The hibiscus is a member of the mallow family, which consists of 250-300 species. These species include large shrubs, trees, perennials or annuals. Hibiscus has dark green leaves and is deciduous, meaning the flowers will fall off within a day. The plants can grow to 15 feet tall in frost-free areas. Flowers may be up to 6 inches in diameter with a wide variety of colors. In the northern climates, the most common species is the Hibiscus rosinensis. These are bred specifically for flower size and color but are not winter hardy.
Flowering plants like the hibiscus have two main systems: roots and shoots. These two systems are connected by vascular tissue that runs through the plant.
The roots keep the plant secured in the ground and gather the water and nutrients needed to feed the plant and keep it alive.
The shoot system contains the flowers, stems and leaves. The floral axis is the support on which the parts are arranged. The pedicel is a smaller stalk or branch where a flower blooms. The articulation is where parts join at a point of attachment, such as a leaf to stem.
The four floral parts, from outside to inside, are the sepals, petals, stamens and carpels. The sepal looks like a leaf and protects the flower bud before it opens. The perinath contains the petal and the outermost group of flower parts. Petals are brightly colored to attract bees and other pollinators.
Each stamen consists of a stalk, filament and anther. Within the anther are usually four chambers where the pollen develops. The term pistil is used for the female parts. The carpal contains the stigma, the style, and the ovary. The stigma is the sticky part that receives the pollen. The style is the “neck” of the carpal that leads to the ovary. The ovary contains the ovule or egg.
The hibiscus is commonly associated with Hawaii but may actually have its origin in Asia. Over many years it has made its way from Hawaii to the mainland. Due to the varying climates in the United States it is mainly a tropical annual. It makes for a breathtaking container plant or as a magnificent addition to your garden.
If planted in a garden, dig up the bulb after the first frost and keep it indoors until the next spring. If potted, the plant must be transitioned from indoors to outdoors both in the fall and spring.