Have you ever watched a movie called Lilo and Stitch? Do you know what flower Lilo wears on her hair? Yes, that is a hibiscus. Hibiscus is one of the most well-known flowers. And perennial flowers that look like hibiscus have also been in high demand among garden enthusiasts.
There are many options available with about 35 native species, relatively easy to find, and colorful bright shades. Some plants have a similar appearance to what we know as hibiscus, as they’re related to another species. We will guide you on how to tell those plants apart.
What does a hibiscus flower look like?
Hibiscus are mainly perennials that grow best in zone 4 to 11, which means they’re not fond of cold. Perennial plants will usually continue to bloom every year and can survive for many years. In four-season countries, perennial plants will die during winter but will grow back when spring comes.
Even though categorized as perennials, hibiscus can also behave as an annual or biennial, depending on a few things like climate and growing conditions.
Hibiscus has 5 or more blooming large petals with a protruding pistil that mostly attracts animals like bees and butterflies. These trumpet-shaped flowers grow individually and have many branches.
The shiny green, wide oval-shaped leaves are rather wide and thin, while the edges of the leaves are jagged roughly. Colors vary from white, yellow, orange, and red to pink, but there are flowers that look like hibiscus with more prominent colors like lilacs.
Several varieties do have thorns, like Monarch rosemallow, but most hibiscus does not grow with one. The root system is a taproot, where there’s only one root that grows deep into the soil.
List of perennial flowers that look like hibiscus.
There are several perennial plants that look like hibiscus. Some are still in the same Malvaceae family and some are not. These including:
1. Musk mallow (Malva moschata)
The first flowers that look like hibiscus in our list are MMusk Mallows. Musk mallow is a Europe and Turkey native wildflower. Often found in places like open fields and roadsides. A part of the Malvaceae family, this individual flower is decorated with bright pink or lilac purple color and blooms from fall to summer.
2. Hollyhock (Alcea rosea)
The second flowers that look like hibiscus are Hollyhock. Hollyhocks are more cup-shaped and bloom on a tall stake with a group of more than 5 flowers. The leaves are large, shaped like a palate, and coarse-textured. They only need full sun alongside rich and well-drained soil, making them a maintenance-friendly ornamental plant. Hollyhocks can be both perennial and biennial.
3. Coastal Mallow (Kosteletzkya pentacarpos)
Hibiscus and coastal mallow look almost identical to each other. This white and pink flower has an erect yellow pistil that is appealing to pollinators and hummingbirds. Grows in areas like marshes and brackish waters, it’s no wonder this edible herb flower is resistant to salt and wet soil.
4. Velvet-Tree Mallow (Malva arborea)
Originating from the West and South areas of Europe and the North area of Africa, velvet-tree mallow can grow up to 2 meters tall with smooth velvety leaves. Its flowers look like hibiscus, with colors of lilac, pink, or purplish petals, white pistil, and a hint of very dark purple at the center of each flower. It has 6 to 8 seeds per fruit.
5. Portia Tree (Thespesia populnea)
Do you know that the portia tree has bisexual flowers? It means the portia tree’s flowers carry both male and female reproductive organs. This perennial plant’s native habitat is on the seashore and at the landslide of mangrove forests. They can grow anywhere from 10 to 20 meters tall, with brown, round, or pear-shaped fruits that are edible. The flower has beautiful yellowish-white or pale-white petals with five dots maroon center and bright yellow pistil.
6. Bala or Flannel Weed (Sida cordifolia)
Bala is a part of a traditional medicinal plant that is native to India. They are typically short, averaging from 0.5 to 1.3 meters tall with many branches, and are woody at the base but herbaceous near the top. Flowers can be short or long-stemmed, either solitary or clustered, and are cup-shaped 5 petals. Varies in colors like shades of white, yellow, or orange with a darker center. Each flower has one yellow pistil.
7. Rock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala)
The next flowers that look like hibiscus are Rock roses. Rock rose is a popular plant throughout Texas because of its high tolerance to heat and long blooming period. This perennial looks like a hibiscus, only the flower is much smaller in size.
The flower is a deep rose pink with bright yellow pistils, and just like velvet-tree mallow, the heart-shaped leaves have a velvety texture. As a perennial, this ornamental 1.2 meters tall shrub can live anywhere from 3 to 6 years.
8. Pink Mallow or Rough-Leaf African Mallow (Anisodontea scabrosa)
The tiny flowers of pink mallow look like miniature hibiscuses. It has bright pink petals and a dark pink center with white and bright pink pistils. They don’t need rich soil to survive.
