With their big, beautiful flowers, hibiscus plants make a lovely addition to any home garden. Believe it or not, you can grow hibiscus almost anywhere in the United States. Even if you don’t live in a tropical area you can still grow this tropical plant!
If you’re wondering how to plant hibiscus, this guide has everything you need to know. I’ll go over growing conditions, how to start hibiscus from seed, how much to water, when to fertilize, and more.
Keep reading to learn all about growing hibiscus.
Why Grow Hibiscus
Big, showy hibiscus flowers add a cheerful pop of color and tropical flair anywhere you plant them. They bloom continually throughout the summer giving you gorgeous blooms all season long! If that wasn’t enough reason to grow hibiscus, there are plenty more reasons to love them.
Butterflies and hummingbirds love hibiscus too. The bright, colorful flowers attract beneficial pollinators making them a perfect complement to a vegetable garden.
Use Them to Make Tea
Depending on the variety, you can make hibiscus tea from the flower petals or calyces of a hibiscus plant.
Hibiscus tea has a slightly sour flavor similar to cranberries. It’s full of nutrients and antioxidants that provide many health benefits for your body.
Varieties of Hibiscus
There are over 200 different varieties of hibiscus so there’s something for everyone. They come in all different colors including white, yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, blue, or multi-colored.
Tropical hibiscus varieties are hardy in USDA hardiness zones 9-11. That means they can be grown outside year-round in these areas.
It’s possible to grow tropical hibiscus plants in other areas as well, they just need to be grown as an annual or brought inside for the winter.
Hardy hibiscus is perennial in zones 4-9. In these areas, hardy hibiscus plants go dormant in the winter and then come back every spring.
If you live in zone three, you can still grow hardy hibiscus as an annual or bring it indoors for the winter.
Varieties of Hibiscus to Try
Here are a few of our favorite varieties of hibiscus you can try growing at home:
Ideal Growing Conditions for Hibiscus
The first step in learning how to plant hibiscus is to provide the right growing conditions.
Most hibiscus plants are very particular when it comes to soil. They prefer a pH of 6.5. to 6.8. If you don’t know the pH of your soil, it’s a good idea to check before planting. That way you can make any adjustments needed and give your plants a strong start. At-home soil tests are inexpensive and easy to use.
Hibiscus needs rich, fertile, well-drained soil. Soggy roots can easily drown the plants so make sure hibiscus is planted in a well-draining area.
Feed hibiscus by incorporating plenty of organic matter into the soil when planting. They’re heavy feeders and need lots of nutrients to thrive.
Hibiscus likes full sun but can tolerate partial shade, especially in areas with very hot summers. Plant hibiscus somewhere it will receive at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
Hibiscus are heat-loving tropical plants. They need warm temperatures in order to grow well.
Wait to plant outdoors until temperatures are consistently in the 60s-70s. Night temperatures in the 50s won’t harm hibiscus but may slow down its growth. Temperatures below 45 will kill hibiscus plants.
How to Start Hibiscus Indoors
Starting hibiscus from seed (like these Roselle Hibiscus seeds from Hoss Tools) is one of the most affordable ways to grow this tropical plant. Seeds are inexpensive and relatively easy to start.
Start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost or any time if you’re planning to keep the hibiscus indoors most of the time.
Seed Starting Equipment
Having the right tools makes starting hibiscus seeds simple and easy. If you don’t already have a good supply of seed-starting equipment, here are some things I recommend. I’ve used all of these products myself with great success, which is why I feel good about recommending them to you.
If you’ll be growing hibiscus in a container, you’ll also need a good-sized planter.
How to Plant Hibiscus Seeds Indoors
Start by filling your trays with seed starting mix. Leave a little bit of space at the top. Plant one or two seeds per cell and cover them 1/2 an inch deep with more seed starting mix. Use a spray bottle to water the seeds.
Spray bottles are great for watering freshly planted seeds because they provide a very gentle stream of water that doesn’t displace the seeds. When the seedlings grow a bit, you can use a regular watering can to water them.
Place a humidity dome over the tray and put the whole thing on a heating pad to keep everything nice and warm. Check the trays regularly to see if they need water.
Place the tray under a grow light as soon as the sprouts start to emerge. Keep the plants under light for 12-16 hours a day.
After about four weeks, pot up the seedlings by transferring them into larger pots filled with potting soil.
For more information on taking care of the seedlings as they grow, check out How to Care for Seedlings.
How to Plant Hibiscus Outdoors
Hibiscus can be planted outdoors from seed or from starter plants.
Direct Sowing Hibiscus
Plant hibiscus seeds directly into the garden in late spring after all danger of frost has passed.
Poke a small hole in the soil and plant 2-3 seeds per hole. Cover gently to a depth of 1/2 an inch. After about four weeks, thin the seedlings to the strongest plant.
To plant multiple hibiscus plants, space them 2-3 feet apart.
Water thoroughly and keep the soil moist as the seeds are germinating.
The easiest and fastest way to grow hibiscus is to start with a plant. You’ll find a wide selection of hibiscus to purchase at Nature Hills Nursery, one of our favorite online plant retailers.
How to Plant Hibiscus in the Ground
Prepare the soil in a sunny spot then dig a hole for your new plant. The hole should be twice as wide and about the same depth as the container the plant is currently in. Take the plant out of its container and set it down gently in the hole. Fill in around the plant with soil and water thoroughly.
How to Plant Hibiscus in a Pot
Hibiscus does very well in containers. You’ll need a large container that’s twice as big around as the root ball of your hibiscus plant.
Add high-quality potting soil to the bottom third of the container then place your plant in the pot. The top of the root ball should be about an inch below the top of the container. If it’s not, take it out and add more potting soil. Once your plant is at the right level, fill in all around it with soil. Water thoroughly.
Caring For Hibiscus Plants
Learning how to care for the plants is an important part of growing hibiscus.
Mulch does a lot for your plants. It keeps moisture in, helps prevent weed growth, and adds organic matter to the soil as it breaks down.
Use a natural mulch like straw, well-aged manure, leaf mold, or compost.
Hibiscus likes plenty of water. Keep the soil moist at all times by watering regularly. The first year, water every couple of days. Once hibiscus is well established you can taper off watering to about once a week.
Container plants tend to dry out quicker and will need water more frequently. If you’re not sure if your plant needs water, check the soil. If the top inch is dry, it needs water.
Hibiscus are hungry plants. They benefit from regular applications of fertilizer. Use a balanced fertilizer or a hibiscus-specific fertilizer like Dr. Earth Exotic Blend.
Add fertilizer when planting, then again about a month later. Follow the instructions on your fertilizer and feed regularly throughout the growing season. Stop fertilizing in the winter when plants enter their dormant stage.
Will my Hibiscus Survive the Winter?
Yes, it’s possible to keep hibiscus alive for the winter! Choose a variety that’s hardy in your zone or plant it in a container and bring it inside for the winter.
Wrapping up How to Plant Hibiscus
Learning how to plant hibiscus is such a rewarding process. Seeing those huge, beautiful blooms is worth all the hard work that goes into growing them. With these tips, you’re sure to have a healthy and happy hibiscus plant this year.
To learn how to plant more flowers and vegetables, make sure to visit our Seed Starting page on the website. There you’ll find all kinds of resources on growing, planting, and caring for plants. Whatever you want to grow, we have the resources to help!