S & J Nursery’s Guide to Growing
Hibiscus Red Hot
in the Northeast Florida Landscape
( Hibiscus rosa- sinensis ‘Red Hot’ )
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘Red Hot’ Origins:
– Hibiscus plants are a long time southern staple in the
landscape and a favorite for potted gardens and indoor gardens in colder winter areas. The big bold blooms from
spring all the way to fall add an instant tropical appeal to the landscape and are one of the showiest shrub or
tree selections available.
– Hibiscus rosa-senensis are often referred to as Chinese Hibiscus and
are thought to be native to tropical Asia.
– Red Hot Hibiscus is one of my new favorite introductions, It is quickly
gaining popularity and becoming a bit easier to find in garden centers due to its beautiful multicolored foliage
that draws the attention of neighbors anywhere it is planted. Red Hot Hibiscus is thought to be a sport or
mutation off of “Snow Queen” Hibisus.
Hibiscus Red Hot Preferred Exposure:
– Hibiscus Red Hot can be planted in a full sun to partially shaded
location in the North Florida | Jacksonville | St. Augustine area landscape. In My St. Johns county
garden, I have my Red hot Hibiscus planted where they receive morning sun and afternoon shade from large pine
trees, this allows enough sun for the beautifully decorative foliage to have great color but at the
same time, the Hibiscus receives some cold protection from the trees during the winter months. Plants
will bloom better in morning shade and afternoon sun, but I think that the foliage of Red Hot Hibiscus is pretty
enough to sacrifice some blooms to put it where I want it!
– Best if planted on the south side of the house away from cold
north winds, up next to a fence or near the foundation of a home or other building, or near larger shade
trees that will protect these tropical plants from frost.
Hibiscus ‘Red Hot’ rosa sinensis Foliage:
– Red Hot hibiscus has large brightly colored foliage mottled with
green, white soft pink and deep reddish burgundy. The multicolored leaves are the main attraction on this
beautiful Hibiscus plant.
– Foliage may or may not remain evergreen during the winter in our
Northeast Florida area gardens, foliage is generally thought to be hardy to near 30 degrees and roots are hardy
to 20 degrees. As with all tropical plantings, they are particularly responsive to their individual
planting location. When planted on the south side of the house away from north winds, or where
receiving some frost protection from larger trees or nearby buildings, hibiscus
rosa-sinensis plants have been known to remain evergreen and blooming right in the middle of
winter on one area of the yard and suffer complete foliage burn from frost in another. All that
fuss and Hibiscus will remain one of the most popular landscape plants available because despite their need for
a little extra care during recovery after winter, hibiscus plants will be well worth the effort!
Hibiscus Red Hot Soil Preference / Salt tolerance:
– Red Hot Hibiscus plants will prefer
well drained soils that are rich in organic matter. Amend the soil when
planting with compost to help your northeast Florida soil hold both water and nutrients to keep the hibiscus
healthy and blooming.
– Be sure to plant your hibiscus rosa-sinensis into a raised burm (
slightly elevated mound 2-3 inches of even higher above the existing grade) in wet soils, they do
not like wet feet and poorly draining soils is the fastest way to kill your hibiscus plants!
– Hibiscus rosa-sinensis are moderately salt tolerant and well
suited to coastal landscape plantings here in the Jacksonville and St. Augustine area landscape.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Red Hot Size Variance:
– The foliage on the Hibiscus Red Hot can reach heights of 10 ft or more in the
tropics, but here in our Northeast Florida landscape they can easily be kept at 3-4 ft high and wide.
Hibiscus Red Hot Growth Habit:
– Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘Red Hot’ will form and upright mounded column of
dense foliage and blooms.
Hibiscus Red Hot Growth Rate:
– Slower growing in spring but quickly grows during the hot summer months even when
trimmed down to the ground after a hard freeze.
Hibiscus Red Hot Bloom:
– Blooms of the red hot hibiscus are 3 inch wide Deep red blooms with an
– Flowers last only a day on most Hibiscus cultivars but new ones open each
day to cover the plant in beautiful blooms!
Hibiscus Red Hot Water Requirements:
– Although much more durable once established in the landscape, regular water is
necessary to get the plant rooted and growing on its own after being planted in the ground from an S & J
Nursery container. Water every day for the first week then every other day for the next week, and
continue to taper watering black to a minimum of once a week or every time the top 2 inches of the soil is dry
to the touch.
Best Uses For Hibiscus Red Hot in the Jacksonville | St.
Augustine Area Landscapes :
– Hibiscus Red Hot adds instant tropical appeal to any landscape
– Use as a stand a lone garden specimen or in massed plantings to add flower
color during spring summer and fall.
– Big bold color flowers grab attention anywhere you put them.
– Easy care plant for containers on pool decks, patio areas,
walkways, home entry accents etc.
Care of Hibiscus Red Hot in the Northeast Florida Landscape:
– Amend sandy soils generously with compost to help your hibiscus
get the much needed water and nutrients it takes to feed these ever blooming beauties.
– Water every day during the establishment period after planting in the garden from
an S & J Nursery container. Be sure to continue supplemental irrigation during the hot summer months making
sure to water when the top 2-3 inches of the soil has dried out.
– Fertilize these fast growing heavy flower producing shrubs often for best
results. A minimum of a good fertilizer application in spring summer and again in fall each year. Tropical
plant food is best.
– When temperatures drop below 30 degrees you may opt to protect your foliage
and stems from severe frost damage by throwing a blanket or other breathable fabric over the top of the plant
making sure the edges touch the ground to trap in the heat from the soil.
– Make your last summer pruning in August giving your Hibiscus plant ample
time to recover new foliage that will harden off before winter arrives for us here in late December. Pruning to
late into the fall will cause flushes of cold sensitive new growth that is sure to freeze during even a light
frost that hardened off foliage would not be affected by.
– DO NOT REMOVE BURNT FOLIAGE UNTIL ALL DANGER OF FROST HAS PASSED. If you are
like me, I just let the winter have at my hibiscus and deal with what I have left in the spring. If
you choose this option, be sure not to remove any stems or leaves from the plant until we have reached
the last average frost date and there are no late freezes being predicted. ( mid February for Northeast Florida
is the average last frost date) Trimming burnt foliage and stems before then will leave bare branches
deeper on the plant exposed to cold temperatures that would have been protected by those same stems and foliage
if left unpruned and most often results in loss of the plant entirely.
-Trim off cold damaged foliage in spring after all danger of frost has passed.
Fertilize with a slow release garden food like Osmocote directly after spring pruning and again in summer and
fall. Hibiscus are heavy bloomers and all those blooms quickly deplete nutrient stores, you may opt to fertilize
biweekly or monthly with a water soluble bloom fertilizer, just be sure to use the Osmocote as well to make
sure the plant still has the nutrients it needs if you decide to stop feeding the flowers. I have really
sandy soil in my home garden and like to add a few shovel full of compost around the base of the plant
underneath the foliage each spring, fertilize once a season with Osmocote and throw a handful of granular bloom
booster every once in a while if I notice that there are not as many blooms on the plant as I would