Hibiscus is a flowering plant that belongs to the Mallow family, Malvaceae. It is mainly grown in Kenya in the tropics for its flowers which can be used for various purposes.
Farmer Francis Miano from Nyahururu grows hibiscus and processes them in to other products. According to Miano, hibiscus leaves and seeds can be used to manufacture animal feeds and dried hibiscus flowers can be used to make tea.
Hibiscus tea is ruby in colour with a tart, cranberry-like flavour and can be consumed hot or cold.
“It can be used in making cosmetics and herbal medicine. Hibiscus aids in maintaining fluid balance in the body, boosts body immunity, can prevent hair fall and be used to treat dandruff,” says Miano.
Hibiscus thrive in warm areas, therefore they need abundant sunshine. Sandy loam soils with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5 is preferred. The soil should be rich in organic matter, slightly acidic and with constant moisture.
Hibiscus can be propagated through seeds or stem cuttings. If propagation is by seeds, they should be soaked in water overnight before planting.
“Hibiscus is grown the same way as maize or beans. The seedlings are propagated in a seedbed then transplanted when they are three to four inches high,” says Miano.
For stem cutting, cut the stem of the parent plant above five or six inches. The cuttings take about eight to 10 weeks to develop roots. The cuttings can be planted in pots or containers depending on your choice.
Hibiscus is a tropical plant that requires constant moisture. Irrigation is therefore highly encouraged, especially during hot and dry seasons and also depending on the soil type.
Hibiscus plants require a lot of nutrients for good blooming of flowers. For this case, fertilisers rich in potassium should be applied as early as possible.
Miano grows his organically and uses plants like the spring onions, Mexican marigold and garlic onion to repel the pest invasions.
Pruning should be done to stimulate the growth of new shoots and buds. This is done by simply removing the weak branches and those growing sideways.
Pests and diseases management
Common pests that attack hibiscus plants include mealy bugs, spider mites and aphids. Diseases include stem and root rot.
The pests and diseases can be managed by practicing proper field hygiene and farm practices or using recommended insecticides and pesticides.
Averagely, the hibiscus plant takes two to three years to attain a mature height. While germinating, the plant first produces a flower and after three weeks it forms a fruit with seeds which is covered by purple sepals and calyxes.
The hibiscus calyxes are best harvested when fully grown but still tender for drying which is mostly done under the sun to suck out all the moisture.
Market for Hibiscus
One plant can produce 200 grammes of calyxes.
Hibiscus flowers can be sold in local markets or supplied to cosmetic companies, ayurvedic companies or herbal medicine manufacturers.
Miano sells 3 kilogrammes of petals at Sh500.