Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

Swamp Hibiscus Outshines Its Name


Swamp hibiscus red flowers in full bloom
This past August, my neighbor called me over and said, “I want you to see this swamp hibiscus – isn’t it the most gorgeous thing?” Now, it isn’t often that you hear the words “swamp” and “gorgeous” in the same sentence, but in this case she’s right.

About Swamp Hibiscus

Also known as the Scarlet Rose Mallow or Texas Star, the swamp hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) is native to the east coast of the U.S. It’s one of the most spectacular native plants, with incredible, large red flowers that naturally thrive in wetlands and ditches. This spring, try sowing some seeds for a spot of brilliant perennial color in your garden.

How to Grow Swamp Hibiscus

Here’s how to grow swamp hibiscus in your yard or garden:

  • Planting Zone: Swamp hibiscus grows in zones 7-10.
  • Planting Habit: Swamp hibiscus is a large herbaceous perennial, so it dies completely down in winter and sprouts fresh each spring.
  • Flowers: Swamp hibiscus blooms in mid to late summer through early fall. Each bloom only lasts a day or so, but they put on a successive show that’ll keep you coming back each day to see what’s new.
  • Swamp Hibiscus flower

  • Size: Swamp hibiscus is unusually large for a perennial, growing up to 7-12 feet tall and 4-6 feet wide. The plants are tall and leggy, with five or more stems coming out of the ground.
  • Growing Conditions: Swamp hibiscus do best in full sun and mildly acidic soil. Great for low-lying soggy areas or around water features but will grow in normal garden soil, too, as long as it gets plenty of water.
  • Growing Tips: For a more compact and bushy plant, prune the first sprouts of the swamp hibiscus back to encourage branching. Or, simply plant at the back of the garden and allow it to reach its full height, supporting with stakes if needed. Once the swamp hibiscus has been killed by frost, cut the stalks down the ground and add them to your compost pile.
  • Other Benefits: Swamp hibiscus is attractive to butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, and birds. It’s easy to grow from seed, and you can save the seeds for sharing. You can also propagate swamp hibiscus by division.

Further Information

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12 Comments on “Swamp Hibiscus Outshines Its Name”

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  1. Nell Smith Says:
    April 10th, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    A Friend gave me one last fall. It had lots of roots, but wasn’t pretty. The stalks wasn’t pretty, but the plant is beautiful! Mine is growing real fast, and I believe it will bloom this Summer. I absolutely adore this plant. I also am going to plant some pink & white Hibiscis seed. I pray they will grow.

  2. Jennifer Gammons Says:
    August 10th, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    My aunt gave me one of these this spring off her plant. I do not have a green thumb by any means, but this plant is crazy beautiful! I planted it against our garage and just waited… Last week we started getting blooms :). She says it will get bigger every year. I am so excited!

  3. Dawn Scrutton Says:
    August 31st, 2014 at 8:37 am

    I live in the midlands region of the UK and my swamp Hibiscus has excelled this year, mainly I think because we have had an exceptionally wrm summer. I grow it in my conservatory, it had 13 flowers and grew to 9 feet. I overwinter it in a cold greenhouse but if the temperature drops too low I bring it indoors and put in a cool room. My question is should I keep watering it when I cut it down or let it dry out. It has certainly been a showstopper this year. Thank you. Dawn

  4. Alice Says:
    November 21st, 2014 at 3:52 am

    my niece gave me a small plant last year I brought it home and planted it, this plant is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen it gave me such pleasure all summer the blooms are spectacular very large and a brilliant red they bloomed all summer, we have saved all the seed we plan on planting them this Spring…these are beautiful plants and I’m so happy to have one.

  5. Bettina Hurliman Says:
    January 25th, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    How do you grow a water hibiscus from a seed pod?
    Thank you for your response.

  6. 30yr landscaper Says:
    March 17th, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    To answer Bettina’s question: I score (scrape with sandpaper or nail file, not too much) the seed and soak it over night in water then I place the seed in good seed starter soil, I prefer a phafard mix (I usually start in a 4″ pot) keep the soil moist. Once the seed starts to germinate I start moving it towards more light. When the plant has a good root system you can transfer it to your garden or start moving it up in pot size. Remember that you should wait until the roots fill the pot before going up to the next size pot. Never go into a pot over one size up or you will cause other issues. I love Swamp Hibiscus and share seeds with my family and friends. In case you wonder, I have been landscaping for 30yrs and it makes my day to share my knowledge with others.

  7. Sunny Hansen Says:
    May 17th, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    I collected seeds from my plant last fall, planted one in the early spring and now have a 6 inch start. My plant’s leaves look nothing like the original plant, instead more like a tropical hibiscus. Do they all start out this way? Would really love to know as I can’t find any information on this on line.
    Thank you for any help.

  8. Ray Says:
    August 20th, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    All my seedlings start out looking like tropical hibiscus and by the time it gets its second set of leaves they start to look like the mother plant. These are easy to grow from seed, even in the cold north east. I start them out in small pots and the move them into larger pot as they start to get bigger.

  9. Pat ross Says:
    August 28th, 2015 at 11:51 am

    I live in FL. Wondering if this plant can be rooted from cuttings? Thanks if anyone can help….

  10. Terry G Says:
    September 19th, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    I’ve been given seeds for Water Hibiscus, and I have a small ( 40 foot diameter) spring fed dam, Question, will these Hibiscus thrive within the dam, say about 3 inches of water up their stem??

  11. Brian P Says:
    October 1st, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    Well… I live in Western Washington north of Seattle and from what I have read I am treating my Water Hibiscus wrong, but my results have been awesome. When I first got it in the mail I had it in a plastic pond pot with some clay soil and rock and placed it in 12″ of water in my Koi pond. It maintained only one stalk that year and did not bloom. When winter killed off the foliage I cut it off below water level and left it. The next year I had 2 stalks come up in the Spring but again it did not bloom but had nice green foliage standing about 4′. The 3rd year (last year) the stalks doubled again to 4 and in very late Summer It bloomed for me, I was elated… This year, I added a 1500 gal addition to my pond which I finished up in mid-July and moved the plant into the new pond into 15″ of water. I was a little concerned that so much of the stems (4″) were deep in the water but within a week it was throwing out new roots, on the stems and began to flourish, it nearly doubled the stalks again (this is without any transplanting or fertilizing) and is now blooming again (late September). So Terry G, in answer to your question, yes it will survive and flourish with water up the stem… I plan to split the plant this next spring and plant the two parts in pots using nothing but 5/8 river rock which is what I use for all my pond plants now. And by the way, if you are planting your Water Hibiscus in the water like I have, I recommend finding a way to anchor it: 1. a small diameter rope around the stalks to an anchor point at the side of the pond, to keep it from falling over with the wind as the large leaves make a nice sail. and 2. larger rocks on top of the rock planting base, to keep it from trying to float up.) .. I have also found that removing the larger leaves left when it branches out from the main stem will make for a little better wind resistance and allow more nutrients to the buds later.

  12. Kevin Says:
    November 20th, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    Is that a marijuana plant behind it? It sure looks like the leaves of a marijuana plant.

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