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 sturtii is a vary variable species with five varieties recognised. Generally it is a prostrate to erect shrub up to 0.75 metres high. The leaves are hairy and up to 60 mm long by 30 mm wide, lanceolate or oblong-lanceolate in shape. The flowers are pink to purple (occasionally white). They are about 60 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 from spring to autumn. The flowers are followed by hairy seed capsules containing a number of seeds.
H.sturtii is not in general cultivation but it has considerable potential for dry climates due to its moderate size and colourful flowers. It should perform best is a sunny position with well drained soils.
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 although germination will be faster if seed is abraded or soaked before planting. Cuttings should 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.
Hibiscus sturtii var. sturtii
Photo: Murray Fagg – Australian National Botanic Gardens