of seeds, I would like to plant them, but not really sure just what to do. I was told to scratch the out side of seed and soak in water, Please could you tell me what you think. I was given a bunch of seeds by a friend of different colors, and I want to put them in my back yard. Do I start them in pots first ,or just plant the seed in the ground? and how many seeds do I use? Can I put red cedar mulch around them or put black plastic down first when I get ready to put them in the ground? Thank you so much for your help. Karen Horton, Kansas

  42. We’re can I buy seeds for the shrubs of defiant colors I have red and pink I’m looking for the purple/mixed color

  43. Planted 4 African Rose Mallows this spring, on South-Wes facing side of house, Watered well. Now they are over 18 feet high, pretty impressive but no signs of flowers. Have read that the newer hybrids may not bloom at all. ANy suggestions on how to encourage blooming?

  44. I have several purple Rose of Sharon. They are just beautiful. When we give the babies to others they always bloom white. We can’t seem to get a purple baby. My sister thinks the pinetree that’s is near is causing ours to be purple. How do we get a purple baby?

  45. I have managed to get a hibiscus Twig to finally make roots after a year of trying. Not easy I’ll grant you but my twig finally succeeded. Her name is Libby and of course she is the offspring of Hibi ( I know I know, I’m losing it, LOL) Suffice to say, 4 months later Libby is now 1 foot tall (twice from when she was planted) and happily, growing well and healthy. My concern is, she is growing fast with big lush leaves but her stem (or trunk) is a little thin and scrawny. She is holding herself up well but I worry: do I let her continue to grow and how high do I let her grow? The other thing is, while the leaves look REALLY good, they seem a little…soft, usually a characteristic of slight weakness or lacking in vitamins I guess? Now being as it is winter, neither “mother” nor “daughter” receive any feeding since it is typically the “rest” period. Anything I should be worried about or just keep doing what I am doing? So 2 questions. 1) Growth and 2) strength/rigidity of plant.

  46. I, too, have a beautiful Hibiscus in a large pot that was really pretty all summer and fall; however, a few weeks ago, one morning I got up and most of the leaves were on the ground! What could cause this, and what am I to do next. I have moved it into a covered space to protect from the cold. Do I prune it now ? It is still producing flowers but not as big as before.

    Sara Jones

  47. Hi, I want to purchase a Hibiscus plant. I want to take it outside in the summer & inside in the Winter. I live in Ohio. Can you tell me where I can purchase one & what is the best for what I want? How would I take care of it, food-water-light. Thanks

  48. I purchased a braided Hibiscus tree that was full of beautiful buds and blooms and transplanted it in my garden. The tree was completely bound in the container when I got it out to plant so I loosened up the roots and put Miricle Grow in the hole before covering the tree roots with the soil from the pot and the soil I put aside from the hole. 4 days later the tree is loosing its buds and the leaves are curling and turning brown. What can I do to save it and make it bloom and thrive again. Please help.

  49. I took my hibiscus plant in the house when it got cold and it finished blooming indoors. Then the leaves fell off and I kept watering it and now it is really full of leaves and looks very healthy but no buds, only nice dark green leaves-any suggestions, or will it eventually start budding. Thank you

  50. I have a Hibiscus plant that usually has large deep red blossoms. I have had it for 17 years. Each year I have trimmed the plant back. And every year it has bloomed. But the last 4 years it has not. The leaves are big and healthy deep green. But no flowers. What am I doing wrong. I am frustrated that it won’t produce flowers any more. Please help.

  51. I have a perenial hibiscus. If I trim the height of it when growing from ground up in spring can I get it to not grow so tall?

  52. 2 yr of having my hisbiscus and 1st time I cut them back there grown big and bushy but not a one bloom they have full sun all day what could be the problem is it the soil isn’t as good as when I bought them and planted them? Makes no sense please help

  53. I have numerous Althea bushes in various areas in my yard. All planted with great soil/dirt, watered well, sunny areas, fed as needed. They don’t bloom? What’s the problem? I have no problem with my large hibi plant, wonderful large flowers! Please! I need help. These are not you or just planted. Please, any suggestions??? Desperate in Ohio!!

