Growing Hawaiian Hibiscus: Popular Types and Essential Care Tips

Hawaiian hibiscus flowers are some of the most beautiful tropical hibiscus shrubs. In this article, I’ll share some of my favorite types of Hawaiian hibiscus flowers, plus my essential growing and care tips. 

Hawaiian Hibiscus Flowers_ Popular Types, Growing, and Care Tips

Types of Native Hawaiian Hibiscus Flowers

Hibiscus are gorgeous, colorful shrubs that are usually classified either as hardy hibiscus or tropical hibiscus. However, there are several kinds of hibiscus shrubs within these two groups. Hawaiian hibiscus shrubs are tropical hibiscus species from the mallow family (Malvaceae) that are classed as native to Hawaii. There are seven types of Hawaiian hibiscus, all of which are tropical hibiscus. Let’s take a look at these species in more detail:

Hawaiian White Hibiscus (Hibiscus arnottianus)

Hawaiian White Hibiscus (Hibiscus arnottianus)

One of my personal favorites, Hibiscus arnottianus, is a beautiful evergreen shrub with large, star-shaped white flowers. These flowers have a subtle fragrance and bloom throughout the year in the right conditions. This hibiscus grows best in USDA Zones 9 to 11.

The elegant white flowers of Hibiscus arnottianus are complemented by smooth, oval-shaped leaves. The flowers also have long reddish-pink stamens. In my experience, this Hawaiian hibiscus works well as a flowering hedge but also thrives in containers.

Yellow Hibiscus (Hibiscus brackenridgei)

Yellow Hibiscus (Hibiscus brackenridgei)

Hibiscus brackenridgei is a small hibiscus shrub that makes an excellent flowering hedge. This Hawaiian hibiscus produces captivating bright yellow flowers with dark reddish-pink centers. This species grows best in warm, tropical climates in Zones 9 to 11.

Hibiscus brackenridgei grows up to 15 feet tall and approximately 8 to 15 feet wide. In my experience, they produce their best flowers from late winter to late spring. It can also bloom throughout the year in suitable climates. What’s more, the yellow hibiscus is also the state flower of Hawaii.

Clay’s Hibiscus (Hibiscus clayi)

Clay's Hibiscus (Hibiscus clayi)

Also known as the red Kauai rosemallow, Clay’s hibiscus is named after Horace F. Clay, a Hawaiian horticulturalist. Clay’s hibiscus dazzles with its vivid red star-shaped flowers. These flowers bloom throughout the year in Zones 9 to 11.

Clay’s hibiscus grows 10 to 15 feet tall and approximately 4 to 6 feet wide. In my opinion, this Hawaiian hibiscus makes a beautiful ornamental evergreen shrub in tropical climates. Plus, it also grows well in containers but needs full sun.

Akiohala Hibiscus (Hibiscus furcellatus)

Akiohala Hibiscus (Hibiscus furcellatus)

Hibiscus furcellatus is a perennial shrub that is also native to parts of the Caribbean, Central America, South America, and Florida. I love that this hibiscus shrub produces pinkish-purple flowers with reddish-purple centers.

Hibiscus furcellatus blooms all year round in tropical climates in Zones 9 to 11. These Hawaiian hibiscus shrubs thrive in full sun and require well-draining, loamy, or sandy soils. In my experience, Hibiscus furcellatus performs well as a flowering hedge but also grows well in containers.

Kokio Hibiscus (Hibiscus kokio)

Kokio Hibiscus (Hibiscus kokio)

Hibiscus kokio is an attractive shrub with stunning red star-shaped flowers. These flowers bloom throughout the year in warm, tropical climates. The Kokio hibiscus is also relatively drought-tolerant and grows best in Zones 9 to 11.

Hibiscus kokio has lovely evergreen leaves with serrated margins. This Hawaiian hibiscus grows up to 30 feet tall and approximately 8 to 12 feet wide in the wild. I find it works well as both a hedge and a container plant.

Sea Hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus)

Sea Hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus)

Hibiscus tiliaceus is widely distributed around the world in tropical coastal climates. It’s commonly known as the sea hibiscus or coastal hibiscus. Sea hibiscus shrubs produce large, bright yellow flowers with red centers. Interestingly, these flowers only last a day, gradually turning orange and red.

Sea hibiscus shrubs grow best in Zones 10 to 12 and require full sun. Plus, these hibiscus shrubs grow between 10 and 25 feet tall and wide.

Kauai White Hibiscus (Hibiscus waimeae)

Kauai White Hibiscus (Hibiscus waimeae)

Also known as the white Kauai rosemallow, Hibiscus waimeae is a beautiful hibiscus tree that blooms throughout the year. This Hawaiian hibiscus has white star-shaped flowers that gradually fade to pink. Each flower only lasts for one day, although these shrubs bloom throughout the year.

Hibiscus waimeae thrives in Zones 10 to 12 and works well as a flowering hedge. It also works well as an ornamental evergreen tree in warm, tropical climates.

