Hibiscus geranioides

Distribution Map
Family: Malvaceae
Distribution: Widespread in tropical areas of Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland.
Common Name: No generally accepted common name
Derivation of
Hibiscus...from Greek, hibiskos, the marsh mallow, a malvaceous plant that grows in marshy conditions.
geranioides... similar to the genus Geranium.
Not considered to be at risk in the wild.

General Description:

Hibiscus is a genus which is well known in horticulture through the many exotic species and cultivars, principally Hibiscus rosa-sinensis which has thousands of registered cultivars. Overall there are more than 300 Hibiscus species which occur mainly in tropical and sub-tropical regions. Australia has about 40 native species, most of which are endemic. There are also a number of closely related genera in Australia with Hibiscus-like flowers. These include Abelmoschus, Alyogyne, Gossypium, Howittia and Lagunaria.

Hibiscus geranioides
Hibiscus geranioides
Photo: Jeff Howes

Hibiscus geranioides is an annual or biennial species up to 0.75 metres high by a similar width. The leaves are up to 40 mm long by 25 - 30 mm wide and are 3 to 5 lobed with short, stiff hairs on both surfaces. The flowers are deep pink with a slightly deeper colour in the throat. They are about 40 mm in diameter of typical hibiscus shape. In common with most Hibiscus species, the individual flowers last only 1-2 days but new flowers continue to open over a long period, generally in summer and autumn. The flowers are followed by seed capsules containing a number of seeds.

Despite its tropical habitat, H.geranioides is an easily grown species for a wide range of areas although probably not suited to cold districts. It prefers a sunny position with reasonably well drained soils. It can tend to self sow in cultivation and may be slightly weedy but is easily kept in check and is rarely a serious nuisance. It is tolerant of light frosts but may need protection if more severe frosts are forecast. Tip pruning during the growing season will produce a bushy growth habit. The plant also grows well in containers.

In common with the exotic hibiscus cultivars, hibiscus beetles may be a problem. These can be controlled by placing white ice cream containers with detergent water among the hibiscus plants and putting fresh water and detergent in the containers every few days.

Propagation from seed is relatively easy and no special pretreatment is needed. Cuttings also strike readily.

For further information on Australian Malvaceae, see the Australian Native Hibiscus and Hibiscus-like Species website.

Thanks to Jim Purdie for the hint on using detergent water to trap hibiscus beetles.

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