Tougher Than it Looks: Hibiscus Syriacus

Hibiscus Blue Bird
The colours of Hibiscus ‘Blue Bird’ glow in the evening light.

Like many, the first time I saw hibiscus flowers was while on holiday in Spain. These were the red Hibiscus rosa-sinensis – flamboyant and very exotic-looking flowers that will always remind me of my parents’ garden there.

My parents had retired to Spain and spent over 20 years living there. On visits to them, I enjoyed looking after their little garden and visiting the nearby garden centre to buy plants for it. It was an exciting world of unfamiliar plants where I could have easily wandered for hours. (Nowadays those plants have become much more commonplace and are easily bought in UK garden centres.)

The Spanish garden centre was just a few minutes walk from my parents’ apartment, so a visit there became a frequent entertainment. (And it was a great place for buying gifts for my flower-loving mother.) My eye was often draw to the hibiscus plants there – both the usual red cultivar and the others that had flowers in a range of pinks, oranges and yellows.

White hibiscus flower
This white hibiscus is much less showy than those with the red markings and it seems to be shyly hiding under the leaf!

Living in Scotland at the time, I had no idea that it was possible to grow hibiscus in the UK. It was only when I moved to Suffolk that I came across the hardy hibiscus shrubs (Hibiscus syriacus) and fell in love with them.

‘Blue Bird’ was one of the first of the hardy hibiscus that I came across and it’s flower colour has made it my favourite. These flowers vary from a quite definite blue, to a softer, more lavender shade. This is can be due to the flower aging, but can also be dependent on whether the shrub was grown from seed (very variable) or from a cutting. (I’ve read that hibiscus seedlings can be a nuisance in parts of the USA, but that isn’t a problem in chilly old Britain!)

So far I have two hibiscus shrubs in the garden – Blue Bird, which has flowered abundantly this year, and a young plant of ‘Walburton’s Rose Moon’. This second hibiscus has massive flowers that open to a much flatter shape than the more cup-shaped blooms of Blue Bird.

A white hibiscus would look good in a new area that I’m planting up – probably ‘Red Heart’ which has showy red markings in the centre of its flowers. Another possibility would be the much more restrained plain white cultivar (above), seen in a nearby garden.

The hibiscus flowers are almost over for this year (there’s just one pink one left), but I’m already looking forward to being able to spend more time photographing them next year.

Hibiscus Rose Moon 2615
Hibiscus Walburton’s Rose Moon

23 thoughts on “Tougher Than it Looks: Hibiscus Syriacus

    1. I imagine that you probably could. Are your winter temperatures really low? The RHS site says it’s hardy down to -10 to -15 degrees C. The only other thing to watch out for is if you’re in an area where they self-seed easily. You might not want your garden drowned in a sea of hibiscus seedlings!

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    1. I imagine that you would see more of the tender hibiscus (rosa-sinensis), Indira? This one (syriacus) is great here in the UK because it’s hardy and can cope with winter. πŸ™‚

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    1. Retiring to Spain was a great adventure for my parents and really helped Dad’s health at the time. Eventually they had to come back to the UK to be near us, but that worked well too. The hibiscus plants remind me of that time, even though they are a different kind.

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      1. I never saw them in Scottish garden centres either, but it’s a good few years since I moved from there. Maybe they aren’t seen as hardy enough for some areas, but they are supposed to survive -10 to -15 C.

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  1. Hi Ann – this is my favorite flower. They are all over Florida and easy to grow – just have to watch out for the deer and the freezes in winter. My favorite was a peach colored one I had in a container on my porch that lived for years. It finally became diseased and I lost it last year. I have never seen a blue one though. That is one I need to keep an eye open for. Beautiful flower images!

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    1. Thank you Syd! Do you get the Hibiscus syriacus in your area or are they perhaps rosa-sinensis? (I don’t know if there are other varieties.) Syriacus is great for us because it’s able to come through our winters safely. πŸ™‚ And the blue one is my favourite. πŸ™‚

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      1. My Hibiscus were all rosa sinesis. I still have a huge tree by my front door with large red blooms called President. One of my peach colored ones was called Jane Cowel and had just beautiful layers of leaves. I also had a Yellow Wing and Painted Lady. The blooms do not last very long – usually just one day for me but two when the weather gets a little cooler. I think you inspired me to get a couple news ones. Would love a blue one! They will bloom all year for me and are so cheery!

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      2. It must be absolutely amazing to be able to have hibiscus in flower all year round. Sounds like you had a beautiful selection of them. πŸ™‚

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  2. I’m amazed – we’ve just come back from Portugal where hibiscus were in abundance, I’ve only ever planted one and in the 10 years it sat in the garden, it didn’t flower once! Will be looking for ‘Blue Bird’, do you think it would be safe in the Midlands? Lovely pictures

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    1. It depends how cold it gets in winter. I’ve read that it can stand down to -10 or maybe -15 C but I imagine that it would help if there was shelter from cold winds and decent drainage to the soil. It’s always a bit of a gamble with plants!

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