Hibiscus Habitat Guide: Native Ranges & Perfect Growing Zones

Although people grow hibiscus worldwide, each hibiscus species was once native to a specific region. If you’re interested in growing native plants or just curious about the origin of hibiscus, join us as we cover where hibiscus grows natively and the ideal growing zones. 

Hibiscus Native Range and Ideal Growing Zones (Essential Guide)

Where Is Hibiscus Native To?

Before we answer this question, it’s important to remember that there are hundreds of different hibiscus species. And not all of these species are native to the same area!

If you’re interested in the native range of a specific hibiscus, the best option is to look up information about the species in question.

Where Is Tropical Hibiscus Native To?

A bright red tropical hibiscus flower in bloom

Any hibiscus that is native to a tropical region and requires warm weather and sunny conditions to thrive can be considered a hardy hibiscus. However, many people think of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis when they hear of tropical hibiscus.

Also known as Chinese hibiscus or Hawaiian hibiscus, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is considered native to the Pacific island chain known as Vanuatu. However, this species now grow freely in many other tropical areas, including Mexico, India, and Uganda.

Another popular type of tropical hibiscus, Hibiscus sabdariffa, aka roselle, is native to regions in West Africa. The plant spread to and naturalized in parts of Asia and the Caribbean hundreds of years ago, but they are not native to this area.

Other tropical hibiscus species are native to Hawaii, including Hibiscus brackenridgei, Hibiscus clayi, and Hibiscus kokio.

Where Is Hardy Hibiscus Native To?

A cluster of large pink flowering hibiscus plants

There are many different species of tropical hibiscus, for example, and not all of them are native to the same areas.

We’ll cover the native range of some commonly grown hardy hibiscus species to give you a sense of where these plants grow.

Swamp rosemallow (Hibiscus grandiflorus) is native to regions in the Southeast United States. As its name suggests, it prefers marshy areas or moist soils.

Although Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is often grown in the United States, it is not native to the Americas. Instead, it’s native to regions in East Asia, including Korea and China.

What Growing Zones Can You Plant Hibiscus In?

A single yellow hibiscus flower in bloom

While you can find at least one hibiscus species native to many regions of the world, people also grow these plants outside of their native ranges. If you opt to grow a non-native hibiscus, it’s still important to pay attention to the growing zone a hibiscus plant requires.

In general, all types of hardy hibiscus and all types of tropical hibiscus can grow in similar hardiness zones. However, you’ll want to look at the specific species and variety to find the exact hardiness zone.

You can grow most types of hardy hibiscus in zones 5–9. That means they can survive in areas as cold as Northern Pennsylvania, Eastern Colorado, and Massachusetts and areas as warm as Southern Florida and Arizona.

However, tropical hibiscus plants are only hardy to zones 10–12. Therefore, they can only be grown outdoors year-round in warm areas like Southern California, Arizona, and Florida.

With that said, you can grow tropical hibiscus indoors in colder regions. Or you can plant tropical hibiscus in pots and then move them indoors when temperatures fall below 50°F.

Hibiscus Native Range FAQs:

Are Hibiscus Native to Tropical Areas?

It depends on the species! Some hibiscus species are native to tropical areas like Hawaii and Vanuatu, while others are native to temperate areas like China and the Central United States.

Are Hibiscus Native to the United States?

Some hibiscus species are native to portions of the United States. Hardy hibiscus like swamp rosemallow and crimson-eyed rose mallow is native to the Eastern US, and some tropical hibiscus is native to Hawaii.

What Hardiness Zones Are Suitable for Hibiscus?

Tropical hibiscus can be grown outdoors year-round in USDA hardiness zones 10–12. You can grow hardy hibiscus outdoors in zones 5–9.

Wrapping Up

Since there are so many different species of hibiscus, hibiscus plants are native to many different areas of the world. Some are native to tropical areas, while others emerged in temperate environments.

For more, see our in-depth guides to hibiscus flower meaning and symbolism, beautiful types of orange hibiscus, and 32 amazing uses and benefits of hibiscus.

Contributing Editor | briana@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.

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