  54. I brought my hibiscus in because it was cold at night now it is losing its leaves. I transplanted it before I brought it in. It has little black spots on its truck, I found some spider webs on it. I have never had a hibiscus before but I love them. But it also does not bloom, could you give me some advice on this I have baby it along all summer but apparently I am doing something wrong. Lula fuller

  55. am new with Hibiscus
    How much sunlight, how much shade, how much low tempratue
    can it take the winter frost..You have a lot of questions listed here
    but no answeers

  56. I have save seed pods from the northern Hibiscus. How do you plant them? I also wanted to know if you leave then does that make the plant get larger? Also like one person said I have three that only had flowers the first year. One died before the second season the other two tall but no flowers? Can you tell me what might have happened?
    Thank You
    I had a groundhog that ate my plants in the back yard. (Hibiscus)

  57. how can i take from another Hibiscus plant and grow another ?
    if it is from seed how do i get the seeds?
    when does it go to seed?

  58. 1st off, can I plant a luna hibiscus in Mid (Daytona), Florida? 2nd, can a plant branch be cut/spliced for replant like I have done with a regular Hibiscus? Thanks for an Expedited response.

  59. I want to know how to plant, and divide the bulbs , they are 3 years old iwant to move them , I have them to close to a wall, and they fall over

  60. I have giant hibiscus plants and this os my first year for them and the leaves look like an insect of some sort is eating on them. What can is use to get rid of the insects? Also will these plants bloom this year? Thanks!

  61. I live in Central, S.C. and I have 2 hibiscus plants that were given to me in pots. They both have bloomed 1 bloom at a time and now after 3 yrs, they have multiple buds on them ready to bloom. Can I plant these plants outside to stay and if I cover them well in the winter, will they survive. Thank you in advance for information

  62. My home has east-west exposure with the sun on the front of the house in the morning. I planted a hibiscus in the back yard and it only gets about five hours of full sun. Is this enough?

  63. My hibiscus has come back for 10 years. Now leaves are falling off I treated for little green caterpillars. Their gone but my hibiscus looks sick. This has happened to two of my plants. Doesn’t look like any flowers this year. Can I fix the problem?

    • Hi, She,

      Gardening questions can be tricky since the rules can change based on the region. We would suggest contacting your local Master Gardeners association.
      Master gardeners train on a range of topics so they can provide advice, at no charge, for people in their area.

      Thanks for your question, and good luck!

  64. I bought a red leafed hibiscus plant that grew from 16″ to 10′ tall this summer. I live in zone 5B. The leaves are now brown (used to look like a red maple tree leaf) after the frost hit it. Should I cut it down and protect it from the winter snow? Will it come back in the spring? I live in the Pocono area of PA.

    • Hi, Nathan!
      Conditions vary with geography, so we recommend seeking local advice.
      The nursery where you purchased the hibiscus can provide information to ensure optimal care and growth.
      Good luck!

  65. I used a homemade solution to get rid of beetles and aphids on my hardy hibiscus. The solution was vinegar, baking soda, drops of Dawn and water in a spray bottle. Some of the leaves have wilted and turned black especially the ones on top of the plants. Should I prune the tops that are black since they haven’t bloomed yet and also prune the other leaves that are black and wilted as well.
    I will NEVER do that ever again.

  66. I have 2 hibiscus plants 3yrs old one is blooming like crazy and the other has nothing? They are about 20 ft apart and i have had plants there before that did well.

  67. I have a huge hibiscus plant that has bamboo stems. I have not seen any of these anywhere- then cut it right to the ground in winter. I have about 30 stems coming up in the spring. I guess my Q is how to and if I can transplant some of those stems.

    • Hi, Margie,
      Gardening questions can be tricky since the rules can change based on the region. You didn’t include the location, so we suggest contacting your local Master Gardeners association.
      Master gardeners train on a range of topics so they can provide advice, at no charge, for people in their area.
      Thanks for your question, and good luck!

  68. I have a lovely pink and white swirled hibiscus moscheato. I’d like to divide it to share with a friend.
    Is this ok? If yes, when is the best time?

    • Hi, Andrea,
      The rules of gardening vary by region. You didn’t include the location, so we suggest contacting your local Master Gardeners association.
      Master gardeners train on a range of topics so they can provide advice, at no charge, for people in their area.
      Good luck!


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