Hibiscus ludwigii

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Botanical Name
Hibiscus ludwigii
Malvaceae - The hibiscus and cotton family.
hi-BIS-kus lud-WIG-ee-eye
Common Name(s)
English: Hibiscus
Afrikaans: Roostou; Wildestokroos
Plant Group
  • Shrub A woody plant of relatively low height, having several stems arising from the base and lacking a single trunk; a bush.
Plant Size
  • Large
    Tree18m to 25m
    Shrub3m to 4m
    Perennial/ground cover75cm to 1m
    Bulb80cm to 1.2m
    Succulent1m to 1.5m
  • Medium to Large
    Tree15m to 20m
    Shrub2m to 3m
    Perennial/ground cover60cm to 75cm
    Bulb60cm to 1m
    Succulent60cm to 1m
  • Light or Dappled Shade Found below trees with sparse, open foliage. Ideal for the protection of herbaceous plants.
  • Partial Shade The area is in shade for part of the day and in full sun for part of the day.
  • Sun The area is in full sun for all or most of the day, all year round.
General Information
  • Drought Tolerance: Moderate The plant is moderately adapted to arid conditions and can survive short periods of drought and high temperatures without extra water.
  • Evergreen Plants that have leaves all year round.
  • Frost: Tender A plant that will not survive any frost or low winter temperatures.
  • Prune hard after flowering Fast growing shrubs that grow lanky within a season. Cut off branches and stems of these plants to a third of their original length. This will increase the yield of flowers, improve the plants shape and enhance the structural strength of main branches.
  • Thorns / Spines / Prickles Thorn: A hard, woody, pointed branchlet. Spine: A modified leaf forming a hard, sharp-pointed outgrowth. Prickle: A small, sharp-pointed outgrowth growing from the bark of the plant.
  • Water Wise Plant species originating from low rainfall regions that require less water to survive and thrive than other plant species.
Specific Information

Hibiscus ludwigii is a large, rounded, multi-stemmed perennial shrub, sprawling up to 3 meters across. Stems, which  become woody as they age, are very tough and fibrous. Leaves are light green, quite large at about 8 cm across, with three to five lobes. Stems, leaves and fruits are covered with stiff, bristly, stinging hairs which can cause intense discomfort.

Flowers hang singly, facing downwards and last for only one day.

This species has not been much used in gardens, probably because of the discomfort it can cause. However, it is ideal for areas where it can ramble unfettered in boundary planting, golf courses, estates, reserves and large gardens.

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bell shaped, about 10 cm across, with a purple spot in the throat

  • Summer to Autumn Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • yellow
  • white
Growth Rate
  • Fast Specifying growth rate can be very misleading as there is considerable variation of growth rate depending on type and species of plant, available water, supplementary feeding, mulching and general care, as well as the plants suitability and adaptability to the garden environment.
Plant Uses
  • Attracts bees, butterflies or other insects This plant attracts insects which can be food for birds or other creatures in your garden.
  • Attracts Birds This plant will attract birds.
  • Boundary A plant useful for planting around the edges of the property to form a green or colourful backdrop, an impenetrable hedge, to hide walls or create privacy.
  • Filler Either a fast growing tree or shrub used temporarily to fill in an area while the permanent plants grow to a desired size, or a plant used to fill gaps in borders or beds.
  • Suitable for coastal gardens Plants adapted to dry, sandy soil, forceful wind, limited rainfall and intense sunlight.
  • Wild Garden An indigenous garden planted for the benefit of wildlife and birds. Provides food, water, a variety of mini-biomes and no poisonous chemicals are used.
Distribution and Habitat

in South Africa along the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal coasts, then further north through tropical east Africa up to Ethiopia and Eritrea, with small populations in the Cameroon and Ghana in west Africa, growing as an undershrub in forests and along the edges of forests, vleis, rivers and streams

Planting Suggestions

Hibiscus ludwigii is an excellent subject for a boundary or part of a background shrubbery. The plant is reported to prefer acidic soil conditions but is thriving in my slightly alkaline conditions. It is easily grown from seed or propagated from woody or green stem cuttings. Prune hard in autumn to keep the shrub dense, or allow it freedom to creep through the surrounding shrubbery. It does particularly well in a position facing north or east.

A note about the stinging hairs: Cutting back and pruning of this shrub can be a bit of a trial. I usually wear long sleeves and jeans but the hairs still creep in everywhere and create a great deal of discomfort. Fortunately the hairs wash out of clothes and off the skin easily - a bath or shower immediately after working with the plant is probably a necessity. Individuals with sensitive skin should probably get someone else to do the pruning.

Despite this bad press, the plant is very pretty, tough and needs no extra care.

Lorraine's Garden Notes
Medicinal Uses

Fibers from the inner bark of the stems were used for rope-making and in some parts of Africa the leaves are cooked and used as a vegetable.

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I have mine growing on a west and south facing part of my garden, which gets a lot of summer sun. My three plants have spread to fill out an entire corner. Beautiful flowers.

Since I was born the shrub grows wild near my home and we use it for treating ulcers and some times smearing the mud walls of our houses. I am Ugandan of bantu tribe. Thank you.

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