By Jill Jerve
“Flowers are the sweetest things
God ever made and forgot to put a soul into.”
Henry Ward Beecher (1813 ~ 1887)
History & Background of Hibiscus
It is thought that the hibiscus originated in Asia and the Pacific Islands. They were introduced to the United States by way of the South Pacific. Hibiscus is the state flower of Hawaii and the national flower of Malaysia. Hibiscus belong to the Malvaceae or Mallow family. They are now one of the most popular and widely planted shrubs in the tropics.
The hibiscus is known best for its large gorgeous blooms. These blooms only last for one day on most varieties, opening in the morning and wilting late that afternoon. However, some varieties have been known to bloom form more than one day. Most hibiscus are odorless, but some varieties are slightly fragrant. They come in thousands of color combinations ranging in all colors of the spectrum, except no true blue or black. They are used mostly for their aesthetic purposes, but they have also been used to make dyes and in food. The blooms can either be single or double depending on the variety.
Propagation of Hibiscus
Hibiscus can be propagated in many different ways:
1) Rooting Cuttings
2) Grafting or Budding
3) Air Layering
4) Grown from Seed
There are some things you need to take into consideration when deciding when you want to take cuttings from your hibiscus. The three most common types of cuttings to hibiscus are Softwood, Semi-Hardwood and Hardwood.
Softwood cuttings are taken form the new soft succulent growth on the plant. They are taken in the spring to early summer and should be about 7.5 to 12.5cm (3-5in.) in length. Before planting they should be treated with IBA or NAA.
Semi-Hardwood cuttings are taken from the partially mature wood on the current season’s growth. They are taken in the late spring to late summer and should be about 7.5 to 15cm (3-6in.) in length. Before planting they should be treated with IBA or NAA.
Hardwood cuttings are taken from the mature, dormant hardwood stems of the plant. They are taken during the late fall to early spring and should be about 10 to 76cm (4-30in.) in length. Before planting they should be treated with IBA or NAA.
All cuttings should be placed in a well draining medium, such as peat. Cuttings will usually begin rooting in about six weeks, and flower in about nine months. Maintaining a high humidity level is best for the cuttings.
Grafting or Budding:
This method results in plants which combing two different varieties. The entire top portion of the plant, the scion, is one variety and the bottom, the stock, is another. The rootstock is usually a variety that has proven to be less susceptible to pests and diseases. This method is used to propagate hibiscus varieties that are susceptible to disease or difficult to root.
The main thing to remember when grafting is that in order to have a successful graft you must make sure to line up cambium layers of the stock and scion. Some of the most popular types of grafts that can be used on hibiscus are the cleft graft, bark graft, whip-and-tongue graft and side grafts. Make sure to wrap the grafted area firmly and evenly with grafting tape after successfully lining up the cambium layers.
This method requires a little more patience and skill than grafting. Budding utilizes only one bud at a time and a small section of the rootstock. Budding may result in a stronger union than grafting and is used commercially in many nurseries. Some of the more popular types of budding are the t-bud and chip bud. With budding also make sure to wrap the graft when you are finished.
Air Layering is an excellent method of propagation for hibiscus varieties that are harder to root. By placing the scion directly onto the ringed stock you are able to induce root formation quickly and easily. After taping the union you should make sure to wrap it in moist sphagnum moss and seal it with a plastic wrapper. The wrapper should preferably be black to block out direct sunlight and prevent scalding of the new roots.
Grown from Seed
Growing hibiscus from seed is how new varieties are developed. After pollen is applied to the female parts a pod develops and ripens within a few months. After ripening the seeds are exposed. They then can be planted and grown. This method is the hardest and requires very specialized facilities and equipment.
American Hibiscus Society
University of Florida
Wide Bay Trader