Hibiscus plants are known for their show-stopping big beautiful flowers that come in a wide variety of colors. They make a great statement piece in any kind of garden and are sure to make you think of warm climates and sunshine.
Are hibiscus annuals or perennials? Well, there are actually two main types of hibiscus plants; Tropical Hibiscus known technically as hibiscus rosasinesis, and Perennial Hibiscus which has multiple species types. So the answer is technically they are both!
The tropical hibiscus is best as a container plant because it is not wintering hardy and will need to be brought inside during the winter unless you live in an extremely warm climate. Perennial hibiscus grows like a shrub, dies back to the ground each winter, but then grows back again in the spring.
What Is The Difference Between Annual and Perennial?
An annual plant species lives for one growing season and then typically dies off and will not grow back once it does so. A perennial plant species will regrow every spring.
The difference between these two types of plants is at the genetic level. The two flower-inducing genes identified by scientists that are turned on in annual plants help them to rapidly grow following germination, and in turn rapidly go to flower, and again seed formation. The plant is acting to make as many seeds as possible, thus working to keep its own species alive and kicking in the next growing season since the specific plant itself will not survive.
Perennial plants have a genetic code that allows them to take their time to build a solid foundation and structure before jumping to the flowering stage. Since they are alive over winter, their bulbs or tubers have cells in them that haven’t been coded into a certain special function yet, and when the growing season starts, these are often turned into leaves and stalks.
When the plant’s genetics are set up to have it flower later, more of the energy can be put into the stability of the plant.
The Two Main Types Of Hibiscus
Tropical Hibiscus (Hibiscus Rosasinesis)
Tropical hibiscus plants are the plants you probably think of when you picture a nice tropical getaway full of sunshine. Their big blooms offer shades of white, red, yellow, orange, pink, lavender, or sometimes even a bi-colored mix. In contrast, their leaves are often glossy dark green.
The tropical hibiscus is only hardy in zones 10 – 12, so unless you live in one of these warmest climates, the plant will not survive winter unless it is taken indoors. This is why this type of hibiscus plant is great planted in a container.
To plant a tropical hibiscus in a container, you need one that is no more than twice as wide as the root ball on the plant. Fill in the container to about 1/3 of the way with potting soil. A moisture control mix will help this plant out a lot since it likes moist but not wet soil. Set the hibiscus in the container and then fill in around the root ball with more potting soil. The ideal seating of the root ball is about an inch below the tip of the container. And of course, you’ll need to water the plant well when you’re done.
To continue caring for your tropical hibiscus, you should water whenever the top inch of soil is dry. This is typically around three to four times per week in the summer months. When the weather is cooler, you won’t have to water quite as often.
Regardless of whether you plant this one in the ground in a warm climate or in a container, you’ll want to make sure it gets full sun. It also prefers well-drained but moist soil. If planted in a container, you’ll need to keep this plant indoors if nighttime temps dip below 50 degrees.
The perennial type of hibiscus plants grows like shrubs. They too have large, colorful blooms that are typically pink, red, burgundy, lavender, or white. Some shrubs can grow to be around seven to eight feet tall! There are also dwarf varieties available if you don’t want something that towers in your garden.
The size of blooms and leaves also depends on the variety of hibiscus, and there are multiple in the perennial type of this plant. It is sure to give you mid-season to late-season color in your garden. The perennial hibiscus will die back to ground level every winter, and grow again in the spring.
Perennial hibiscus is hardy in zones four to nine. It too prefers full sun, but it likes a soil that doesn’t even completely dry out. Low spots in your garden are a great location for this plant.
When planting perennial hibiscus, it’s important to plant in the early spring if at all possible. This will allow the plant to have a complete growing season to establish itself, including root systems, before winter hits. If you plant perennial hibiscus in the fall, it will probably not be as reliable as one that was planted in the spring.
You need to select the spot in your garden that will allow for soil that never dries out and complete sun exposure. Dig a hole as deep as the root ball system and twice as wide as the root ball system. Place the plant into the hole and fill in around the root ball.
If you use a 50/50 mixture of the dirt you dug up and a good grow mix, you’ll likely end up with large plants and bigger flowers as opposed to using just the dirt to fill in your hole. After planting is complete, you’ll of course want to water generously.
To continue caring for your perennial hibiscus, you should water it well every couple of days for the first three weeks after you plant it. Then, you’ll want to water twice per week during the plant’s first growing season. Once you reach the second growing season and going forward, you can cut back to watering once a week, and less if you have a few days of rain in a row.
To sum up, there are two main types of hibiscus plants; tropical and perennial. The tropical hibiscus is not hardy in zones other than ten through twelve and will die if exposed to weather under 50 degrees. Perennial hibiscus comes in multiple varieties and is hardy in zones four through nine. It grows as a shrub and will die to ground level in the winter months but grow back again each spring.