Fiesta Hibiscus: How to Grow, Plant, and Care For These Popular Exotics
Thinking of planting a Fiesta Hibiscus around your home, or in your garden? This easy to care for tropical plant can be a beautiful addition to any home or garden. But they also have a few quirks you'll need to be aware of before planting them. Gardening expert Madison Moulton examines the best ways to plant, grow, and care for the Fiesta Hibiscus plant.
There’s nothing quite as enticing as a tropical summer – lounging by the pool, glistening summer sun, colorful cocktails with unfathomable names. In the garden, we imagine bright colors, deep green foliage, and happy, thriving plants.
Unfortunately, not all home gardeners have the luxury of experiencing a tropical summer, whether that be in their own backyards or elsewhere. However, there is an easy way to carve out your own piece of the tropics in your garden and recreate this feeling, all packaged into one powerful plant – Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘Fiesta’.
With a name like ‘Fiesta’, this plant sells itself. But if that’s not enough to convince you, the stunning flowers of this shrub certainly will. As the flowers begin to open, the petals appear bright orange. Slowly, as the full flower takes shape, this color changes into a captivating mix of deep red and blush pink, bordered by tropical orange and edged in a golden color reminiscent of summer sunsets.
Flowering under a range of lighting conditions, the Fiesta Hibiscus is ideal for growing indoors and outdoors, bringing joy with every bright bloom.
Fiesta Hibiscus Overview
Plant Type Shrub
Plant Family MALVACEAE
Plant Genus Hibiscus
Species Hibiscus Rosa-sinensis
Hardiness Zone USDA 10-11
Maturity Rate 2-3 Years
Plant Maintenance Moderate
Plant Height Up to 8 Feet
Growth Rate Slow
Plant With Tropicals
Don’t Plant With Cold Hardy Plants
Soil Type Rich, Well-Draining
Plant Spacing 3 Feet
Watering Needs Moderate
Sun Exposure Shade to Full Sun
Attracts Bees, Butterflies, Birds
Pests Aphids, Spider Mites
Diseases Mildew, Black Spots
Fiesta Hibiscus History & Cultivation
The name Hibiscus rosa-sinensis may mean Rose of China, but this plant is neither a close relative of the rose, nor is it confirmed to have originated in China. Botanists believe this Hibiscus variety may have come from China or India, but it’s true origin is unknown.
Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist responsible for the plant taxonomy system we still use today, brought the first Hibiscus rosa-sinensis specimen back to Europe in the 18th century. It featured in his book Species Plantarum where it was given the specific epithet ‘rosa-sinensis’.
This stunning plant quickly became popular, cultivated in botanical gardens across the globe. Due to its tropical environment and inability to tolerate the cold common in European climates, it was fast adapted as a houseplant, remaining outside in the summer and brought indoors in winter.
It remains a popular flowering houseplant today, found in gardens across the globe. It holds particular significance in Malaysia, where the rosa-sinensis Hibiscus variety is the national flower. Known as Bunga Raya, the beloved flower was chosen in 1960 for its ubiquity across the country.
Hibiscus is commonly propagated from cuttings or from seeds. However, if you want to ensure your propagated ‘Fiesta’ Hibiscus looks the same as the original plant, cuttings are best. Propagation from seed, especially when it comes to tropical hibiscus plants, can lead to unexpected results. For a carbon copy, opt for cuttings, but if you’re looking to experiment, you will still see success with seeds.
Propagation From Hibiscus Cuttings
Hibiscus cuttings need to be taken from new shoots of the plant, known as softwood. As this new growth is most commonly found during spring, this is the easiest time to propagate, but propagation in summer is also possible.
Cut a piece of softwood around 5 inches long from the plant using clean scissors. Either cut from the plant directly below a leaf node – the bumpy spot leaves grow from – or cut the softwood back to the main branch and trim the bottom up to the node.
