Hibiscus is well known for its beautiful, large, colorful flowers. Although native to warm, tropical regions, these stunning plants can be found decorating homes and gardens across the globe.Hibiscus is actually a genus of plants with over 200 species which come in a vast array of colors including white, orange, yellow, purple, red, pink, and blue. But it’s not just the attractive flowers that make these plants so special. Hibiscus is healthy, has many uses, and has become a part of tradition in some countries.
How to Grow Hibiscus
The best way to grow hibiscus is in a planter which will allow you to move the plant around to different locations throughout the year. They love the sun, and its blooms will flourish, given six hours of sunlight every day. The optimum temperature for your hibiscus plant is over 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep it outside in the summer but bring it indoors at the first signs of frost. They also prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6.5 and 6.8. Try using a potting soil that’s designed for acidic plants and drains well.
Caring for Your Hibiscus Plant
During its blooming phase, your hibiscus will require large amounts of water. In the summer and warmer months, it will need watering every 1-2 days. As the weather becomes cooler, hibiscus needs much less water. In winter, check the soil and only water when it’s dry to the touch.Hibiscus also requires lots of nutrients to bloom. Feed your plant a high potassium fertilizer every two weeks during the summer months only.Care for this special plant and your hibiscus will thrive, giving your home or garden the look of a tropical paradise wherever you are in the world.
The Cultural Importance of Hibiscus
In countries where it grows naturally, hibiscus has taken on a level of cultural importance. Species of hibiscus have become the national flowers of Haiti, Malaysia, and South Korea. Hibiscus brakenridgei, the yellow hibiscus, is the state flower of Hawaii.Hindu’s believe that hibiscus flowers emit divine energy and consciousness. In certain rituals, red hibiscus is offered to the Lord Ganesha and Goddess Kali.In Tahiti, women use a hibiscus flower to show their marital status. They tuck the flower behind the right ear to indicate they’re single or the left if they’re married. However, in Kerala, a southern state of India, this custom instead indicates madness.
Ayurvedic Medicine and Hibiscus
The traditional Indian practice of Ayurvedic medicine is one of the oldest holistic healing systems. It considers white and red hibiscus to have many medicinal properties. Ayurveda incorporates the plant’s leaves, roots, and flowers into remedies for headaches, menstrual cramps, swelling, hair loss, venereal diseases, constipation, and colds. It also uses hibiscus to induce short-term infertility.
Health Benefits of Hibiscus
Hibiscus is full of vitamins and minerals that help strengthen the immune system. With large levels of vitamin C, hibiscus tea is a great way to prevent cold and flu in the cold winter months. Hibiscus is also full of antioxidants that help boost overall health. And, although studies are still ongoing, there is evidence that this special plant could also help lower high cholesterol.
Lower Blood Pressure
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the US. Research into the health benefits of hibiscus shows that the plant’s antioxidants can reduce inflammation in blood vessels. By doing so, it prevents the build-up of blood cells that would lead to clotting and high blood pressure. Hibiscus also helps to treat upper respiratory pain and inflammation. A daily dose of hibiscus tea really is good for the heart and lungs!
A great way to enjoy hibiscus and take in all its healthy goodness is by using it to make tea. Brewing the dried leaves gives the beverage a deep ruby color. In Egypt and Sudan, hibiscus tea is known as karkade and drunk hot to lower body temperature. It’s also popular as a refreshing iced drink.Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should speak with their physician before drinking hibiscus tea.
Cooking With Hibiscus
Hibiscus is edible and has a citrus-like flavor and is a tasty addition to many dishes such as soups, salads, sauces, curries, chutneys, jellies, and jams. Dried and cured hibiscus flowers make a delicious snack that Mexicans consider a delicacy. Boiled hibiscus leaves make a great alternative to spinach. Adding hibiscus to a dish is sure to add a burst of flavor and color.
A Natural Dye
Coming in such vibrant colors, hibiscus is becoming ever more popular as a natural dye. The food industry is turning to hibiscus as an alternative to artificial food colorings, especially red. For years, Chinese women have used the flower extract to dye their eyebrows and hair. Try making your own hibiscus coloring and experiment with dyeing fabrics, yarns, or even transforming eggs at Easter!
Other Uses For Hibiscus
The Chinese commonly refer to hibiscus as the shoe flower as it’s used to polish shoes. They also crush hibiscus flowers and leaves to make a homemade shampoo which they believe helps with dandruff and stimulates hair growth. In Polynesia, fibers from the bark of the hibiscus tree are used to make grass skirts. And the species hibiscus cannabinus is widely used in the paper industry.