Scarlet hibiscus bloom

Scarlet hibiscus

Pictured above: Scarlet hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) by John Moran. Click on terms for botanical definitions. View post as a PDF.

Scarlet hibiscus(Hibiscus coccineus) (also known as Scarlet rosemallow) is an herbaceous to semi-woody perennial wildflower that is common along wetland and stream edges, and in swamps and other wet, open sites. In late summer, it produces large, crimson blooms that remain open for only one day. Scarlet rosemallow is a profuse bloomer, however, and will typically produce many flowers throughout the summer. Like other plants with deep red flowers, it is very attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators.

Scarlet hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) flowers are 4–8 inches in diameter. Photo by Eleanor Dietrich

Scarlet hibiscus flowers are large (4 to 8 inches in diameter) with five bright red petals, a five-lobed green calyx, and linear bracts. Flowers are born in leaf axils. Leaves are glabrouspalmate and deeply lobed with long petioles. Margins are toothed, and leaf arrangement is alternateStems and petioles may be reddish. Seeds are born in ovoid five-celled capsules. Each cell may contain many seeds.

The genus name Hibiscus is from the Greek hibiskos, or “mallow.” The species epithet coccineus is from the Greek kókkinos, meaning “scarlet red.”

Family: Malvaceae (Mallow family)
Native range: Eastern Panhandle, north and central peninsula, Collier, Broward and Okaloosa counties
To see where natural populations of Scarlet hibiscus have been vouchered, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.
Hardiness: 8A–11
Soil: Moist to wet or inundated, rich soils; can be acclimated to well-drained soils with enough moisture
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Growth habit: 3–7’+ tall with 2–5’ spread
Propagation: Seed, cutting
Garden tips: Scarlet hibiscus is one of our showiest native wildflowers. It is a great addition to any moist or wet landscape or in areas that receive plenty of moisture. It will die back in the winter and should be pruned or mowed to the ground in the fall as it goes dormant. It has no known pests.

Scarlet hibiscus seeds are available through the Florida Wildflowers Growers Cooperative. Plants are often available at nurseries that specialize in native plants. Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a native nursery in your area.

For more information on other Hibiscus species, see these resources: