Commonly called rose mallow or rose of China, Hibiscus, pronounced hib-ISK-us, is the Greek name for mallow.
Two varieties H. rosa-sinensis and H. schizopetalus (Japanese hibiscus) can be grown indoors. They can grow to 1.5m (6ft) inside in the right conditions. The leaves are often oval and tooth edged. The beautiful trumpet flowers do not last long but can produce new ones throughout late spring and summer. The variety "Cooperii" has white, pink and red variegated leaves and pink blossoms.
Malvaceae (mallow family)
China and the far East.
White, yellow, orange, pink or red.
They need bright light with some sun, normal room temperatures and moderate watering in the growth period, when they should be fed every week. Mist and feed occasionally in the winter and water sparingly. Prune in early spring to around 15cm (6in) of the base and repot in fresh housplant compost. Hibiscus has to be fed to flower.
In Jamaica, where it grows in profusion, it is know as shoe flower or shoe black because the juicy petals can be used to polish shoes.
In Hawaii young ladies place the flowers behind their ears or use them to decorate their hair. A red hibiscus flower behind the left ear denotes the desire to find a lover, behind the right means she has already found one!
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis was introduced to Europe by John Gerard (1545-1612) in 1587. He compiled what was probably the first compendium of garden plants.