Rose of Sharon or Rose of China? Hibiscus is called both, even though it is not a rose nor originates from China. These are in fact common names for two different species, Hibiscus syriacus and Hibiscus rosa-sinensis both of which are popular summer flowering houseplants in the UK and showy, outdoor shrubs in hotter climates.
Although Hibiscus comes from tropical and subtropical zones, it was in China that the earliest serious cultivation of Hibiscus took place, As far back as the 1700s, visiting Europeans were bringing back these exotic plants to grow in glasshouses at home. They were known as ‘stove plants’ as they could be grown under glass in the summer, but needed to be kept warm, i.e., next to a stove, in the winter.
Hibiscus is surprisingly easy to look after as an indoor plant once its need for warmth and light are met. It is capable of flowering for months, right through from early spring to late autumn, even though individual flowers only last two to three days. Hibiscus flowers are single, and surprisingly, edible, in colours ranging from pure white to dark pink, all with contrasting centres and prominent stamens that are loved by bees and other pollinators. Its a good plant for an urban setting as Hibiscus are very tolerant of air pollution.
Temperature: Cool to hot, 13-27°C.
Flowering Period: Spring and summer.
Watering: Water regularly whilst in flower, letting the compost dry out slightly in between.
Humidity: Mist when in bud, and once in flower, mist leaves only. Standing it in a pebble or gravel tray will help to keep its humidity constant.
Light: Needs lots of sun with a south or west facing aspect.
Feeding: Weekly, while in flower.
Growing tips: Dislikes sudden changes in environment.
Where to place it in the home: A windowsill in a warm, sunny conservatory is ideal.
Trouble shooting: If leaves or buds start to drop, increase the humidity and check that the plant is not standing in a draught.
Sold as cut material in wholesalers, the deep red calyx of this unusual plant is used to make tea in many countries. If using it in designs, handle carefully as the heads can be easily knocked off. Its most suitable for autumn and winter arrangements where its colour is seen to its best advantage.
Conditioning: re-cut stems, stand in shallow water ensuring fruits are not touching the water. No need to add flower food but do change the water every 2-3 days.
Images: Envato Elements
Su Whale is a florist and freelance writer with over twenty-five years' experience in the floristry industry. She is the author and publisher of three best-selling books: Cut Flowers, 4th edition (2020) Cut Foliage, 2nd Edition, (2021) and Houseplants (2019), all bookshelf essentials for the professional florist.