Buying Tropical Hibiscus at Shows

Many new Hibiscus enthusiasts fall into their first “hibiscus frenzy” upon visiting a flower show & sale.  Major hibiscus shows are run by local chapters of the American Hibiscus Society, generally in spring & summer.  Hundreds of exotic hibiscus blooms are entered in competition, where they vie for the approval of AHS trained judges.  Growers are usually on-hand to sell many varieties of potted Hibiscus rosa-sinensis plants, which are typically priced in the range of $10 to $40.  The local chapters usually get a percentage of the sales, so these events are also major fund-raisers for the clubs.

As the blooms are judged, they are set out on tables for the public and club members to admire.  Upon seeing these exotic flowers, the first reaction is usually “Where can I buy this plant?”.  Well, there is a “catch” to growing exotic hibiscus for competition..

Local growers will have many beautiful and exotic hibiscus varieties for sale, and many a happy gardener will be excited over their finds.  But, although many hundreds of varieties are commercially available to the public, the very “latest & greatest” of the prize winning blooms are not usually available for sale at these events.  The top winners, shown with ribbons on the head table, are quite often new varieties which only exist as an extremely limited numbers of plants, owned by only a few growers.

Over a period of several years, some of the top show-winning plants will make their way into the open market for everyday enthusiasts to buy, but a large percentage of new varieties will never exist outside the collections of a few professional growers, dedicated collectors, and officers of the AHS.

However, many rare varieties are available to members who join local chapters and learn to graft cuttings.  Joining one of the local American Hibiscus Society Chapters provides new hibiscus fanatics with opportunities to meet other growers.  Chapter members are often glad to exchange “wood”, or cuttings for grafting with other members the AHS.  Cuttings are generally about 6 inch long pieces of woody stem, often with ends sealed with wax.  The cuttings are grafted onto “root stock” plants, and eventually grow into new bushes.

The clubs also offer lessons on grafting, so pretty soon you can be collecting plants and exchanging cuttings with other hibiscus growers all around the country.  If you do not live near a local AHS chapter club, there are several Internet forums where hibiscus enthusiasts exchange information and arrange to exchange cuttings. (Basically, having access to the very latest & greatest blooming hibiscus cultivars is all about networking within the organization, just as in any other specialty organization.)

A number of commercial growers specialize in tropical hibiscus, and several create their own varieties via hybridizing.  Some growers display and sell plants at shows, while others sell only at their nurseries or via mail-order.

Several of these specialty growers of hibiscus rosa-sinensis have allowed us to use their photos on this site, and are listed here.  Other specialty growers can be found in the ads on this site, through an Internet search, or in the publications of the American Hibiscus Society and its local chapters.


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