HIBISCUS - Queen of the Flowers

Return to the Book Title Page - Go to the Nomenclature Book
Intro' & Index | Chapter 1 | Ch 2 | Ch 3 | Ch 4 | Ch 5 | Ch 6 | Ch 7 | Ch 8 | Ch 9 | Ch 10 | Ch 11 | Ch 12 | Appendix

Queen of the Flowers

Hibiscus in your Garden

Plant Selection
You have seen beautiful hibiscus in your community and perhaps have attended some of the annual Hibiscus Shows. The shows present hundreds of named varieties, giving you an opportunity to become acquainted with many different kinds and colours. However, a few of the most beautiful hibiscus are poor growers or bloomers and the beginner needs advice at this point. Consult with experienced growers in the Australian Hibiscus Society, or with knowledgeable nurserymen who grow many varieties and are thoroughly familiar with their characteristics. Which varieties you select as a start depends on your personal preference and your garden plans. Whether you plan to use hibiscus for a hibiscus garden, a hedge, border shrubs, screen, or specimen plantings, the people advising you will need to know your intentions. The initial selection that you make will be more satisfactory if it is based on the suggestions made by successful growers. Acquire a few bushy, well-shaped plants at a time and leave garden space for adding other varieties as you become better acquainted with hibiscus.

Growth characteristics of hibiscus vary greatly. They range from low, drooping or sprawly shrubs to trees 6 m. (20 ft) high.

In shape they may be

(a) compact, densely leafed and good for hedges and background.
(b) open and sparsely leafed.
(c) upright and thin.
(d) short and broad.

These characteristics should be considered when hibiscus are chosen for planting in a certain spot.

In order to obtain the best results from your hibiscus, the selection of the planting position is most important.

Make sure you choose an open sunny situation preferably sheltered from cold prevailing winds. Full sun is essential, although hibiscus will grow and survive in shaded positions, they will not bloom as prolifically as if planted in full sun. Hibiscus prefer a sandy soil which has been enriched by the addition of humus with good drainage being essential. If the drainage appears doubtful at all, it is a good idea to raise the level of the beds intended for planting about 25-35 cm (10-14 in). This is a good practice where a heavy clay soil is in existence or where there is seepage in the area after heavy rains, hibiscus cannot tolerate "wet feet". Hibiscus do well on northern walls, particularly the modern varieties.

Choose a hibiscus to suit the position. If a tall plant is required, or a low one, choose one in the right height range; too often we see a huge plant right next to a front gate, or a low one in a hedge used for privacy. Nowadays it is possible to obtain a hibiscus tailor-made to your requirements.

Remember before planting, that hibiscus prefer to be planted on their own, and to obtain optimum results prepare a special bed for them alone. Do not plant them amongst other shrubs where they have to compete for food, light, water and sun. Half a day's sun is the minimum requirement.

Near the seashore, the danger of salt injury cannot be ignored. Hibiscus do not stand dune conditions, and suffer severe injury or fail to survive where winds developed by storms saturate large areas with salt spray. The plants should be protected from cold winds if at all possible. Use buildings, fences, screens, trees for protection where this is a factor.

Future maintenance of the planted area should be an important consideration in the planning stages. A garden that requires continual and expensive maintenance can be a heavy burden on the homeowner, and the joy he expects to receive can be lost. Work out landscape plans in advance, deciding on the type of material needed, location, spacing, balance, scale, form, and colour which will harmonize into an attractive unit.

Preparing Your Garden
When you start with a bare yard and with little or no knowledge of planning a garden or hibiscus culture and equipped only with the desire to grow these magnificent beauties, the best way of doing this is to start with a prepared plan of what you wish to have ultimately. If you are not sure, seek out a friend or member who has a basic knowledge of planning and the ability to draw a sketch of a garden area. To offer a few clues to start with it is desirable for "Hibiscus Puritans" to plant in groups or massed plantings in constructed beds or sweeping gardens, whichever is the most desirable. With established gardens, however, it may be only possible to have one constructed bed set aside for the growing of hibiscus, or you may be limited to container grown plants only, where perhaps you live in a flat or unit. etc.

Remember in your planning that some varieties of hibiscus only grow to about 90 cm (3 ft) tall, while others grow to about 6 m (20 ft). Most modern varieties can be kept to about 1.2 m-1.8 m (4-6 ft).