Remove all but the top few leaves and dip the end in rooting hormone to kickstart growth. Rooting hormone is not absolutely essential, but will give you a much higher chance of success as it stimulates root growth and protects the vulnerable cutting from diseases.
Place the cutting in a pot filled with light, well-draining soil. A mixture of potting soil and an aerating material like perlite is best. Moisten the soil before planting the cutting and ensure the leaves left at the top remain exposed.
With your cutting planted, place a small stake in the center of the pot and cover with a plastic bag. This builds the humidity around the plant, creating the ideal environment for growth, while the stake prevents the bag from collapsing or touching the leaves.
Place the pot in a warm area away from direct sunlight. Keep the soil moist by lifting the plastic bag and watering using a clean spray bottle. In a couple of months, your cuttings should be ready to transplant into larger pots or straight into the garden.
To increase your chances of success, propagate several cuttings in case one doesn’t take. It would be a shame to go through the effort and not gain a new plant in the process.
Propagating From Hibiscus Seeds
As Hibiscus is commonly hybridized, growing from a Fiesta Hibiscus seed will not necessarily give you the actual plant. But, if you want to give it a go anyway, there’s no harm in trying.
Seeds are best started indoors in spring to keep them away from the cold. Make a small cut in the seeds using a sharp knife, ensuring you only pierce the surface of the seed. This cut allows more moisture to enter the seed when soaked in water overnight, increasing the chances of germination.
Fill a container with soil made for starting seeds. It should be fine and well-draining. Water the mixture and allow the excess to drain before planting the seeds just below the soil line and gently covering them. Cover the container with a clear plastic sheet or a plastic bag to maintain high humidity and leave in a warm area (around 80F).
Check the container daily to ensure the soil stays moist. Once the seeds have germinated, they can be moved to a sunnier spot to encourage further growth. When the seedlings have developed several leaves, they can be transplanted into a larger container to facilitate further growth.
Fiesta Hibiscus is typically grown in containers – either indoors or outside – and can survive for many years if the pot is large enough.
However, they are also great garden statement pieces. When planted in garden beds, they have more space to grow, creating a spectacular showing of flowers year-round. Unfortunately, if you live in a colder climate with unforgiving winters, you may have to plant this shrub as an annual, as it will likely succumb to the cold in fall.
Clearly no fans of cold weather, this shrub is best planted in the garden in mid to late spring once the soil has warmed. Leave at least 3 feet of space between walls or other plants as this shrub grows more than you may expect. In ideal conditions without pruning, it can reach up to 8 feet in height.
Ensure the soil is loose and well-draining before planting. Don’t bury the plant any deeper than it was in its original pot as this may cause the stem to rot. Once planted, water deeply and thoroughly to encourage the roots to spread.
Fiesta Hibiscus’ are not the most easy-going plants to grow, but they don’t fall on the list of fussy plants either. Luckily, they have a handy indicator that lets nervous gardeners know how they’re doing – flowers.
As these plants flower almost all year and frequently, the amount of flowers is a good measure of how happy the plant is. Given the right conditions, even beginner gardeners should have nothing to worry about.
As a flowering plant, it should follow that the more sun the plant receives, the more flowers it will produce. However, in excessively hot and dry weather, a full day of sunlight may be harmful to your Fiesta Hibiscus.
They do love light and need plenty of it to flower, but six hours of direct light per day is usually enough. In hotter areas, aim for a spot that receives full morning sun only to avoid overwhelming the plant. They may survive in shadier areas, but will not produce the stunning flowers they are known for.
If grown indoors, like other tropical indoor plants, this shrub will need a full day of bright, indirect sunlight. If you want your plant to flower more frequently, choose a spot in front of a sunny window that gets a few hours of direct sunlight throughout the day.
Fiesta Hibiscus’ do not appreciate dry soil. It could be classified as a ‘thirsty’ plant, although it does not like to sit in water. Keep the soil consistently moist, especially in warmer weather. In tropical climates, this will usually translate to watering every one to two days, depending on the amount of rain in your region.
