Hibiscus Tree

Important Facts to Know About The Hibiscus Tree

Producing large, showy blooms, a healthy hibiscus tree can be a joy to behold.  Both cold-hardy and tropical hibiscus trees exist, both of which develop large, vibrantly colored flowers.  Flowers exist in pinks, purples, and reds on both the cold-hardy and tropical hibiscus varieties.  Tropical hibiscus trees also come in orange, yellow, salmon, and peach.


You may recognize the flower of the hibiscus tree from the pictures of Tahitian women who wear the bloom behind their ear.  However, the hibiscus is not native to these tropical islands.  Rather, it originated in Southeast Asia and was carried to the south Pacific and elsewhere in the world by early traders.

Where to Find It Today

The tropical variety of hibiscus is not tolerant of the cold at all.  In fact, unless you live in the extreme southern portion of the United States, such as southern Florida or southern California, the tropical hibiscus will not survive outdoors.  On the other hand, the cold-hardy version of the hibiscus is able to survive even the winters of New England, where temperatures sometimes drop below minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit.


The tropical and cold-hardy types of the hibiscus tree are strikingly similar, given their difference in locale.  The flowers are similar in shape and color, although the tropical hibiscus blooms are somewhat larger.  Flowers on the tropical hibiscus can reach the size of a dinner plate, and flowers on the cold-hardy hibiscus can be up to 6 inches across. Both the cold-hardy and tropical hibiscus have single blooms, and tropical hibiscus trees can also have double flowers.

The tropical hibiscus has glossy, dark green leaves, and the leaves of the cold-hardy hibiscus are not as shiny.  The cold-hardy hibiscus is often referred to in nurseries as Rose of Sharon.  The cold-hardy hibiscus tree will also drop its leaves in winter, going dormant.


Care of a cold-hardy hibiscus is rather simple.  They can be left outdoors even in relatively harsh climates.  However, unless you live in southern Florida, southern California, or somewhere with a similar climate, you will need to take a tropical hibiscus tree indoors.  It is best to keep these tropical hibiscus trees in a pot so that you do not disturb the roots and take them inside when the temperature dips below 50 degrees Fahrenheit at night.  The ideal indoor temperature is between 55 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and the cooler the temperatures inhibit insects from infesting your hibiscus.  Before bringing them inside, prune the hibiscus tree branches to within 4 to 5 inches of the main stems.   The leaves will probably fall off anyway once the tree is brought inside, and it may not regrow new leaves until early spring.  Water it periodically; soaking it well after it dries out.  Do not let it sit in water, though, as this can cause disease and promote insect infestation.  A balanced water-soluble fertilizer (10-10-10 or 20-20-20) could also be applied when watering.  Humidity should be kept as high as possible, as these are tropical plants that thrive in humid conditions.  The warmer the weather, the more humidity they require.  To increase the humidity, you may use a humidifier or you may sit the pot on top of a shallow dish filled with pebbles and water.  They also do well when sprayed lightly and frequently with warm water.


Insects and Disease

Hibiscus trees are not prone to many diseases, aside to the consequences of over or under-watering.  Insects are more of a problem.  Hibiscus trees tend to have problems with spider mites, aphids, white flies, and mealy bugs.  A mild insecticide may be used to combat these, and as mentioned above, lower temperatures also help to keep these at bay.

The hibiscus tree is a wonderful addition to the landscape, and even “northerners” can enjoy its tropical beauty.  By giving it a little care, you will have your hibiscus for many years.