Can Hibiscus Grow Indoors?

by | Feb 13, 2018 | Guides, Herbs F-J, Tips & Tricks | 8 comments

Can hibiscus grow indoors of any variety in your home? I say a resounding yes. With the right environment provided, you can grow hibiscus in your home. Some varieties will be easier than others but with proper care and consideration, you can have a beautiful hibiscus in your indoor garden space to enjoy.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to live in the tropical weather climates or warmer southern climates that are required to keep the magnificent hibiscus plant growing. Although there are many tree and bush varieties that have been adapted to cooler climates that showy tropical varieties can elude many of us.

There are very few flowers that offer the diverse showmanship of the hibiscus flowers. In addition, hibiscus offers many medicinal properties that can be harvested to your benefit. Including regulating blood pressure, treating high cholesterol, improving immunity and helping cure liver disease.

This article can help you learn how to successfully grow hibiscus in your inside garden. The different types of hibiscus that are available, and the specific needs that these varieties will need.

 

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Types of Hibiscus Plants

There are hundreds of varieties of hibiscus plants available ranging in type, color, size and ideal regions. The vast variety stems from a lot of hybridized variations that have been created throughout the years to enhance and improve the flowering and growing capabilities of this amazing flower.

The hibiscus varieties can be broken down into two main types with other smaller subcategories that individual types can fall into. Those primary types are Hardy (Hibiscus spp.) and Tropical (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis).

Tropical Hibiscus

As the name implies tropical hibiscus is native to the tropical or warmer areas of the world. Commonly seen growing in beautiful picturesque scenes of lovely island retreats like the Bahamas and Hawaii. They also grow in permanent landscapes of those living in USDA plant hardiness zones 9 through 11.

Tropical hibiscus leaves stay green all year and they do not fall off, making it an evergreen plant. This variety typically can grow to a capacity of 4 feet in height minimum but upwards of 10 feet in height depending on variety and condition. They are a full plant when properly grown and pruned and can get 4 to 8 feet in overall width.

Bloom sizes and color vary depending on the subspecies or hybridization of this hibiscus type. Tropical type hibiscus has many flowers spread throughout the plant in single and double layers. These flowers are shorter lasting, typically only living a day to two after full bloom. Typical 3 to 4-inch petals in shades of reds, pinks, salmon, peach, yellow and orange.

Hardy Hibiscus

A deciduous type of hibiscus, this variety leaves die off in the cooler months and becomes dormant in the winter. These grow in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 8. Even though these hibiscus plants are of the same genus type as their tropical counterparts their care and growth habits can be very different.

Some of these hardy types some can grow up to a massive 15-foot height and 8 foot spreads in width. This, of course, is determined by the variety. There is a greater variety of hardy type that has been hybridized to grow for different sizes, areas, flower types, colors and more.

This family of hibiscus includes rose mallows, rose of Sharon, giant mallows, swamp mallows, altheas and other of these variations on these varieties. These varieties can be a little slow to start from seed especially in cooler weather but once they get going this is a fast grower. Proper planning is needed when considering the planting container or environment for this potentially sizable plant.

How Can Hibiscus Grow Indoors?

Tropical and Hardy Hibiscus Year-Round Indoors

Tropical Hibiscus indoors:

The family of hibiscus plants in this variety will grow indoors well when supplied with the proper care. This variety needs attention to temperatures and humidity that match its native growing environments. Keep in warmer environments in the home away from dry producing heat.

Mist daily to provide humidity or grow in an area of the home where you set up a humid environment with a humidifier. These types do not die off in the winter so if overwintering indoors be sure to keep it thriving and fertilized to prevent health issues.

Lots of light is a must, 10 to 12 hours a day minimum. If you do not have that light naturally, as most of us will not in the winter, you will need a grow light to supplement the lighting needs for this plant.


Hardy Hibiscus Indoors:

Choose your variety wisely. A rose of Sharon bush gets very large and is not recommended to be grown indoors. Space would be far too limited to this growth potential of this beauty. However, there are smaller varieties that would be better suited for your indoor space.

There are that some store-bought plants of this variety are treated to stunt growth when this has worn out you may have more plant than you bargained for. Research the variety before deciding your intended space. Light is essential for the blooming to occur and the number of blooms you will receive from your plant.

Caring for Hibiscus Plants Indoors

Hibiscus is a beautiful plant that creates a great showing in unique colorful blooms that can create a wonderful addition to your interior décor and garden space. In addition, the hibiscus has many medicinal and culinary uses that make it a useful addition to an herbal garden as well.

With this double benefit who would not want to try to grow hibiscus indoors?

It will not be the easiest plant you have grown indoors but it is possible and with the right care you will have great success.

