Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Hibiscus rosa sinensis L.

Frost-tender, rounded, bushy, evergreen shrub or small tree with broadly lance-shaped leaves with toothed margins, to 15cm long, and solitary, 5-petalled, bright crimson flowers, to 10cm across, borne singly from the leaf axils in summer and autumn.  Hibiscus rosa-sinensis simplex is a single-flowered variety, possibly close to the wild crimson form.  To 3m.  Many single and double-flowered cultivars exist in shades of crimson, orange, yellow or white.  [RHSE, Hortus].

Horticultural & Botanical History

‘Rumphius in his Herbarium Amboinense gives an excellent account of this beautiful native of the East-Indies, accompanied by a representation of it with double flowers, in which state it is more particularly cultivated in all the gardens in India, as well as China. […] The inhabitants of India, he observes, are extremely partial to whatever is red, they consider it as a colour which tends to exhilarate; and hence they not only cultivate this plant universally in their gardens, but use its flowers on all occasions of festivity, and even in their sepulchral rites.’  The plant figured has a single crimson flower, probably similar to Macarthur’s Hibiscus rosa-sinensis simplex.  [BM t.158/1791]. 

Many of the early Victorian cultivars were illustrated in Loddiges’ Botanical Cabinet, including rubra.  ‘In India, the flowers are used by the natives, to decorate their houses and temples, and some of the Europeans there (not much in proof of their superior taste) call it the shoe plant, and use these beautiful flowers to rub over their dirty shoes instead of blacking.’  [LBC no.995/1824].  Introduced to Britain in 1731.  [JD].

History at Camden Park

Listed in all published catalogues [T.548/1843].


Published Jan 11, 2010 - 05:23 PM | Last updated Jan 11, 2010 - 05:28 PM

Figured are ovate-lance-shaped, toothed leaves and bright red single flower.  Curtis's Botanical Magazine t.158, 1791.

Hibiscus rosa sinensis L. | BM t.158/1791 | BHL

Family Malvaceae
Region of origin

Probably tropical Asia

Common Name

Chinese hibiscus, Hawaiian hibiscus, Rose of China, Shoe-black

Name in the Camden Park Record

Hibiscus rosa sinensis simp.

Confidence level