Australian native hibiscus has gained much popularity over the last decade and is now widely cultivated for its showy flowers, open growth habit and edible leaves, flowers and fruits.
It can be grown as a shrub or small tree that produces large white, pink or yellow star-shaped flowers borne in impressive clusters between spring and summer.
The edible lance-shaped leaves, paper-thin flowers and pink fruits have both made this native a well-known bush tucker, offering growers both ornamental and practical applications within their homes and landscapes.
Here is your guide to growing and caring for this profusely flowering native in your garden.
The brilliantly colourful blooms and fruits of native hibiscus can be an asset for any garden regardless of the setting. As these plants can be pruned to size, they can be used in many positions within gardens so you have many decorative and functional possibilities depending on your landscaping needs.
This plant is hardy and adaptable, being perfectly suited to native and tropical gardens with warm environments. Enjoy the plant's relaxed and open form along with profuse blooms and lush evergreen foliage.
What is Australian Native Hibiscus?
Botanically labelled Hibiscus heterophyllus, common names now include native hibiscus and native rosella. The hibiscus genus consists of about 35 to 40 species native to Australia where they occur largely in New South Wales and Queensland.
These fast-growing plants thrive in sub-tropical to tropical regions but can be grown in cooler climates where they may need to be protected from harsh winter frosts.
Native hibiscus, native rosella
Flowering plant, shrub
2 metres tall, 1 metre wide
White, pink, yellow (depending on area)
Spring to summer
Deep pink edible fruits in late summer
Poisonous for pets:
Non-toxic to dogs, toxic to cats if ingested
Hibiscus Heterophyllus Features
In cultivation, the plant will grow to around 2 metres tall and 1 metre wide. It will produce its decorative edible fruits from year one onwards and the flowers and leaves can also be used in a few ways within the kitchen.
The large flowers have deep red centres and are borne in white, pale pink or yellow depending on the growing area. The blooms and fruits will attract local birds, bees and butterflies.
Landscaping applications will vary depending on the size of the plant you establish but they are commonly used for borders, colourful garden features, shelters or gap-filling in beds.
How to Grow Australian Native Hibiscus
Most Australian native hibiscus plants can be grown from seeds or propagated using cuttings. It is good to note that cuttings produce the most horticultural desirable plants that have longer flowering times and more blooms overall.
This is because cuttings grow fibrous roots whereas plants grown from seeds produce tap-root systems. Seeds can also be less reliable in general, especially if grown in cooler climates.
Nursery plants are also always a good option but true-to-type native hibiscus can be hard to come by.
Australian Native Hibiscus Propagation
Propagating Native Hibiscus Using Cuttings
- Take your cutting from a disease-free mature specimen in late winter to early spring.
- Using a sharp and sterilised pair of secateurs, cut a branch at a 45-degree angle through the node. (Check out our in depth buying guide on secateurs if you don't have one yet or looking to replace your old one).
- Prepare a well-draining container filled with a quality propagation mix. Add some compost or other organic materials into the soil to enrich it.
- Plant the cutting into the container to about halfway up the stem then water in well.
- Place the cutting in a warm, open location away from direct sun. Ideal temperatures are between 20 to 25°C.
- If you experience strong winds, you may need to stake your cutting as the roots are still shallow. (Find out how to properly stake plants here).
- The cutting should root within 6 to 8 weeks.
- Allow it to develop in the pot for another few months before transplanting it into the garden.
Growing Hibiscus Heterophyllus from Seed
- Using sandpaper or a sharp knife, abrade the surface of your seeds to help encourage faster germination.
- Prepare well-draining seedling trays filled with a premium seed-raising mix.
- Sow your seeds gently into the mix, only lightly covering them. Seeds should be sown in spring for the best results.
- Water or mist lightly after sowing then place them in a warm location out of direct light.
- Allow the seeds to sprout. When the seedlings have reached about 20cm in height, you can pot them into larger containers for continued growth.
- Ideal temperatures for seed germination are also 20 to 25°C.