In containers (especially smaller containers), the soil will dry out far quicker than in garden beds. To ensure your Fiesta Hibiscus gets enough water to flower, you will likely need to water daily in spring and possibly twice a day in summer, depending on the weather.
Indoors, the story is slightly different. Away from the harsh conditions that dry out soil quickly outdoors,this plant certainly won’t need daily watering. The soil should remain evenly moist for a couple of days indoors, leaving you to water once or twice per week on average.
However, indoor conditions vary, especially when it comes to sunlight. To ensure your Hibiscus is getting what it needs, it’s best to keep a close eye on the soil rather than watering on a schedule. Once the top layer of soil begins to dry out slightly, it’s time to water again.
Not too particular about soil (aside from its moisture content), Fiesta Hibiscus will thrive as long as the soil is well-draining. They may prefer slightly acidic soils, but won’t complain if the pH is slightly out that range. Mix in plenty of organic matter to improve soil structure and aeration, preventing root or stem rotting and providing nutrients.
In containers, choose a light potting soil that drains well. Adding a handful of perlite to the mixture will aid in aeration, and peat alternatives like coco peat will improve water retention.
These tropical plants can be tender when it comes to temperature. They thrive in temperatures between 60F and 85F, but struggle if left outside that range for too long. The warmer end of the spectrum is not too detrimental, as long as the plant is given enough water. However, leaving your plant outside in temperatures lower than 50F for more than a day or two, and they will likely face irreparable damage.
In colder climates, keep this shrub potted, rather than planting out in the garden (unless you choose to grow it as an annual). Keep an eye on the night temperatures, and bring the pot indoors if the forecast is chilly.
Fiesta Hibiscus does not require large amounts of fertilizer to survive. However, if you want more flowers more often, specially-formulated hibiscus fertilizer is definitely the way to go.
Slow-release fertilizers are an ideal low-maintenance option, allowing you to fertilize once every few months rather than monthly. Mix the fertilizer into the soil and it will slowly release nutrients as you water, giving the plant exactly what it needs when it needs it.
Alternatively, apply a liquid fertilizer monthly in spring and summer, or apply when the plant lacks blooms to avoid over fertilizing. To encourage flowering and lush green foliage, a fertilizer with a moderate Nitrogen (N), low Phosphorus (P), and high Potassium (K) value is ideal.
Outdoor Fiestas will benefit from an annual pruning session. This keeps the plant bushy, encourages new growth, and maintains a tidy appearance. You can use this time to shape the plant, especially if it is used as a hedge or screen. Prune in spring during the peak growing season for more branches and flowers.
Trim back branches just above a node, ensuring there are at least three nodes left on the branch. Cut any stems growing inwards to promote outward branching. Use this time to remove any dead leaves or damaged branches, keeping the plant healthy and looking as great as its flowers do.
Pests & Diseases
There are a number of pests that find this plant as irresistible as gardeners do. The pest you will most likely come across, on your Hibiscus and in the rest of your garden, is the dreaded aphid. Although tiny, aphids can do some serious damage due to their large groups and quick reproduction. Left alone, they may completely overwhelm your plant.
These nuisances can be picked off or sprayed off by hand if discovered early. When facing a larger group, horticultural oil is best to suffocate them. Apply any oil-based products in cooler, cloudy weather to prevent the leaves from burning.
Other similar pests include whiteflies, mealybugs, or thrips. Indoors, spider mites are a common issue, easily spotted by the fine webbing they leave behind. They can also be removed using horticultural oils.
The Fiesta is not particularly prone to disease, but they are not completely disease-free. The environmental conditions these plants prefer are also loved by various fungal diseases, like Botrytis Blight and Powdery Mildew. Remove any infected areas immediately and destroy them to prevent further spread.