Growing Hawaiian Hibiscus Flowers at Home

With the proper care and the right climate, Hawaiian hibiscus flowers can bloom all year round. In my experience, these beautiful tropical shrubs are usually at their best during spring and summer. Let’s take a look at how to grow these flowers at home:

Suitable Growing Zones

Hawaiian hibiscus shrubs are native to tropical climates around the world. As such, these shrubs grow best in USDA Zones 9 to 12, need warm temperatures, and will struggle in cold climates. These plants may lose their leaves if daytime temperatures fall below 55ºF.

Best Times of Year to Plant

Hawaiian hibiscus plants can be grown from seed or bought as fully-formed plants. Plant shrubs outside in the spring. This gives the shrub plenty of time to establish a healthy root system before winter arrives. If you’re growing them from seed, it’s always best to start them indoors in late winter.

Suitable Locations to Plant

Plant Hawaiian hibiscus shrubs in sunny, sheltered locations that protect from cold winds. I’d recommend planting shrubs in containers if you live in a colder climate outside Zones 9 to 12. Otherwise, Hawaiian hibiscus shrubs will behave like annuals in colder areas.

Considerations for Pots & Container Gardens

If you live in a cold climate, you can still grow Hawaiian hibiscus plants in containers or pots. However, you’ll have to bring your shrubs indoors during the winter. This protects them from cold temperatures and winds. Always choose a large pot that provides plenty of space for the roots.

Soil Requirements

Like other hibiscus plants, I find that Hawaiian hibiscus shrubs can tolerate various types of soils. For the best results, grow shrubs in nutrient-rich, well-draining soils with plenty of organic matter. For best results, I always use slightly acidic soil with pH levels between 6.0 and 6.5.

Light Considerations

Hawaiian hibiscus shrubs perform best when they receive four to six hours of full sun every morning. However, they may need partial shade during hot, dry summers. This protects them from intense direct afternoon sunlight. Southeast or south-facing locations provide the right amount of light.

Essential Hawaiian Hibiscus Care

Hawaiian Hibiscus flowers in bloom

Hawaiian hibiscus flowers are reasonably easy to care for if you take care of their basic needs. That said, special attention should be paid to watering these tropical plants, especially during hot, dry summers. Here’s how to care for these shrubs:

Watering

Hawaiian hibiscus plants usually need soil that stays slightly moist at all times. That said, some species are relatively drought-tolerant. Water the shrubs once a day to keep the soil moist during the summer.

Most Hawaiian hibiscus shrubs need 1 to 2 inches of water per week. Reduce how frequently you water during fall and winter because your hibiscus will naturally go dormant. These plants prefer high humidity levels, which you can achieve using a greenhouse in cooler climates.

Fertilizing

Adding some fresh compost each year will provide fresh nutrients for your Hawaiian hibiscus. However, you can apply additional fertilizer to help your shrub produce its best flowers. Feed your shrubs every two to four weeks during spring and summer. Use liquid fertilizer and dilute it according to the instructions on the packet.

Pruning

Hawaiian hibiscus flowers only last for one day, so deadhead them regularly. This helps your shrub divert its energy to new flowers. In frost-free areas, lightly prune in late winter to keep it in check. If you’re growing in containers in colder climates, prune them in the spring.

Pest Control & Deer Resistance

Pests like aphids, Japanese beetles, and mealybugs usually target Hawaiian hibiscus shrubs. Use insecticidal soap or horticultural oils like neem oil to get rid of pests.

While not officially deer-resistant, these shrubs aren’t usually targeted by grazing deer. However, you can plant deer-resistant companion plants like lavender or rosemary nearby to deter curious herbivores.

End of Season and Overwinter Care

Hawaiian hibiscus plants naturally go dormant during the winter. As such, avoid fertilizing them during the winter and reduce how frequently you water. Only water when the top few inches of soil feel dry.

If you’re growing these plants in containers in colder areas, you’ll need to protect them. Wrap some horticultural fleece around the pots and apply a couple of inches of mulch. This preserves warmth and moisture.

Alternatively, you can move your potted shrubs indoors during the winter. However, indoor conditions can be too dry for these hibiscus shrubs. Greenhouses are ideal for overwintering shrubs as they are usually fairly humid.

Hawaiian Hibiscus – Wrapping Up

Hawaiian hibiscus flowers are beautiful, colorful plants that make excellent ornamental shrubs for tropical gardens. These hibiscus shrubs thrive in warm temperatures and full sun in Zones 9 to 12. Water regularly to keep the soil moist. In colder areas, grow Hawaiian hibiscus shrubs in pots so you can bring them indoors during the winter.

Contributing Editor | edd@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

Edd is a budding content writer and gardener living in the United Kingdom. He has a bachelor's degree in Creative and Professional Writing and has written for several gardening publications online. He is passionate about nature and sustainability with a focus on gardening and wildlife.

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