Hibiscus Companion Plants

Hibiscus is a well-known genus containing many popular garden shrubs and perennials. Among them are Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, the tropical hibiscus, and Hibiscus moscheutos, the hardy hibiscus. These plants can grow between 4-12 feet tall, although larger plants exist. Hibiscus is grown for its showy, characteristic flowers in shades of white, red, orange, or pink. These plants make excellent specimen plants in borders, foundation plantings, and containers. Their stunning blooms will enhance tropical gardens, wildlife gardens, rain gardens, and cottage gardens. 

Tropical hibiscus is hardy to zones 9-12. This woody, evergreen plant boasts glossy leaves with tubular flowers in spring and summer. Hardy hibiscus is a perennial in zones 5-9, blooming with massive flowers in summer and early fall. Both tropical and hardy hibiscus need full sun for optimal growth, health, and flowering. Plant them in moist, slightly acidic to neutral soil. In its native habitat, hardy hibiscus grows in low-lying areas or near margins of ponds, streams, or rivers; therefore, it can tolerate wet soils. 


Shrubs To Plant With Hibiscus

Although hardy hibiscus is a perennial, it can often be used to replace shrubs in the landscape due to its large, shrub-like form. However, hardy hibiscus is relatively slow to emerge, typically not popping up until late spring or early summer. Fill in the gaps with long-blooming shrubs like crepe myrtle and hydrangeas to provide structure and color to your garden until your hibiscus sprouts and blooms. 

In wetter soils and near ponds, consider planting hardy hibiscus with buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis). The whimsical pom-pom flowers of buttonbush bloom around the same time as the dinner plate-sized blooms of hardy hibiscus, creating an interesting border to water features. In tropical gardens, pair hibiscus with trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans), a woody vine with large, tubular flowers. As an added bonus, trumpet creeper will work with hibiscus to attract hummingbirds to your garden. 


Perennials To Plant With Hibiscus 

Hibiscus is a must-have addition to perennial gardens. Both hardy and tropical hibiscus are perfect for pollinator gardens because they attract bees and hummingbirds. Plant them with other pollinator favorites such as bee balm (Monarda sp.) and milkweed (Asclepias sp.). Hibiscus can also be incorporated into a traditional cottage garden along with garden staples like daylilies, alliums, and irises. 

Because hardy hibiscus is tolerant of wet soils, it is often a candidate for rain gardens, which are designed to absorb stormwater runoff. Grow it with cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium sp.), turtlehead (Chelone sp.), marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), and rushes (Juncus sp.) for a beautiful, functional rain garden. 


Annuals To Plant With Hibiscus

Growing annuals with hibiscus allows you to try out various garden designs and styles. Take advantage of the tropical appearance of hibiscus by growing it with annuals with colorful foliage and flowers. Plants like canna lilies and elephant ears have vibrant flowers or large, arrow-shaped leaves that will give your garden a lush, tropical feel. Since hibiscus can grow very large, layer your garden with shorter facer plants like geraniums and coleus to create a structured, natural look. Use a low-growing, sprawling annual such as alyssum or sweet potato vine to fill empty spaces. 

Best Companion Plants For Hibiscus in Containers

Both tropical and hardy hibiscus can be planted in containers. While they look stunning when planted in large containers alone, hibiscus makes a great focal point when grown with container companions. Add a variegated foliage plant like caladium to complement the colors of the hibiscus flowers. Next, add a unique filler plant, such as dwarf bee balm. The vibrant, whorled blossoms of bee balm will add an eye-catching pop of color to the container. Finish the look by adding sweet potato vine, which will spill down the sides of the container. Do not allow the soil to dry out for long periods of time, especially when growing hardy hibiscus in containers. 

Plants Not To Grow With Hibiscus

Hibiscus needs full sun for best flowering and growth, so do not plant it under the shade of large trees or shrubs. Since hardy hibiscus requires consistently moist soil, it should not be grown with plants that need drier soils. Avoid planting it with succulents like sedum or cacti, and do not pair it with plants that grow best in xeric or Mediterranean environments, such as rosemary, agave, and yucca. Growing these plants together can cause root rot and death of the xeric plants; likewise, under-watering the hibiscus will cause decline or death. 

Best Plants To Grow With Hibiscus

The best plants to grow with hibiscus are those that grow well in moist to wet soils and full sun. Complement the flowers of hibiscus with shrubs such as crape myrtle and hydrangea. Create a tropical garden by growing hibiscus with trumpet creeper, canna lilies, elephant ears, and coleus. Attract pollinators with plants like bee balm and milkweed, and add hibiscus to your rain garden along with cardinal flower, Joe Pye weed, and turtlehead. Finally, use hibiscus as a thriller in containers with companions such as dwarf bee balm, caladium, and sweet potato vine.

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Lauren Youngcourt - Published 12-06-2023