Garden beds should always be built up to ensure your hibiscus have adequate drainage to their root systems. Attractive stone or cement edging can be used in construction, thus allowing you to build up your soil behind them. Preparation of these garden beds should be as follows: if it is a new area, chip any existing grass off the surface, without breaking into the subsoil excessively. Your beds can then be built up on this area, using a good garden loam from a reliable supplier. It is essential that the soil be from neutral to acid in nature with good compost or organic matter being incorporated in it during preparation. Good garden loam should be light in texture but dark in colour. It should not be a heavy brown colour. Inspect it first.

Preparation of the Soil
Proper preparation of the soil prior to planting will help ensure vigorous healthy plants and reduce the problem of after care of soil apart from the regular addition of organic material.

The location where the plants are to be set out should be prepared some time in advance of planting. Most soils are low in organic matter and hibiscus plants benefit by the addition of this material.

Mark off the area where the plants are to be set and spread a good thick cover of compost, leaf mould or well decomposed manure, well rotted down chicken litter, etc., and fork well into the soil.

Alight application of Dolomite (70 g per square metre) and a balanced fertilizer (100 g per square metre) should be used. After fertilizing the soil should be rested for 2 or 3 weeks, during which time hibiscus plant selection and purchase can be made.

Ensure that extreme care is taken in the watering of your plants before planting. If you are keeping the plants in containers for 2 or 3 weeks, keep in the sun and inspect them closely daily. Never forget they are in containers and that they do dry out quickly. A good way to ensure that the plants have sufficient moisture is to submerge them in a tub or bucket of water, as they are in their containers and let them soak for 10 minutes. This practice should be carried out just prior to planting also, ensuring that you leave the plant drain for 15 minutes before planting. Otherwise the plant, soil and all could collapse in a soggy heap after removal from the container.

Always remember when planting, that you do not plant too deeply. Dig your hole slightly larger and deeper than your container and the plant should be planted at approximately the same level as it is in the existing pot or just slightly deeper. The soil should be made firm around the plant with light pressure applied by the feet. A suitable mulch should be applied after the area is planted and then thoroughly saturated, preferably with a sprinkler.

Competition with other plants for space is a problem for the gardener. The roots of large trees such as pines and palms offer great competition to hibiscus plants set too close to them and often, regardless of watering and feeding, these plants will not prosper. A plant properly located and spaced is more self-sufficient because of the spreading root system it can develop, enabling it to better withstand dry periods, pick up food, and reward the gardener with more beauty of plant and flowers.

In spacing, enough room should be given the plant to permit it to mature without undue cramping or crowding. In a hedge using standard hedge varieties, space your hibiscus at least 1.05 m (31/2 ft) apart; a spacing of 1.2 m (4 ft) is better. In a bed or group planting using the better hybrids, allow 1.2 m (4 ft) between all plants. Against the house, try to keep at least 60 cm (24 in) from the foundation, with spacing of 1.35 m - 1.5 m (41/2-5 ft) to allow air and light to penetrate.

Insert a hardwood stake as near the plant as possible without interfering with the root system. Drive it down 90 cm (12 in) or more into the ground for support. Tie the plant to the stake, using a portion of nylon stocking. Plants need protection from wind rocking them for several months, until they grow an extensive root system. Do not make your tie around the plant too tight as this will inhibit quick root development.

Relocating and Transplanting
You can relocate plants that are not doing well or that are being crowded out by larger plants. New holes should be large and deep enough to allow root growth. Except to shape properly and to remove any damaged or poorly located branches, pruning is not necessary with most container-grown plants. However, most plants dug from the ground require some pruning of the tops to compensate for loss of roots, particularly if the plant is moved during the summer months. Water deeply and let the plant dry between waterings. Water only once a week until the plant has developed new leaves.


Water and Mulch.
Water well. This means thoroughly soak the ground. Don't water again until the ground has dried. In hot weather regular watering could be every second or third day, and in cool weather perhaps only once a week. This depends upon your soil; water disappears faster in very sandy soils than in heavy soils.. A good soaking should be equivalent to 25 mm (1 in) of rain. Mulch preserves moisture from evaporation. It controls weed growth and lowers maintenance. Keep the mulch away from the trunk of the plant to prevent fungus development or root rot.

Watch out for garden pests - insects and diseases. The good gardener should be continually on the alert for signs that they are at work. Familiarize yourself with symptoms of their presence.

Intro' & Index | Chapter 1 | Ch 2 | Ch 3 | Ch 4 | Ch 5 | Ch 6 | Ch 7 | Ch 8 | Ch 9 | Ch 10 | Ch 11 | Ch 12 | Appendix
Return to the
Book Title Page - Go to the Nomenclature Book