Light

Hibiscus, especially the topical variety, requires a lot more light then the typical houseplants or herbs you grow indoors. If you are looking for blooms from your plant you need to provide light of some kind to even have a chance at flowering.

A very common question I am asked: “Can hibiscus grow indoors and still produce blooms?” They need light to bloom. If you provide the right light you will get flowers!

A tropical hibiscus requires minimum 10 to 12 hours of sunlight or supplemental light each day, 16 hours for maximum growth potential indoors and prolific blooming. This is not likely going to be provided by even a south or southwestern window, especially in the in winter months.

Hardy hibiscus will tolerate some lower light conditions but will need the sunlight in order to promote blossoming. If you have a bright southern window, or south-west window a hardy type hibiscus may do well in this area. Watching the growth pattern and bloom will help you determine if they are getting enough light.

Grow lights are recommended for this variety of plant grown indoors. They need to provide both blue and red light spectrum to promote healthy leaf and flowering growth. There are many options available for grow lights that can easily fit into most indoor spaces.

» For a single plant or couple hibiscus plants, I highly recommend this affordable simple grow light option that works on a built-in timer to get the proper light to your plant. Follow this link Lovebay Timing Function Dual head Grow light 36LED 5 Dimmable Levels Grow Lamp Bulbs with Adjustable 360 Degree Gooseneck

» For more information about grow light and how they function to see this article previously posted on site by clicking here The Best Grow Lights for Indoor Plants

Water

Neither variety of hibiscus likes to ever be dry. Keeping an even watering on your plant is going to be essential. Proper draining soil will help ensure proper watering. See soil requirements below.

Keep the water level at the soil evenly moist to the touch. Do not drown the roots out by flooding but the soil should always have a damp cool touch to it. When watering excess should drain easily from the soil so that the roots do not sit in swampy soil. This is called wet feet. This will rot the roots.

The exception to this will come from unique hybrid varieties that are meant to grow in a more arid environment. There are a beautiful lilac hibiscus and a Texas variety that are tolerant of drier conditions once established.

Tropical hibiscus will not like being watered with cool temperature water. Use lukewarm water or water that has been allowed to come to room temperature.

Soil

My go-to soil pick for most my indoor container plants works wonderfully for hibiscus plants as well. It’s rich organic matter and well-draining construction keeps the right moisture levels in a light loamy mix that plants love.

»  I almost always recommend this blend. The Fox Farm Ocean Forest organic mix. You can read a detailed review here and decide for yourself. Fox Farm Soil Review

Hibiscus should be re-potted yearly or at least bi-annually. As a heavy feeding plant, it will quickly drain the nutrients from its existing soil and prospers from a regularly scheduled re-pot.

I like to do mine just before they would normally go into their productive phase in early in spring. If it is a hibiscus I move in and out for overwintering I will do a re-pot when bringing it inside to decrease soil born pest issues.

Temperature

Tropical hibiscus will require higher minimum temperatures than their hardy hibiscus counterparts. The tropical type will not tolerate temperatures dropping below 50 degrees but ideally, you want to keep them where it is a consistent 65 to 80 degrees. Your winter home temp is likely to set to 70 degrees or roundabout. That will be an ideal heat. With the light in the daytime hours, especially a grow light it will increase the ambient heat around the plant to the ideal metrics during the peaks of the day for them to grow.

Take caution next to any windows that can create cold air drafts. They will quickly kill off your tropical type hibiscus.

Hardy type hibiscus is more tolerant to temperature extremes because they are a perennial that will want to die off in the winter and come back. You can allow them to go dormant and loose there leaves by moving them into a cooler less light space in the winter months or you can keep them in a constant steady temp and grow them as an evergreen. Proper pruning will be essential to keep them from getting overgrown and promoting new growth.

Humidity

Hibiscus enjoys regular misting and higher levels of humidity. This is important to remember in the winter time if you’re running a dryer heating source without a humidifier.

Most plants in your indoor garden space can benefit from regular humidity. Hibiscus needs it to thrive. It will help to keep it strong and healthy.

Ways to add humidity

The Container

The planting container for your hibiscus is going to need to be able to hold up to the size of the plant as it grows. This is going to depend a lot on the variety you will need to refer to specific species for unusual potting specifications.

In general, the container for your hibiscus should be at minimum 8 to 10 inches in diameter or equivalent if square. The depth should be 8 to 12” for smaller varieties and deeper for larger bush type mallows and some tropical.

The container should have drainage holes to allow for access water to escape. I recommend staying away from dark colored pots if you intend to move your hibiscus outdoors in the summer. This could cause your plant’s roots to overheat.

Fertilizer

Hibiscus of both main varieties has fertilizer needs. These increases when grown indoors due to being grown in containers. Container grown plants tend to strip the soil of nutrients quickly and will need them regularly replenished with fertilizer additives.

