The tropical hibiscus belongs to the Malvaceae or mallow family. Other relatives are the rose-of-sharon (shrubby althea), the hardy hibiscus grown in the north, okra, cotton, the Confederate Rose, hollyhock and quite a few others. Further information is available in The Tropical Hibiscus Handbook available thru the American Hibiscus Society. Some types hibiscus have been used to make dyes and others have been used as food.

Originating in Asia and the Pacific islands, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is the national flower of Malaysia. It is closely associated with Hawaii, however the state flower for Hawaii is a native species of hibiscus, H. brackenridgei. Thousands of colors and combinations of colors (no true blue or black), some varieties have blossoms 2" in diameter and others, 10-12". Some with bushes that will only grow a foot in several years while others may grow to 15 feet if left undisturbed in the ground. Singles, doubles, some blooming almost every day, the variation in the tropical hibiscus family is astounding!

Real interest in Hawaii developed around the end of the 19th century. Some plants probably came from China and were crossed with native Hawaiian species. Interest spread to the U.S. mainland and Florida became a center for this interest -- the Reasoner family being early pioneers. The American Hibiscus Society was formed in 1950 with Norman Reasoner as its first president.

Another strong area of organized interest in hibiscus is Australia. It is thought that they were introduced there in the early 1800s, but real interest was sparked later when 30 plants were imported from India for use in the landscaping of Brisbane by its city council. The northern parts of New Zealand also became involved in hibiscus culture.

If in areas with frost, keep your favorite grafted hybrids in pots and bring inside. There are many gardeners who grow all their hibiscus in pots. These people may live in Texas or even Minnesota and Ontario and they find ways to successfully grow and enjoy the tropical hibiscus 12 months a year. (Please see the page at this site about growing in non-tropical climes.) Many of the non-grafted "garden varieties" will come back from the roots if a frost kills the upper plant, but these ARE tropical plants.

For more information contact: Hibiscus Information

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