The two groups of cultivars most commonly grown in New Zealand today come from Hawaiian and Fijian ancestry. The Hawaiian hybrids usually have open, flat flowers that can be 30cm across. Double forms, waived petals and multi-colours of almost every shade other than blue are common.
These are very tender, smaller ornamental shrubs often grown in the tropics in beds as a substitute for roses. Fijian hybrids are a little hardier than the Hawaiians.
Flowers are somewhat smaller and sometimes more funnel shaped with more solid colour shades. Fijian varieties are more robust, sometimes attain the height of a small tree, and are by far the hardiest and most reliable forms for New Zealand.
They are frequently used as hedges, screens, ornamental and border plants in the landscape as well as in containers.The flowers are often picked in bud with their stem end inserted into a thin bamboo skewer to create decorative arrangements. The flower buds will open naturally as if on the plant.
Since the flowers last only a day often closing by evening the buds can be picked early before opening and place in the refrigerator to slow their opening for an evening display. They look great when floated in bowls of water or open pools.
Hibiscus can be forced to bloom more heavily by feeding regularly,
placing them in really sunny, warm, moist spots and by pruning. The shrubs are best pruned back in late winter or early spring. Canes of vigorous Fijian hybrids can be cut back as much as half their length while delicate Hawaiians may need little more than tip pruning.
However, because hibiscus bloom on new wood, it is important to prune or pick out growing tips occasionally in order to keep a bushy plant with as many growing/flowering tips as possible.Hawaiian Skies and Hawaiian Girl are beautiful combinations of rich sunset shades. Golden Belle is a giant,single, golden yellow.
Molly Cummings is rich, deepest, velvet red. Flame is a giant single Hawaiian that lives up to it's name. Firedance is yellow/orange/scarlet in an eye-catching semi-double. Sinensis is a Fijian tomato red single that is very free flowering, vigorous and the most hardy: a real classic.Suva Queen is a double pink Fijian that is also quite vigorous.
Mrs. Horton is a double red Fijian. Agnes Gault is the largest flowered hardy Fijian in single bright rose pink. Chances are there's a hibiscus in this group that perfectly suits your garden!
Hibiscus Rosa-sinensis, the Rose of China, was once also known as the Shoeblack Plant because it's flowers were used by tropical bootblacks to polish shoes. Today there are thousands of cultivars and hybrids of this spectacular tropical shrub. They need a warm, sunny spot, sheltered from severe winds and frosts.
They are excellent in pots and thrive in a sunroom. Good drainage is essential to success. Feed monthly with a complete plant food like tomato or rose food. Prune old canes back by 1/3 in late winter and tip prune occasionally during the growing season to increase flowering and bushy growth.