Famous Hawaiian Flowers

Hibiscus, the Hawaii state flower, and plumeria, whose star-shaped bloom is used to make leis, are likely the most famous flowers in Hawaii. Red and yellow hibiscus are often featured in Hawaii-related advertising, and images of the blooms are found on everything from postcards to Hawaiian shirts. Besides making great leis, plumeria is highly fragrant and is often used in bath products. These flowers are not limited to Hawaii, and may be grown in areas with similar climates, such as South Florida and the Keys.

Ginger Lily

Often confused for ginger, the Ginger Lily or Spiral Flag (Costus) is a relative of true ginger (Zingiber). This striking plant with red pineapple-shaped bracts is often photographed on Maui's Road to Hana and may be found on colorful Hawaiian fabrics. Ginger Lily grows from rhizomes and white flowers top the bracts, which are long-lasting, appear in summer and fall. Ginger Lily is native to the tropics and thrives in light shade, though can grow in sun, as long as the roots are shaded. These plants require ample water during the growing season and almost none when they go dormant during winter.


In 1988, the Yellow Hibiscus (Hibiscus brackenridgei) was selected as the Hawaii state flower, and is considered the flower of royalty. Prior to this, the Chinese Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) was the state flower. Hibiscus are widely featured in Hawaiian tourism advertising, including the Hawaiian Airlines logo. Hibiscus is an evergreen shrub that can grow to 30 feet in the best conditions. It produces showy blooms that are up to 8 inches wide. Chinese Hibiscus blooms may be single or double and are available in a rainbow of colors. These plants are sensitive to frost and should be planted in areas where temperatures do not drop below freezing. Chinese Hibiscus may be planted in full sun to light shade in hottest areas, and require regular water.


These waxy, showy, fragrant flowers are used in leis and are ubiquitous in Hawaii. Plumeria, also known as frangipani, grow best in hot climates, like South Florida or southern California's coastal areas, though Plumeria rubra can also be grown in desert-like climates. Plumeria grow as shrubs or small trees up 18 feet and the leathery leaves are pointed at the end and elongated. The flowers, which are up to 2 1/2 inches wide, may be pink, yellow or white and many have a second color in their centers. The blooms are long-lasting. Plumeria does not tolerate frost and should be planted in full sun. It thrives with regular water, and usually blooms in warm weather.

Keywords: Hawaiian flowers, flowers in leis, tropical flowers, exotic plants, hibiscus, exotic flowers

About this Author

J.D. Chi is a professional journalist who has covered sports for more than 20 years at newspapers all over the United States. She has covered major golf tournaments and the NFL as well as travel and health topics. Chi received her Bachelor of Arts in professional writing from Carnegie Mellon University and is working toward a master's degree in journalism.