In tropical climates any hibiscus can go right in the ground and turn into huge trees and shrubs that bloom more or less year-round. Here in New England, we enjoy a more modest tropical display, in both size and season. But even here in Massachusetts, the world of hibiscus is fascinating and worth a deeper look.
In the Bay State it’s important to know what kind of Hibiscus you’re getting and how you can expect it to behave. For our purposes, there are three types to consider: Tropical Hibiscus, Rose of Sharon, and Perennial Hibiscus.
Tropical Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) can be found in our greenhouse, or among the annuals during the warm months. This type of Hibiscus is hardy in USDA growing zones 10 and 11 (think Central Florida and further south from there). Here in zone 6, we can enjoy tropical Hibiscus outdoors through late spring and summer but they will not survive our winters and should be considered an annual plant. If you have a lot of sun in your home you could also consider it a houseplant and you can enjoy its gorgeous blossoms year-round!
There are thousands of cultivars of tropical hibiscus available today. A few notables include Red Hot Tropical Hibiscus, Chinese Lantern, Mahoe, and Fiji Island in addition to the traditional red varieties. In the Middle East and Africa, a popular drink called karkade is made from the dried flowers of red hibiscus. It can be drunk cold or hot and is said to have numerous health benefits and it is used to soothe ailments such as colds, high blood pressure, intestinal, circulatory, and skin disorders and more.
Rose of Sharon Hibiscus
Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is a deciduous shrub hardy in USDA growing zones 5 through 9, good news, zone 6, we’re in! It will lose its leaves in the winter and put out new growth in spring. Very little pruning is required as these shrubs maintain an upright growth pattern.
These hardy shrubs bloom late into the season when little else is in bloom. They are low-maintenance and easy to grow and come in many forms including dwarf, columnar, upright, and tree form, and flowers can be single, double, or semi-double. You’ll find them in exciting and unexpected colors including reds, pinks, purples that are almost blue and even multicolor blooms. They are heat, drought, and salt tolerant (perfect for the Cape), deer resistant and a favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds!
Perennial Hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos) is a fun one. Hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9 this hibiscus will lose all its leaves in the winter and resemble dead sticks come spring. Leave those sticks there through the winter months then, in the spring cut them all the way back, almost to the ground. Late May, early June you’ll start to see new growth come up from the ground and boy does it come up fast! Enjoy gorgeous blooms the size of your face all summer long!