Designing with Hibiscus
Hibiscus have an iconic flower that is, of course, suited to tropically-themed gardens. However, they can also be incorporatred into other designs fulfill more utilitarian functions.
If your interest is a traditional "English" or cottage style garden, remember that in spite of their floral associations, hibiscus are woody broadleaf shrubs. This makes them quite traditional in form compared to many other tropicals. Depending on the natural growth habit of the variety, they can be shaped and hedged, incorporated into a less formal shrubbery or screen or trained as a small tree. Stick with old fashioned types in the softer whites, pinks and peach flowers colours for a more classic look.
If you have a particular colour scheme in mind, of course you can select a hibiscus to suit. Flower range from pure white through the yellows, oranges to the reds and pinks.
Hibiscus also have a strong association with old Queensland gardens, so they wouldn't be out of place adorning a traditional Queenslander style home regardless of the colour.
Most hibiscus have large flowers, which is useful to remember when selecting shrubs for the back of the garden that are usually going to be viewed from some distance, or the visually impaired.
Upright, tall varieties could make useful flowering screens (e.g 'Ruth Wilcox', 'Psyche', 'Swan Lake', 'Archeri'), just requiring occasional pruning to keep them tidy. Others could be formed into semi-formal hedges. Tight clipping will result in loss of flowers, but this wouldn't be such a problem with variegated cultivars which are primarily grown for their foliage effect, anyway.
Smaller-growing types include 'Ritzy" or 'Tiny Tina' could make smaller hedges or they could be incorporated into mixed beds with other shrubs and perennial flowers.
Compact varieties bred primarily for container culture in Europe and similar climates, where they perform as summer patio plants, are a recent international trend which is making its way to Australia. No doubt they will be useful in that situation here, too. Given we can grow them outdoors all year, we should be able to grow them in the ground also, but their suitability for that remains to be seen. If you want to try them, look out for the TradeWinds collection and the Flamenco series. The latter also claims to have longer-lasting flowers.
Some hibiscus varieties for general landscaping in Qld
The following are a selection of cultivars that are easily grown and widely available in Queensland. Generally, the flowers aren't as spectacular as some of the more highly developed exhibition types, but the bushes are tough and surprisingly drought tolerant once established. See links for additional information and pictures.
Pink, white and green variegated foliage. Red flowers.
Known as 'Ruth Wilcox' in Australia, this pink-flowered cultivar is more correctly called 'Albo-Lacinatus'
'Mrs George Davis'
White and green variegated foliage and red flowers. (Sometimes confused with H. rosa-sinensis 'Cooperi')
Hibiscus 'Snow Queen' doing quite well in spite of heavy root competition from golden cane palms. Detail at right. (Brisbane, November 2013)
Known as 'White Dainty' in the USA.
This is actually a different species Hibiscus arnottianus
These may be available from time to time
'Carnation' (also sold as 'Hiawatha')
New varieties may be be released onto the market from time to time. Some of these may have been developed in other parts of the world. Their performance in Queensland gardens may yet to be proven, but if you like to experiement, you might like to give them a go.
Hibiscus schizopetalus Acacia Ridge, April 2013
Hibiscus schizopetalus Coopers Plains, March 2013
Hibiscus historic links
Story about the native Hibiscus heterophyllus
, at the Save or Riverfront Bushland (SORB) website (PDF)
Useful plants in the Malvaceae family Australian New Crops Newsletter Issue No 8, July 1997. (PDF))
) At the "Grow Me Instead" website, Australia
Other Australian native Hibiscus, Alyogyne, Lagunaria species
A website devoted to Australian native hibiscus and hibiscus like species
in "The Native Gardener", Newsletter of the Society for Growing Australian Plants Townsville Branch Inc. (PDF)
) Pacific flora database of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, USA
Turk's Cap, Wax Mallow Malvaviscus arboreus
. Online Manual of Subtropical Landscaping Plants, Palm Beach Community College, Florida
This group is better suited to temperate climates than the classic tropical hibiscus and is not common in Queensland. If you live in a cool area and want to find out more, you'll find plenty of information online via a web search.
This reproduction of a 1941 article includes information on the history of this plant in cultivation. Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University
Other Hibiscus around the world
NB: The non-native species may be difficult to find in Australia, but somelinks have been included for the sake of interest.
Hibiscus (unknown variety) Sunnybank Hills, August 2013
Hibiscus (unknown variety) Sunnybank Hills, August 2013
|Following the mild winter of 2013, these Hibiscus are already putting on plenty of new growth and flowers in mid-August.|
|Hibiscus Erinose Mite (Brisbane, May 2013)|
Flowers are produced with new growth. Brisbane, September 2013
A variegated Hibiscus, probably 'Snow Queen'. The plain green shoots will eventually dominate the plant if not pruned out.
'Ruth Wilcox' is a tall, single pink is common in Brisbane and has stood up well to our recent droughts, even in inhospitable locations like suburban footpaths (Sunnybank, Brisbane, December 2013)
More Online Information resources
Because of the popularity if Hibiscus throughout the world, there is plenty of good information online. Some key websites of interest to Queenslanders are:
Enthusiasts may be interested in Hibiscus Around the World, January 1964 (Letters to J.W. Staniford 1963-67 from Ross H. Gast reproduced at www.hibiscusworld.com), which contains some information about cultivars available in Qld in the 1960s.
Following are a sewlection of links to more international information. Note that some of the varieties referred to in these publications might not be available in Australia, and some of the other particular information (e.g. chemicals) may not be applicable here.