In the Garden

Mount Kahili Hibiscus of Hibiscus kokio, subsp. kokio

KoKi‘o ‘Ula

This is the only endemic "pink" hibiscus in Hawaii. There is another indigenous hibiscus (Hibiscus furcellatus) that has large purple-pink flowers, but I would say it's more purple than pink.

Description and distribution: This subspecies is highly variable having many different forms on several islands including Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Maui and possibly Hawaii.

Hibiscus plants generally all have dark green, glossy leaves with serrated margins and a pointed apex. The flowers are usually red and measure about 2 to 3 inches in diameter.

This one from Mt. Kahili on Kauai, however, is much different. It has duller leaves, with more lobed serrations on its margins, and a rounded apex (young plants have pointed apexes that usually become rounded as they mature).

The leaves cluster toward the stem tips which give this plant a naturally nice shape. The most striking feature of this particular plant is its bright pink flowers that can vary from dark to bright.

Landscape use and care: Compared to most Hibiscuses, this one grows very slow and is adapted to moist areas. Few pests bother this plant, save for the occasional white fly that can be taken care of with store-bought pesticides.

If you are fortunate enough to come across this plant at a sale or store, it will make the perfect addition to your garden. I suggest raising it as specimen plant because of its growth habits and unique beauty, rather than as a hedge like most hibiscuses. Well-drained rich soil in full to partial sun are the best conditions for this plant.

Cultural use: Like most other native hibiscus, the flowers of this plant are eaten as a mild laxative.

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