Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 491 Hibiscus coccineus

Common Names: scarlet hibiscus, scarlet rose mallow Family: Malvaceae (mallow Family)
Image Gallery

scarlet hibiscus flower
The spectacular scarlet hibiscus flower color coordinates pleasingly with red tinged stems and leaves.


The scarlet hibiscus is a slender shrubby herbaceous perennial that dies back in winter and re-sprouts in spring. Established plants can have one to several stems up to 7 ft (2.1 m) tall. The five petaled flowers are brilliant crimson red and 6-8 in (15-20 cm) across. Each lasts only a day but new ones continue to open all summer and fall. The leaves are divided palmately (like the fingers on a hand) into 3-7 narrow, pointed, serrated lobes.


The scarlet hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) occurs naturally in swamps, marshes and ditches, from southern Georgia and Alabama to central Florida. It is often encountered along southern rivers and streams where it towers above the maidencane and pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata).


Light: Does best in full sun. Moisture: Likes a moist soil and can tolerate flooding. Established plants will survive in normal soils without supplementary watering, but they need to be watered during dry spells if you want them to flower. Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 - 11. Propagation: By seeds or root division. Seeds should be punctured with a needle or scraped with a file before planting.


The scarlet hibiscus makes an eye-catching specimen in the landscape with its huge crimson flowers and handsome palmate leaves. Plant them next to a pond or water garden, or at the back of a bed where their elegant leaves and brilliant flowers will attract the eye.

scarlet hibiscus
Shakira the horse poses before a scarlet hibiscus plant that is over 7 ft tall - thanks in part to her contributions. Horses and donkeys don't appear to have a taste for scarlet hibiscus but unfortunately the same cannot be said for deer.


The scarlet hibiscus is one of the largest and most beautiful of North American native flowers. Like the chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus), the scarlet hibiscus often causes people to do a double take as it resembles marijuana (Cannabis spp.). The resemblance quickly ends when the plant bursts forth with its humongous flowers in late summer!

Steve Christman 08/18/97; Updated 07/05/98, 12/5/99, 8/16/02, 10/11/03, 7/10/04, 8/7/11, 7/16/16

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Hibiscus species profiled on Floridata:

Hibiscus coccineus

( scarlet hibiscus, scarlet rose mallow )

Hibiscus grandiflorus

( giant rose mallow, swamp hibiscus, velvet mallow,giant hibiscus )

Hibiscus laevis

( halberdleaf marshmallow, halberd-leaved marshmallow, halberd-leaved rose mallow, smooth marshmallow )

Hibiscus moscheutos

( swamp mallow, swamp hibiscus, swamp rose mallow )

Hibiscus mutabilis

( confederate rose, cotton rose )

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

( Chinese hibiscus, rose-of-China, Hawaiian hibiscus )

Hibiscus sabdariffa

( roselle, Florida cranberry, Indian sorrel, Jamaican sorrel )

Hibiscus syriacus

( rose-of-Sharon, althea )

Hibiscus tiliaceus

( Mahoe, Sea Hibiscus, Cotton Tree, Majagua )

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