The best place to plant pink mallow is in well-drained soil with low-water content and full sun. They’re not resistant to cold and harsh winters. A Cape Provinces and Kwa-Zulu Natal native, pink mallow can get as high as 1.80 meters.
9. Sunset Huskmallow (Abelmoschus manihot)
The next flower that looks like a hibiscus is the sunset huskmallow. Also known as sweet hibiscus or “aibika”, sunset huskmallow is a shallow-rooted plant with a native distribution around South-East Asia. The shape, size, and color pigmentation of sunset huskmallow varies.
The leaves may be any shade from light to dark green that goes from red to purple. Flowers are wide, bell-shaped, with a color of pale yellow and dark brown or dark maroon center and yellow pistil.
10. Desert Cotton or Mt. Lemmon Cotton (Gossypium thurberi)
As stated in its name, desert cotton is also known as “algodoncillo” in Spanish, which means “little cotton”. This plant blooms from May to October, and typically can be found in grasslands and woodlands above 6000 feet above sea level. The flowers are pale yellow with red or pink spots at the base of each petal.
Dessert cotton is a massive plant that can grow as tall as 4 meters and its leaves turn bright red or maroon colors when it falls.
11. Marshmallow Plant (Althea officinialis)
The name marshmallow that this perennial looks like hibiscus get is not delivered from food that we all know. The term marshmallow is from the natural habitat of this plant, which are salty and brackish marshes near the sea and grassy banks.
They grow around 1.2 meters tall and 0.8 meters wide. Blooming time is from July to September. Same to portia tree, marshmallow plant is also bisexual or hermaphrodite. The flowers are white with a dark green center, 5-petaled, and have dark purplish pink pistils.
12. Chaparral Bush Mallow (Malacothamnus fasciculatus)
Chaparral bush mallow is commonly grown in California, and it can grow up to 5 meters tall. Leaves are oval or rounded, around 2-11 centimeters long. Flowers are cup-shaped, white or bright purple, with orange or dark purple pistils. They bloom during spring and summer.
Sadly, this plant is an endangered species requiring federal protection. Chaparral bush mallow is very attractive to birds and pollinators.
What can you do with plants that look like hibiscus?
Apart from its gorgeous flowers, almost all perennial looks like hibiscus bear many benefits for both humans and animals. We can start with musk mallow. The leaves and flowers part is non-irritant, which makes them usually used to treat bruises, insect bites, and inflammations. If consumed internally, musk mallow also can be used to treat digestive/urinary inflammation.
The coastal mallow has a long history of use among indigenous tribes, who used this plant to cure exhaustion and menstrual cramping. Its beautiful flowers are also edible and can be used as garnishes. As a notable medical plant, research has shown that the whole bala or flannel weed plant contains chemicals like asparagine and alkaloids such as ephedrine, vasicine, and hypaphorine, and it’s also a part of ayurvedic medicine.
Last but not least, all parts of marshmallow plants have been used to treat various diseases such as coughs, skin irritation, and digestive problems. It’s also available in many forms, from powder, capsule, tea, and syrup.
Although these flowers are believed to be beneficial to treat certain illnesses, we still need more scientific evidence to support this claim. So it’s better to consult with your doctor first before taking any of these plants as a medicine.
10 Fun facts about hibiscus and perennial looks like hibiscus.
1. Hibiscus is a national flower of Malaysia and Haiti.
2. Hibiscus has been long used as a medical plant in some countries in Asia.
3. Polynesian women use a hibiscus flower in their hair, and it’s not only decoration. If they wore it on their right ear, it means that they were looking for a partner. If they wore it on their left ear, it means that they were married.
4. Hollyhock symbolizes fruitfulness.
5. Bala or flannel weed contains amphetamine-like stimulants.
6. Hibiscus flowers are also hermaphrodites.
7. Marshmallow plants are often associated with beauty and fertility.
8. Marshmallow plants’ flowers are used to decorate graves and honor the dead.
9. Bala or flannel weed is associated with Parvathi, the ancient Hindu Goddess of Beauty and Grace.
10. Mallows, just like roses, is the symbol of romance and passion.
To wind up, flowers that look like hibiscus can be a good alternative if you are not able to plant a real hibiscus. These aesthetically pleasing flowers provide you with many benefits, generally easy to maintain, non-toxic, and convenient for our planet. If you like this article, don’t forget to comment and share. Happy Gardening!