LOOK AT ME
WITH ITS EYE-CATCHING, BEAUTIFUL FLOWERS, HIBISCUS IS THE SHOW-OFF SHRUB OF THE PLANT WORLD
Hibiscus flowers are wonderfully flamboyant – they are real show-offs in the garden. There are more than 300 species of hibiscus distributed throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world, including about 40 Australian ones. When we think of hibiscus, we usually think of the extraordinary flowering shrubs which have mostly been developed by crossing some of the native Hawaiian species with the Chinese species hibiscus rosa-sinensis. The magnificent large flowers, up to 30cm in diameter, are single, double or semi-double and range in colour from pure white through lemon, yellow, gold, orange, pink, red, and mauve, including some multi-coloured forms. There are hundreds of cultivars, including lots that have been bred in recent years to be quite compact, about 1m tall, making them perfect for pots and low hedges. Hibiscus shrubs are easy to grow and incredibly showy. They will reach a height of 1-4 metres, and do well in full sun or a little shade. Hibiscus are moderately salt tolerant, but sensitive to frost. They are drought hardy once established, and hate wet feet. They are heavy feeders, and are best fed lightly and often, preferably using a fertiliser that contains plenty of potash as well as trace elements. A rose or citrus plant food is ideal. Potted hibiscus will appreciate a premium potting mix with slow-release fertiliser, and a liquid feed applied to the leaves and roots every few weeks while they are in flower. Prune in late winter by removing about one third to keep the plant nice and bushy. Keep the plants well fed, watered and mulched to reduce the incidence of pest attack. However, even with the best of plant care, you may have to deal with some unwelcome visitors. Aphids, scale and mealy bugs are easily treated with organic Eco-oil. Hibiscus beetle can be treated with Eco-neem. You can also make hibiscus beetle traps by placing white plastic containers of water with a little liquid soap or detergent near the plants.