Blooming plants also have different fertilizer needs than green type herbs or even vegetable producing plants. It is important to hit the right balance to get the nutrients specific to your plant. The types of fertilizer can also impact flowering color and pigment strength in your blooms. Potassium levels in flowering plants, especially hibiscus, impact the bloom colors and strength.

I recommend fertilizing your hibiscus ingrown plants that are not in dormant stage every other watering cycle with a diluted fertilizer specifically designed for hibiscus. If you overwintering a plant cut this down once a month and increase just prior to preparing for spring.

»  I highly recommend a good organic fertilizer that is pet safe and not harmful. I have a lot of luck with this fertilizer for hibiscus and other flowering plants. Grab yours here Dr. Earth Exotic Blend Palm, Tropical & Hibiscus Fertilizer Polybag, 4 lb

Pruning

This can be the scariest undertaking for most gardeners. It can be hard to think of trimming off healthy looking growth or even flower buds that are starting to emerge. Unfortunately, if you want a bushy well-flowered hibiscus pruning is a must.

Regular deadheading, trimming off spent flowers, will help keep new flower growth during active periods.

»  Here is an excellent article about proper pruning of hibiscus that you may find useful in deciding how and when to trim your plants. Prune-Hibiscus on Wikihow

Hibiscus Pests

Hibiscus can be sensitive to bug and pest’s infestations. The best treatment is always prevention. The best prevention is a healthy well-maintained plant.

A healthy plant is less appealing and better able to handle a pest attack. Following all the above instructions on care will help to ensure the best possible health for your plant.

Even with very healthy plants though on occasion those annoying bug infestations manage to find there way in.

Hibiscus is susceptible to many pests. Aphids, white fly’s, spider mites and others can be problematic for these beautiful plants.

I always recommend taking an organic approach first to any infestations that infect your garden. Most of the garden plants you are growing may be consumed and you do not need residual chemicals that could possibly poison you. Also, if you have pets in your home you are putting them at risk.

When treating pest infestations inspect all your plants. Separate those that need treated form the rest of your garden even if you intend to treat them all. You do not want any escapees jumping from one plant to another and survive.

Investigate the exact pest you are dealing with and address it specifically. There is no one all solution to all pest issues. You could end up overtreating your plants and causing them more harm than good if you are not treating the real issue quickly and precisely.

Below you can follow any of the links from Amazon to products I recommend for certain issues regarding pests in the garden. My most frequent indoor pests have always been fungus gnats, usually brought in from store-bought plants. I solved that with the last item that list, the ultrasonic lights. I was shocked how well they worked to eliminate that nightmarish pest problem.


Wintering Hibiscus Indoors

I want to make a special note if you intend to bring your hibiscus indoors in the winter and back out in the summer. I do this for most of my larger hibiscus plants as well and several of my other plants.

A word of caution. The world outside is filled with bugs and pests that your indoor environment is not used to. They also have predators that help to eliminate them. If you bring those plant pests indoor, they will have no enemies. They will soon overtake your indoor gardens.

How can you protect and safely move your plants indoors?

  • Time for a good trimming. Start by trimming down at least half the growth of the hibiscus before bringing it in. Trimming at leaf nodes. Get rid of any yellowing or discolored leaves. This also gives you a good opportunity for careful inspection as you work.
  • Repotting if possible or soil refreshing. If there is not too much active flowering or new growth I will do a full re-pot. The soil could be alive with many little-unseen critters. If not possible I will use a neem oil soak according to directions to spray the plant and the soil. After I will place a couple inches of nice rich soil with some worm compost on top of the soil. This replenishment after washing it out will encourage the plant to optimum health to fight any side effects of treatment.
  • If you did spray treat the above step if you did skip this. Using Neem oil properly mixed mist all leaves and stems top and underside. If you prefer to not use neem oil Dematiaceous Earth (food grade) can be dusted on all the leaves instead.
  • Once the foliage and soil have been treated confine the plant for 2 to 3 days in a separate area. Ideally, an enclosed garage or porch that prevents any other possible contaminations. Inspect after this period for any bugs or any signs of infestations. If all clear bring indoors. Monitor closely for the first few weeks to ensure nothing was missed.

What Color Hibiscus?

Growing hibiscus indoors or out can be very rewarding. The flowers can be awe-inspiring. I love the array of flowers you can get from the many different hybridized varieties of the hibiscus family.

My favorites are the reds, which to me represent the classic familiar association of hibiscus. It is what I have always thought of when I think of the tea or drinks with this floral flavor.

