Shrub with deciduous leaves, native to Asia, very common in cultivation as an ornamental plant, in gardens and as urban furniture. It has an erect, well branched habit and reaches a height of 2-3 metres; the bark is grey, smooth, tends to become wrinkled and deeply marked with the passing of the years. The foliage is oval in shape, has three lobes of various shapes, more or less evident depending on the specimen, medium green in color, the leaves are serrated.
From late spring to cold autumn it produces, at the apex of the stems, large solitary flowers, shaped like a bell, of various colours, in tones of pink, white and purple, with contrasting throats; there are numerous cultivars of hibiscus, with flowers of the most varied colours, and also with double or extra-double flowers.
These plants have a rather vigorous development, therefore it is advisable to prune them after the flowering, before the arrival of the winter, and to intervene also at the end of winter, removing the damaged or excessively and disorderly branches; the pruning at the end of winter has also the advantage to favour the development of new branches, which will carry the flowers. The flowers are followed by the fruits, big semi-woody capsules, of oval shape, which contain the seeds.
It is a very appreciated plant for ornamental purposes, both outside and inside. We are talking about the hibiscus, herbaceous species which has very showy and highly decorative flowers. In the next paragraphs, an interesting cultivation card dedicated to the characteristics and the care of the hibiscus. The hibiscus, botanical name hibiscus is a herbaceous plant with a shrub-like habit. This species belongs to the Malvaceae family and is native to Asia.
It is widespread practically all over the world, even in Tahiti, as shown by the paintings of the famous painter Gauguin. The plant has a deciduous leaf, i.e. it loses its leaf system during the autumn. In cold areas it is grown indoors, while in regions with a mild climate it is grown outdoors, both in the garden and on terraces and balconies. Some varieties of hibiscus, such as hibiscus rosainsensis, are perennial, i.e. evergreen.
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The hibiscus is a plant that loves light and heat very much, prefers very bright positions, exposed directly to sunlight and loves very hot summers and long. It can survive even in adverse conditions, even if the excessive shade causes poor blooms, as well as a very cool summer. Some species of hibiscus do not fear the cold and can withstand without problems intense frosts even of long duration, although it may happen that some of the branches dry up because of the cold.
Water the young plants recently planted, so as to encourage the development of the root system; these plants are rustic and easy to grow: they can withstand long periods of drought, and even short periods with the presence of stagnant water on the roots. For a good flowering let’s water when the soil stays dry for too long, supplying some fertilizer for flowering plants, every 15-20 days, mixed with the water of the watering.
Leaves and flowers
The plant has large green and oval leaves with toothed edges. The flowers, very large and showy, have a funnel shape from which protrude the pistils and stamens, ie the male organs. These inflorescences have a colouring going from the red, to the yellow, to the pink and to the orange. The petals of the flower of hibiscus may be single or double, depending on the variety. Flowering takes place during the summer season.
Land and repotting
They are satisfied with any soil, even poor and stony; they prefer fresh soils, moderately rich of humus, with a good drainage. The hibiscus can be cultivated in pot, placing it in a capacious container; it is to be repotted every 2-4 years. The hibiscus likes soils rich of humus, humid, permeable and well drained. The plant can be easily cultivated in big pots. The replacement of the container, that is the repotting, must take place every one or two years in spring.
The pot must be slightly larger than the previous one. It is advisable not to exceed thirty centimetres in diameter. The potting soil must be the same as that used for the first planting.
It usually happens by seed, in spring, the hibiscus tends, with facility, to self-seed; in spring, we make also cuttings, taking them from the branches which have not carried flowers; the cutting becomes necessary if we want to propagate a cultivar with particular flowering, as from seed it is difficult to get plants identical to the mother plant. The hibiscus propagates by sowing and by cutting. The plant is even capable of self-insemination.
Burying the seeds, however, does not guarantee a rapid development of the plant, which is why it is better to use propagation by cutting. This, of semi-woody nature, is to be buried in spring in a mixture of sand and peat.
Pests and diseases
The new shoots are very often attacked by aphids, which also lead to the development of soot; during the summer the foliage can be visibly damaged by mites, which rest on the underside of the leaves.
Temperature and exposure
The plant likes bright exposures but not in direct sunlight. It should also be positioned away from draughts. It is not certain that the plant does not resist also to the frost and the cold, but in this case we see the drying up of the branches. The hibuscus is in fact sensitive to low temperatures, which is why in winter it must be grown at home. With the heat and mild temperatures, however, the plant produces beautiful blooms.
A cool summer or a cold winter does not cause the death of the hibiscus, but only the interruption of flowering. During the summer you should also remember to protect it from the sun’s rays during the hottest hours.
Irrigation and fertilizer
Young plants should be watered abundantly to encourage the development of the roots. The hibiscus can also withstand short periods of drought and as many short periods of water stagnation. Watering must be frequent in summer, taking care to water the plant only when the soil appears dry. On the bottom of the pot it is better to put a layer of gravel to facilitate drainage. In the heat, foliar nebulisations are also useful.
The ideal fertilizer for the hibiscus can be organic and based on leaves and manure to be buried at the foot of the plant, or chemical and specific for flowering plants. To ensure a good flowering, the flowering plant fertilizer should be distributed every fifteen or twenty days along with the irrigation water. The flowering plant fertiliser should be distributed once a month.
In autumn, phosphorus and potassium fertilisers with little nitrogen should be used to strengthen the plant’s stems and roots.
Pruning and diseases
The hibiscus does not require excessive pruning. Only remove wilted flowers and dry or damaged parts. The leaves, on the other hand, should simply be cleaned using a damp cloth. In the spring, it may be useful to do a little pruning to strengthen the branches. Hibiscus is a disease resistant species.
The adversities that can affect it are water stagnation, the fall of the flowers, which do not last more than two days, aphids, which attack the shoots and also cause soot, and mites that infest the top page of the leaves.
Hibiscus cultivation – Hibiscus: Properties and symbols
The ancients attributed medicinal properties to the roots of hibiscus. It was recommended to cook them in wine and to take them to fight respiratory diseases. It seems that the roots, for the ancients, also had the property of curing sciatica and other diseases. Because of the beauty of the flowers and their short duration, the hibiscus is considered the symbol of fleeting beauty.
In the language of flowers, to give those of hibiscus means to appreciate and underline the beauty of the beloved woman.