Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
Source: Forest & Kim Starr

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis or Chinese rose is an ornamental shrub with beautiful, large flowers grown worldwide in the tropics and subtropics.

The original species usually has bright red flowers but there are many cultivars with colors ranging from white and yellow to orange, scarlet and pink, both with a single or double row of petals.

It is the national flower of Malaysia, where it was introduced in the 12th century.

The flower is used medicinally and as cosmetic for hair care and in the kitchen, in salads. The petals turn black when bruised and can serve as shoe polish. They act as a pH indicator, they turn acidic solutions to dark magenta and alkaline solutions to green.

The plant grows not only in height but also in width, making it a suitable hedge plant in tropical regions.

In temperate regions, it can quite easily be grown as a houseplant and placed outdoors in the summer.


Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is a small tree or shrub of 2,5-5 m height.

The leaves are narrow to broad ovate on long petioles. They measure 5-15 cm long and 2.5-8 cm wide. On the wild type, the leaf edge is sharply cut, on cultivars they are less sharply serrated or even smooth.

The flowers are solitary in the leaf axils and differ greatly in size, even on the same plant. The largest flowers have a diameter of 20 cm. The flowers consist of 7-10 petals overlapping to form a funnel, with a central pillar of intergrown stamens.


Common names:

China Rose, Chinese Hibiscus, Chinese Rose, Hawaiian Hibiscus, Hibiscus, Japanese Rose, Red Hibiscus, Rose of China, Shoe Flower, Shoebackplant, Tropical Hibiscus


Hibiscus festalis, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis var. genuinus, Hibiscus rosiflorus, Hibiscus rosiflorus


Hibiscus: from the Greek hibiskos (mars mallow).
Rosa-sinensis: the Latin rosa (rose) and sinensis (Chinese).




USDA zone 9-11, 1 °C



Well-drained compost consisting of 2 parts peat moss, 2 parts loam and 1 part sand.


Sun, partial shade.


Give plenty of water during the growing season.


Fertilize twice a month with a universal liquid fertilizer, from April to September.


To obtain vigorous plants, prune 1/3 of the old wood in spring.
Pinching out tips of the stems in spring and summer increases flower production.
You can also prune the lower branches to train it in the form of a small tree.



Cutting instructions:

  • water the mother plant thoroughly a few days before pruning
  • take a cutting from the tip of a stem during the spring or summer, select a healthy tip, free of diseases or pests
  • cut a 15 cm cutting in the morning
  • remove all leaves except the top 2-3 leaves
  • dip the cutting in rooting hormone (optional, but speeds up the rooting)
  • moisten the soil before planting the cuttings
  • plant the cuttings 5 cmdeep
  • press the soil
  • keep the substrate moist but not wet so that the cuttings do not rot
  • place in partial shade
  • root formation takes place after about 6 weeks
  • when the roots are formed, you may transplant the cuttings
  • flowering takes place about 9 months after cutting