24 Types of Hibiscus: Tropical And Perennial Varieties

Hibiscus (Hibiscus spp.) is a genus of over 200 flowering species in the mallow family (Malvaceae), known for their large, showy flowers in bright shades of red, pink, purple, orange and yellow. Among the best known species are tropical hibiscus (H. rosa-sinensis) and perennial hibiscus, (H. moscheutos).

The biggest difference between the two is the foliage: tropical hibiscus foliage is typically larger; it is glossy and dark green. Perennial hibiscus leaves, on the other hand, tend to be more slender and they are dull and heart-shaped. Only tropical hibiscus blooms in shades of orange and only the tropicals bear double blooms. Tropical hibiscus plants typically grow in containers in regions where temperatures dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so that gardeners can bring them indoors for protection. 

Different varieties of hibiscus have different climate requirements, but all varieties share other growing needs. You can grow your hibiscus as a bushy shrub out in your garden, prune it to form a single-stemmed tree or grow it in a large container that you can move indoors in areas with cold winters.

Tropical Hibiscus

Tropical hibiscus, as the name describes, originated in tropical climates, stay green year-round, and do not tolerate freezing temperatures. These hibiscus are all descendants of the tropical species Hibiscus rosa-sinensis mixed with seven other species of tropical hibiscus. Tropical hibiscus variety forms shrubs that grow up to 15 feet high with evergreen leaves that may be variegated with cream or rose. The shrubs produce large, trumpet-shaped blooms about 6 inches in diameter in shades of pink, yellow, orange, crimson or scarlet in spring and summer. These plants require well-drained soils and full sun. Tropical plants can tolerate some shade, but too much shade causes limited flower production and tall, leggy plants.

Tropical hibiscus can only live outside year-round in warm climates where it seldom freezes, and when it does freeze, the cold spell is mild and very short. These are the hibiscus that we associate with Hawaii – the kind that are strung into Hawaiian leis. They have a very long blooming season, from spring through late fall, and into winter in places where it doesn’t freeze. They shed a few leaves at a time all year round, so although they do shed all their leaves each year, it’s not noticeable, because they are covered with green leaves all the time.

Varieties of Tropical Hibiscus

  • Painted Lady Hibiscus
  • Hawaiian Sunset
  • Hawaiian white hibiscus (Hibiscus arnottianus)
  • Hibiscus brackenridgei
  • Hibiscus clayi (Clay’s hibiscus)
  • Hibiscus furcellatus
  • Hibiscus kokio
  • Hibiscus tiliaceus
  • Hibiscus waimeae

Different cultivars of Tropical hibiscus grow to different sizes. “Amour,” “Cherie,” “Empire’,” “Hula Girl,” “Red Dragon” and “The Path” reach 6 to 8 feet tall. “Flamenco” and “Fiesta Flame” reach 6 to 7 feet tall, and “Golden Dust” reaches 4 to 6 feet tall. “Crown of Bohemia” and “Seminole Pink” are two of the larger varieties, reaching 8 to 10 feet tall. 

Perennial Hibiscus

Hardy hibiscus, also called “winter-hardy” or “perennial” hibiscus, are most often descended from the species Hibiscus moscheutos or “Rose Mallow”, and sometimes from the species Hibiscus mutabilis or Hibiscus coccineus. Some of the ancestors of these hibiscus were native to the Americas, and all were native to colder parts of the world. Hardy hibiscus die back all the way to the ground each winter, and shoot up new growth each spring. These hibiscus grow well in cold climates, but don’t grow as well in warmer climates, especially hot, dry climates. Hardy hibiscus bloom in late summer or early fall and have a shorter blooming season than tropical hibiscus. 

Perennial hibiscus flowers feature varieties that grow up to 8 feet tall and have spear-shaped or ovate hairy foliage with large, trumpet-shaped white or pink flowers that bloom during the summer months. These hibiscus varieties require a sunny location and ordinary garden soils that are kept moist. The flowering stems are cut back in fall. Perennial hibiscus makes excellent accent and border plants, attracting both butterflies and hummingbirds.

Perennial Hibiscus cultivars include “Kopper King,” “Lord Baltimore” and “Disco Belle Pink.” They grow up to 4 feet tall and wide in full sun and moist, well-draining soil. The showy flowers bloom in summer to fall. The color depends on the cultivar. “Kopper King” has coppery leaves with 12-inch-wide white or pink flowers with burgundy centers. “Lord Baltimore” and “Disco Belle Pink” have pink flowers with red centers and dark green leaves.

Varieties of Perennial Hibiscus

  • Confederate rose (H. mutabilis)
  • Common hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos)
  • Rose mallow (Hibiscus lasiocarpos)
  • Sea hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus)
  • Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)
  • Texas Star hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus)
  •  Hibiscus trionum
  • Giant rose mallow (Hibiscus grandiflorus)


Generally, a hibiscus leaf is quite simple, with ovate staples and an alternate pattern. Each leaf is around 2 to 7 inches long, with the axis of each leaf upholding a single flower.

A hibiscus leaf will usually have two different shades of green on its lower and upper surfaces, with the upper surface usually a brighter green than the lower. In addition, fresh growth tends to be a lighter shade of green as well. Hibiscus leaves are mostly made up of water, at a ratio of more than 85 percent. They also contain various chemical components that make them valuable for a variety of medicinal purposes.

Perennial hibiscus has dull, medium-green leaves in heart shapes and produces white, pink or red blooms the size of dinner plates. Tropical hibiscus has deep green, glossy leaves and 3 to 6-inch flowers in shades of lavender, blue, red, pink, yellow, orange or salmon; some tropical varieties also have double blooms.