There are about 200 different kinds of hibiscus. Different kinds live in lots of different habitats. Some live along the coast. Others live in rainforests, marshes, and even deserts.
All in the family
Hibiscus plants can be woody shrubs, 30-foot trees, or soft and small. There are about 200 different kinds. They belong to a family of plants called “mallows.” Yes, that includes marshmallows! Marshmallows get their name because they grow along the edges of marshes. (People once made gooey treats from the roots, but the treats you roast for s’mores do not contain any actual marshmallow plant.) Other familiar mallows include hollyhock, okra, and cotton.
Most hibiscus flowers bloom for just one day. Blossoms open in the morning. By late afternoon, they begin to wilt. Most of the ones you see in gardens are hybrids (cross-breeds) from just eight “ancestor” varieties. They usually have five petals. They come in a range of colors, including white, pink, orange, red, yellow, purple, and combinations. Most hibiscus flowers don’t have a scent.
Thank you, pollinators!
Open hibiscus blossoms invite butterflies and hummingbirds to reach in for a deep drink of sweet nectar. As they do, they brush against the flower’s center and get a dusting of pollen. When they carry that pollen to another hibiscus flower, some of it falls off and fertilizes the flower.