Characteristics and varieties

Ibiscus is a bushy herbaceous plant belonging to the Malvaceae family.

There are many varieties of this plant, but they all share the same basic characteristics.

It has large, dark green leaves, ovate and with toothed margins.

Its beautiful flowers are generally found at the axil of leaves or on top of branches.

Funnel-shaped, they can be simple, double or multiple.

They are generally composed of a calyx with five sepals and a corolla with five petals.

In the center of the flower is the stem column, on which the stamens and pistils are located.

Cultivation and multiplication

The hibiscus is a rather resistant and easily adaptable plant, therefore it lends itself well to both outdoor cultivation and in the apartment. Often, it is found in hedges or in the ornaments of large cities, as it has a strong resistance to atmospheric agents and pollution.

The varieties most suitable for cultivation in the apartment or on the balcony require more care than the «city» ones, because they do not tolerate the cold or too much light. It is therefore necessary to avoid keeping them outdoors when the weather is too cold, keeping them indoors.

As for the brightness, care must be taken not to expose it immediately for long periods to direct light, but gradually. At the first exposures, it must therefore be protected, placing it in a shady and cool place. When it gets used to it, you can leave it in the sun without fertilizing it for about a month, so that it gets used to the new arrangement.

If you prefer to keep it always at home, it must be positioned in such a way that it has good lighting and temperatures above 25 ° must be avoided.

In the summer months it is advisable to administer liquid fertilizer every two weeks

As far as watering is concerned , hibiscus obviously needs a lot of water in the summer, while the quantity will be reduced in the winter. Furthermore, except for some particular species mentioned above, the hibiscus must not grow with too much water or in too humid soils. The ideal temperature and condition is above 15 °, with good brightness, medium humidity and protected from drafts.

As far as the multiplication of the hibiscus is concerned, there are two types: one for the annual hibiscus and one for the perennial one.

The first is multiplied by seed: it starts in March, distributing the small seeds in parallel rows, crushing them under the soil. The soil should be kept in the shade and kept moist by spraying it and then covering it with a plastic film.

The perennial hibiscus is multiplied by woody cutting : a lateral shoot is removed from the mother plant, which has a woody part of the previous year. The sprout is transferred to a mixture of peat and sand or to a poor one that stimulates the growth of roots and is left uncovered to prevent it from rotting, at a temperature of about 18 °.

Variety of hibiscus

Hibiscus is a perennial or annual flowering plant: here are some of the most common and well-known varieties of the two types.

Ibiscus rosa sinensis : native to China, it grows in very tall and dense shrubs. Its original color was intense red but today, with the numerous hybridizations, many varieties have been created with flowers ranging from white to pink to orange and fuchsia. It needs neutral and rich soil and regular fertilization, as it is very luxuriant and blooms continuously. Due to this characteristics it is the only terrarium variety.

Ibiscus syriacus : native to India and China, it has solitary or double flowers of shades of color ranging from pink to purple, with short stamens that do not protrude from the corolla.

In the past it was used for its numerous healing properties: in the form of a decoction to relieve itching and for gastrointestinal disorders, as a compress for rashes and skin inflammations. Today it is used by Ayurvedic medicine and, as in the past, the purple digestive drink karkadè is obtained from its dried leaves.

Ibiscus moscheteus : a marsh hibiscus, a perennial plant native to the wetlands of the United States, has quite small flowers of white, pink and red color, which have a rather short life. These are rustic plants that need a very humid soil or that must be almost totally submerged.

Ibiscus coccineus : variety that grows in Florida and Georgia, with palmate leaves and large crimson flowers. It grows well in very humid soils, in lakes or partially submerged.

Ibiscus mutabilis : takes its name from its characteristic mutability over time, during which it progressively changes shades of color.

Ibiscus elatus : Jamaica’s national tree, which grows in the mountains and can reach 25 meters in height.

Ibiscus trionum characteristic of Africa, is a bushy annual plant, has beautiful light colored flowers, in shades of white and yellow, with a brown center.

Diseases, pests and pruning

The hibiscus is a plant that gives great satisfaction, but needs great care and attention. It can be attacked by the main parasites and, if it does not receive sufficient treatment, it tends to get sick.

A symptom that indicates a poor state of health of the plants is the only production of leaves, without flowering. This is due to an exaggerated fertilization: it is therefore necessary to reduce the doses gradually.

If, on the other hand, the plant has withered or yellowed leaves, it means that it has caught cold or that it has been exposed to drafts.

If the leaves grow very slowly and are weak, the plant has a nitrogen deficiency, therefore it must be fertilized with a fertilizer that contains high percentages of this substance in liquid form.

Closed buds indicate a scarcity of light.

As for parasites, pay attention to the presence of brown spots, a symptom of a brown cochineal infestation: you will have to eliminate these parasites with cotton soaked in alcohol or you will have to wash the plant with neutral soap.

Also beware of lice and red mites.

To have a healthy and strong plant, pruning will still be essential.

The pruning will occur after about three to four years, to eliminate the diseased or dry parts, give force to the plant and modellarne shape. The best period is spring, and it is advisable to also top it to facilitate the formation of lateral branches and the development of new shoots.

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