Spots on the leaves may be a sign of Black Spot or Bacterial Leaf Spot. These diseases are unlikely to kill your plant, but can do irreparable damage if left untreated. Prune any affected leaves, practice good garden hygiene, and keep the plant in good health to prevent disease naturally.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘Fiesta’ is obviously appreciated for its sunset-like blooms. In tropical zones, it makes a perfect flowering shrub, flowering consistently for much of the year. Its size makes for a great hedge or screen, with the rows of flowers an added benefit. In the home, it is one of the few plants that can live indoors and flower successfully year after year with the right care.
However, Hibiscus is not only appreciated for its ornamental value. The flowers are also completely edible, with a mild flavor perfect for decorating salads. In some regions, the leaves of this variety are used as a replacement for other leafy greens in stir fry’s.
For a more relaxed ‘Fiesta’, try making your own Fiesta Hibiscus tea. As the flowers bloom for a short amount of time, this is an ideal way to make use of those on their way out. Dry out the flowers or steep them fresh in a pot of boiling water for a botanical, healthy afternoon drink.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will My Fiesta Hibiscus Flower Indoors?
Sunlight is essential to give flowering plants enough energy to produce blooms. If you stick your plant in the dark corner of your bathroom, you are guaranteed to get no flowers. However, Fiestas are favored for their ability to flower indoors under lower light conditions than usual. Give your plant a full day of bright light, with a couple of hours of direct sunlight, and it should bloom regularly indoors.
Why Are The Leaves Turning Yellow?
First and foremost, make sure your plant is an actual Fiesta variety, and not an “Old Yella” which is a yellow perennial flower. There are a number of causes of yellowing leaves. The first – and one no gardeners need to worry about – is that the leaves are old. As the leaves age, they will turn yellow and fall off the plant. This is part of its natural cycle and is no cause for alarm.
If you find more than one or two leaves turning yellow, you may have a bigger problem on your hands. It is most likely an environmental issue – incorrect watering, lighting, or temperatures, or lack of nutrients. Examine the plant’s conditions to determine which factor falls furthest from what the plant needs and correct it. By process of elimination, you should be able to identify the cause and resolve it. Unfortunately, this detective process takes a while, as it will take the plant time to adjust to your new conditions. But, once resolved, your yellowing leaves should be gone for good.
If you have brought your plant indoors after cold weather, the change in conditions may also cause a few leaves to turn yellow. Try to replicate the plant’s outdoor conditions as much as possible indoors when first moved to prevent shock and limit leaf drop. However, this is usually not fatal. Once your Fiesta Hibiscus adjusts to its new environment, it should return to normal.
Are Fiesta Hibiscus’ Perennials?
In tropical climates, Fiesta Hibiscus are perennials as they will continue to flower each year. However, not all regions have the luxury of a tropical climate ideal for this plant. In cooler regions, Fiestas can instead be grown as an annual. Planted in spring once frost has passed, it should continue to flower until fall when it begins to die back.
Is Hibiscus Poisonous To Animals?
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘Fiesta’ is non-toxic to humans and their pets. The flowers and leaves of this plant are edible and high in nutrients. Dogs in particular tend to love munching on the flowers. But, not all Hibiscus varieties are munchable. Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) should be kept away from dogs as excessive ingestion can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Can Hibiscus Survive Through Winter?
Tropical Hibiscus varieties like Fiesta cannot survive in temperatures below 50F for extended periods of time. However, this doesn’t have to stop you from growing one. Many growers bring their Fiestas indoors over winter to protect the plant from frost and return them to their outdoor homes in spring without any problem.
Of all the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis cultivars, Fiesta certainly tops the list of showstoppers. The color-changing flowers appear almost hand-painted, and are reminiscent of a summer sunset, even on a cloudy day. Given the right tropical climates, Fiesta Hibiscus will continue to produce these tiny sunsets year after year, turning your garden into an exotic tropical paradise.