Is it a Hibiscus, a Rose of Sharon, a Mallow or an Althea?

When it comes to the word “Hibiscus” it can cause a hubbub of befuddlement for some understanding the broad descriptive terminology for what is a “Hibiscus?” It is a diverse genus of hundreds of species that are deciduous, perennial or tropical.
You then hear “Rose of Sharon” or “Althea” thrown into the mix and soon the bewilderment begins. Hibiscus confusion? Cue the music and let’s meet the contestants….

The primary 3 types of “Hibiscus” we enjoy in our yards and gardens here in Michigan are a “woody” hibiscus, an “herbaceous” perennial hibiscus and a “tropical” hibiscus. When they bloom in the heat of summer it’s “hooray for Hibiscus!”

In August the giant dinner plate blooms of herbaceous Hibiscus moscheutos or “Mallow” hibiscus are stunning and a real showstopper. An herbaceous perennial that dies back to the ground in winter and vigorous grower, this Hibiscus is sure to please with dinner plate sized flowers July-September. A very colorful character, say hello to Hibiscus Moscheutos. The plants grow to 4 to 5 feet tall and the blooms can be 6 inches to even a foot across! They die back to the ground in winter and start slowly in spring. But once warm summer temperatures arrive they are off to the races to wow admirers to their impressive blooms.

The dinnerplate size blooms of herbaceous perennial hibiscus
Althea or Rose of Sharon

In July and August the “woody” type of Hibiscus blooms in abundance on trees and shrubs and is known as Hibiscus syriacus. It was given the epithet “syriacus” because it had been collected from gardens in Syria but is native to Asia. People commonly refer to them as “Rose of Sharon” or “Althea”. Althea is ubiquitous and all around town. A slow starter in Michigan spring, once it gets going it blooms beautifully in July and August. Good for late season flowering (July to September) as it ages it can get “leggy” as a woody landscape plant but no problem it responds really well to pruning.

And last but not least is the “tropical” Hibiscus we put out on our decks and patios or around the poolside in summer. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. It hails from tropical Asia and China. Not hardy to Michigan winter Rosa sinensis….non hardy tropical Hibiscus. This plant makes a bold statement in containers and on decks or patios with stunning flowers….that only last for a day or two. The word “tropical” should clue you in that we enjoy it outside in summer and have to bring it indoors as a “houseplant” in winter or grow it as an annual and replace it next year. Say hello to Rosa Sinensis.

Tropical Hibiscus for deck or patio

Posts Tagged with…