Hibiscus cannabinus is a perennial plant from the Malvaceae family, endemic to tropical areas. It is also closely related to okra, cotton and hollyhocks. It has a very ancient history with its origins in Western Sudan, Africa and East Indies. Evidence shows that it was cultivated as far back as 4000 years ago.
This plant grows beautiful palmate leaves, which unfortunately look too much alike, the marijuana plant. As a matter of facts, there have been instances in which the authorities have made some blunders by raiding crops of Hibiscus Cannibinus. A plant can grow very fast and can reach an eight of 12 or more feet. It produces very beautiful dark red, almost purple flowers, with evergreen oval shaped leaves. The flowers have both female and male organs (hermaphrodite)
Hibiscus cannabinus is indeed a very useful plant. The flowers, leaves, seeds and roots are used in variety of ways. The leaves and roots are edible, and they are used along with the seeds in herbal medicine for the treatment of coughs. The seeds produce an oil, which can be used for the making of soaps and lotions. Seeds ground into a fine flour are used to bake cakes. In countries like China and Thailand, hibiscus cannabinus is used in making fine paper product that is similar to hemp paper. The fibers of the plant are also used similar to hemp fiber. In Africa, it is used in animal feeds. Other usages include the commercial production of ropes and fabrics.
Hibiscus cannabinus grows in full sun as well as partial shade. The soil should be well- draining. It is able to withstand sandy or loamy soils and it is drought tolerant. It tolerates both acidic and alkaline conditions. The plant should be watered regularly and fertilized as needed. Seeds and semi woody cuttings can be used for propagation and should be planted during the spring in a warm environment. Seeds should be sown about 1/8” deep with two seeds per hole. Later on, the plants can be thinned to keep the stronger of the two plants. Hibiscus flowers are insect pollinated. The plant grows rather quickly, within three to four months. The area should be well-weeded during this time. In the summers, partial shade is recommended. In the winter months, one should be very careful that the plant is not exposed to frost.