Hibiscus Plant Information
It is easy to add a tropical flair to your garden by growing hibiscus. You will enjoy many years of beautiful flowers if you can properly care for your hibiscus plants. Here are some tips for caring for hibiscus plants.
Hibiscus is very free-flowering, producing blooms the whole year round; it is more floriferous during our hot, dry seasons.
The individual blooms usually last but for one day, however, another bloom takes its place as soon as it dies, and because of this, the plants appear to be always in bloom. There is a greater build-up of flowering buds when the days get shorter during the year.
Many may not be aware of this unusual trait of the hibiscus flower – it does not wilt after it is picked; it remains relatively crisp, even laid out dry on a table or plate before you place it in water.
For this reason, flower buds are usually picked early in the morning. Placing them in the refrigerator would retard opening for use late evenings/night for any function.
When these buds are removed from the chilled environment, they will start to open and continue their normal cycle. In this way, you can time the opening to suit your occasion.
Full, healthy buds may even be held back for a day or two in a polybag in a refrigerator, which is very handy when entertaining guests later in the evening or at night.
All you need to do is prepare them at least two hours before the occasion, and the flowers will do the rest!
Hibiscus has always been the favorite garden plant in all tropical and subtropical climates of the world.
Hibiscus range in growth characteristics from very low prostrate to sprawling to erect shrubs; some may be classified as tree-shrubs, others as small to medium-sized trees.
The plants may have a variety of canopy shapes that may lend themselves to various garden designs:
a) Compact with dense foliage, very suited for making hedges and background screening plants.
b) Open and very sparsely leaved
c) Upright habit with long stems suitable for training into standards.
d) Short, stout, and broad canopy for training into shapes.
Hence these growth characteristics are useful when hibiscus are chosen for planting in a certain position or locality in the landscape feature.
The Hibiscus – Hibiscus rosa-Sinensis – native to tropical Asia, is also known as the “Rose of China.” It was found growing around ancient China in temples and palaces.
In 1678 it was introduced to the outside world and known by the name “Scherupariti” and later “Shoe flower” because the flower, when crushed, yielded a “dark purplish dye” used for blackening shoes – hence the name “Shoe-black Flower.”
It was as well used in ancient China by women to dye their hair and eyebrows black. The flowers were eaten by the Chinese and Polynesians.
The Hibiscus rosa-Sinensis was also known as the Common Red, and in later years it was crossed with Hibiscus schizopetalus or coral hibiscus.
Unlike the common hibiscus, which has five full petals, the H. schizopetalus flower petals have deeply cut margins, presenting a very frilly or `lacey’ appearance.
Most of the modern hibiscus hybrids are derived from the various crosses from these two and come in practically every color you can think of: in double or semi-double, some with an extra whorl of petalloids, giving them the double-decker look as in the H. rosa- Sinensis `El capitolio’.
Today there are more than 10,000 hybrids, and more are being created every year. The modern hybrids have large flowers, and they still are as free-flowering as their original parents.
Hibiscus are easy to grow, but there are a few basic requirements for successful cultivation.
Hibiscus has four basic needs for strong, healthy growth and a prolific display of blooms:
free drainage of the soil, ample moisture in the soil, regular doses of fertilizers, and plenty of sunshine.
The soil must be well dug to a depth of at least 60-75 cm. to make sure the soil is broken up into loose crumbs; if the soil is clayey, add in granulated peat or compost and coarse river sand.
The soil: peat: sand ratio should be approximately 6:3:2, and the ingredients well mixed.
This ratio may be adjusted according to how clayey the soil is. The coarse river sand will ensure good drainage while the granulated peat is there for good moisture retention.
Hibiscuses are fertilizer gluttons, and the richer the soil you plant them in, the more abundantly they will flower. The general rule is to apply a little fertilizer at a time, but often.
Begin dry applying a complete fertilizer mix (15:15:15), four weeks after planting, then repeating every four weeks. Apply 150gm per plant in a “ring fashion” and lightly dug into the soil.
After the second month, use an N:P:K with a formulation ratio higher in potassium than in nitrogen. Switch to Nitrophika Perfekt which has an NPK formulation 15:15:20 + 2+T.E. This one, besides having a higher potassium ratio, contains trace elements as well.
In addition to the above, it is highly recommended that each hibiscus plant gets one extra teaspoon of potassium nitrate every three weeks to boost potassium levels. Always lightly work the fertilizers into the soil by light tillaging, followed by watering.
Mulching the soil will help keep the soil cool and conserve soil moisture. A 3cm thick layer of coarse peat mulch or grass compost is best for the purpose.
Hibiscus grows well in soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 (pH7.0 is neutral, neither acid nor alkaline, while pH6.0 is slightly acidic).
In fact, hibiscus needs neutral to slightly acidic soil for it to grow well.
The pH value of the ground is a fundamental property as it controls root activity and fertilizer availability in the soil.
(The pH – scale is a set of numbers ranging from pH0 to pH14, with O being extremely acidic. The middle point of pH 7.0 indicates neutrality, neither acid nor alkaline, and pH14.0 represents extreme alkalinity.
So it follows that pH7.0 increases as alkalinity increases, and the value decreases as acidity increases.
The soil pH can be measured with a soil pH meter.
If the test shows, the soil is too alkaline (above pH7.5) addition of sulfur, iron sulfate, magnesium, or manganese sulfate will lower it to the required level.
On the other hand, if the soil reaction is too acidic or less than pH5.5, the condition can be remedied by applying agricultural lime or dolomite.
In Malaysia, it is common to use ground magnesium limestone dust, which is available from our limestone quarries.
GML (Ground Magnesium Limestone) also has the added advantage of dispersing the clay particles of our clayey Malaysia soils to render them more “workable” and, together with organic manure, helps the soil to form “crumbs”.
The clayey soil will have difficulty with drainage because there is little aeration, and moisture retention will be badly affected.