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Magnificent Mallows

Everyone, whether they are a native, transplant, or seasonal resident, has an image of Florida that often includes its plants as well as places. Traditionally, palms are thought of as the primary backdrop of the Florida landscape as they line its beaches and highways for miles. However, another staple often found lazily lounging in Florida’s landscape is the Hibiscus. A member of the Malvaceae, or mallow family, the Hibiscus has over 4,000 relatives including okra and cotton .

The historical origins of the Hibiscus are generally unknown, however, two specific varieties –  Hibiscus arnottianus and Hibiscus waimeae, are believed to be native to Hawaii (Wee, 2003). Classified as an evergreen (has leaves throughout the year and is always green), the Hibiscus is comprised of 35 native species with the distinctive and lyrical common name of rosemallows. Included in the rosemallow species is the African Rosemallow (Hibiscus acetosella), Scarlet Rosemallow (Hibiscus coccineus), Lindenleaf Rosemallow (Hibiscus furcellatus), Swamp Rosemallow (Hibiscus grandiflorus), Halberdleaf Rosemallow (Hibiscus laevis), Crimsoneyed Rosemallow (Hibiscus moscheutos), Dixie Rosemallow (Hibiscus mutabilis), Poeppig’s Rosemallow (Hibiscus poeppigii), Monarch Rosemallow (Hibiscus radiatus), Garden Rosemallow (Hisbiscus rose-sinensis var. rosa-sinensis), and the Fringed Rosemallow (Hisbiscus rose-sinensis var. schizopetalus).

The hardy variety of the Hibiscus can grow up to 15 feet tall with a spread between 4 to 8 feet. The leaves are alternate, ovate to lanceolate, often having a toothed or lobed margin, and its fruit is a dry five-lobed capsule, containing several seeds in each lobe, which are released when the capsule splits open at maturity. Proven to be adept at growing in the various climates of Florida, the Hibiscus is a great addition to any landscape. One of the most popular hybrid varieties is the dinner plate Hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos).

This moniker has been given to the variety of Hibiscus which produces flowers ranging between 6 to 12 inches across the face of the flower. Although visually stunning in its diameter, the dinner plate Hibiscus has a very limited color palette with most blooming in shades of red, rose, pink and white. Regardless of which species one may choose to plant, these beauties will continue to color the landscape for many years with the proper care.

Knox, G. W., & Schoellhorn, R., (2005; 2011 (Revised); 2017 (Revised)). Hardy Hibiscus for Florida Landscapes. Retrieved from:

UF IFAS Gardening Solutions. (2019). Hibiscus. Retrieved from:

Wee, Y. C. (2003). Tropical trees and shrubs: A selection for urban planting. Singapore: Sun Tree Publishingp. 65. (Call no.: RSING 582.16095957 WEE)