Planting & Caring for Australian Native Hibiscus
This hardy plant is frost tolerant outside of the cooler southern areas. If you experience harsh winter frosts, it may be best to establish your native hibiscus in a large pot so it can be moved indoors during very cold nights.
Here are some of the ideal planting conditions and care tips for your native rosella.
Flowering and fruiting will always be more prolific in full sun positions but the plant will do well in partial shade as well. A good benchmark is to let your plant receive at least 5 to 6 hours of decent sun each day with some afternoon shade.
Being so well-adapted to our endemic conditions, this plant will tolerate most soil types as long as it is well-draining. However, if you think you are experience some problems with your garden soil, refer to this guide and find out how to solve them.
Pruning Native Hibiscus
It is best to prune your plant down by about one-third after flowering. This will ensure the size is maintained, the density is encouraged and a tidy appearance is well-kept.
If you wish to establish a smaller specimen, you can hard-prune this plant for a more compact form.
These plants enjoy occasional waterings that allow the soil to be slightly moist but never wet. They are pretty tolerant of drought so overwatering should be avoided. Water the plant at its base, being careful not to water the flowers and foliage.
In good growing conditions, fertilising is not always necessary but to encourage bountiful blooms and fruits, adding a control-release native fertiliser blend in spring can be a good idea.
Australian Native Hibiscus – Bush Tucker Tips
Native rosella has become quite popular among native food enthusiasts across Australia thanks to its unique tart-sweet flavour profiles.
The flowers, fruits and leaves can all be used to enhance many culinary dishes, raw or cooked, where the bark was traditionally used to make bowstrings, twine, nets and rope.
As with most edible plants, caution is always advised. This specific species is not suitable for those who have underlying kidney problems.
How to Use Native Hibiscus Flowers & Leaves
- After flowering, simply pick the healthiest, plumpest leaves, flowers or fruits straight from the plant.
- Rinse to remove any dirt before use.
- The flowers and fruits feature a pleasant tart-sweet flavour that can be used as an addition to salads, jellies, syrups, sauces, jams, cordials or fruit-based teas and wines.
- Some shops even stock preserved flowers and fruits for a more accessible experience.
- Not much medicinal evidence has officially been cited for these flowers but they are known to be high in vitamin C.
- The flowers and fruits can also be stuffed and baked.
- The leaves can be used similarly to lettuce where they can also be plucked from the plant, rinsed and used.
- Steam or stir-fry the leaves for use in any dish you like. The cooked leaves are also known as red sorrel.
There are many tasty and desirable recipes available online so be sure to see what may interest you and your family. Here are a few simple recipes to help get you started:
Another fantastic species for use as a bush tucker is Hibiscus sabdariffa which can be used in the same way.
Possible Native Hibiscus Pests and Diseases
Thanks to their very hardy and adaptable natures, these plants rarely struggle from any pest or disease issues when grown in good conditions. As with most fruiting and flowering plants, they can sometimes suffer from infestations of scale insects or flea beetles.
To treat these pest problems, you can use an organic insecticidal spray or neem oil spray to quickly reduce infestation. Try to use an insecticide that isn’t harmful to bees as they will continuously frequent your plant.
Native Hibiscus Frequently Asked Questions
They certainly prefer and perform best in warm, sunny positions in free-draining soil but they can be grown in part shade. Full shade should be avoided.
Are hibiscus roots invasive?
No. The roots are not very widespread or deeply rooted so planting near structures or borders can be done.
Does native hibiscus grow well in pots?
Yes, these plants can do very well in many types of pots and planters. Plastic pots work great but they can also grow well in terracotta or ceramic containers.
Interested in growing other native or non-native Hibiscus varieties? Be sure to check out our in-depth guide on how to grow Hibuscus and it's varieties.
Wrapping Up Our Australian Native Hibiscus Guide
A fantastically flowering bush tucker, native hibiscus is a perfect pick for those looking at establishing a colourful addition in their gardens that doesn’t require much fuss at all.
Enjoy the summery paper-thin blooms, relaxed open foliage and decorative pink fruits easily with this spectacular native. Whether grown for its beauty or culinary influence, Australian native hibiscus will always impress regardless of its setting in your landscape.