What is your favorite type of hibiscus? Is it from the tropical hibiscus family or are you more fond of the hardy mallow type hibiscus?

red arrow down rightLet’s talk hibiscus! Drop me a comment below and let me know what you are growing or what you want to grow?

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate. I am here to help.

Happy Gardening friends!

Christina

8 Comments

  1. Clay Westfall

    I have to say, I have never read a more comprehensive article on the Hibiscus. The was you go into such detail on all aspects of the Hibiscus really makes learning easy. My mother has always had them around, but I never saw the appeal, until now. Thank you for such a wonderful account off such a wonderful flower!

    Clay

    Reply
    • Christina

      Hi Clay,
      Thank you, I appreciate the compliments.
      My love of hibiscus stemmed from my grandmother in Florida. She had some beautiful ones in her garden. She made such an amazing tea drink with them. I always wanted to have my own. Five years ago I started my own and kept overwintering them. Then I decided I wanted to have those pretty blooms all year and that delicious tea so I became obsessed with growing them indoors all year as well. Took A bit of learning curve so I am hoping to pass that on to others so they have faster complete success.
      I hope you can enjoy them as well!
      Christina

      Reply
  2. Michael Miller

    I love how beautiful Hibiscus flowers are. We had rose of Sharon bushes on our property in Indiana that would produce beautiful flowers. I didn’t know they were in the hibiscus family.

    I really appreciate how thoroughly you covered how to plant and care for hibiscus plants both indoors and outdoors. Thanks for your recommendation on a glow light. They sure have come down in price. The one glow light I paid almost $200 for a couple years ago.

    Reply
    • Christina

      Hi Michael,

      Rose of Sharon is one of the favorite examples of a hardy hibiscus there is. They are so prolific as well. Hummingbirds here love them in North Carolina. They are a bit harder to try to bring in and grow indoors because of size but they can get a good start inside for transplant.
      Did you know Okra is also in the hibiscus family? I do not know how common that is to grow in your area but here in the south, it is a common garden vegetable. Gorgeous hibiscus type blooms before the familiar okra forms. Just an interesting tidbit 🙂
      Grow lights not only get cheaper they get better and better! Use to be the best grow lights were expensive, power consuming HID type. Now with LED and CFL options, they are cheaper and cheaper to run in the long run. They can still get up there in price if you want them for large garden spaces more concentrated growing purposes but they are far superior to the former types. I remember my first set of large Hid types. My power bill jumped as much as it cost to buy them. Now I can barely tell I am running multiple LEDs.
      Best of luck and hope to hear from you again!
      Christina

      Reply
  3. Madeleine

    What a great post on the Hibiscus! I sure wish I had read this years ago when I owned a hibiscus tree. My mother became allergic to all flowering plants and gave me her hibiscus. The story behind it was that her sister, my Aunt, had actually smuggled it into the the country in her luggage from Belize. It was about 5 feet high when I ‘inherited’ the tree. Mine would flower these beautiful pinkish orange blossoms. Unfortunately, it succumbed to insects, some kind of spider mite I think. We have a sun room that doubles as our entrance lobby, and I had the tree sitting pretty in a corner with large windows on either side. Someday I would like to own another one. Thanks for the thorough article.

    Reply
    • Christina

      Hi Madeleine,
      What a wonderful yet tragic story of your hibiscus tree. A family heirloom of sorts wiped out by the dreaded spider mites. Spider mites do love hibiscus. If you can get a hold of the issue early and treat it they are not hard to handle as far as pests go. Sometimes a good hard spray or even a dip of the leaves if able in water to drown them is enough.
      I usually treat with neem oil for spider mites that progressed beyond early detection. If done by direction hibiscus seems to tolerate it quite well. It requires a follow up a week or so later as there may be eggs that have hatched after treatment.
      Your next hibiscus may never have the exact story that the original had but your love for the flower will. This you will still be able to pass on. It will help you to start your own family of hibiscus 🙂
      Best of luck on your next one and reach out if you need any help.
      Christina

      Reply
  4. Jeff

    Christiana
    This is an amazing article on growing Hibiscus indoors, I never ever imagined this was possible living in a colder winter climate. I love how you shared everything you need to do and the best products to grow the Hibiscus plant indoors, I might become brave enough to give this a try since you made it so easy providing everything I need to know.

    Jeff

    Reply
    • Christina

      Hi Jeff,
      Hibiscus is one of my favorite plants to grow! It is so showy! It brightens up my home in the winter. I often move them in and out for the warm weather however with enough light they will do well as indoor show pieces all year.
      Hibiscus also has many medicinal qualities as well. The tea is a common drink people use to benefit them although there are other ways as well. Be sure to check out the companion article to this on Hibiscus uses and benefits. It will make you want to grow them even more!
      As always if you need any help along the way, I am here!
      Christina

      Reply

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