Hibiscus is a genus of flowering plants in the mallow family, Malvaceae. The genus is quite large, comprising several thousand varieties or “cultivars” that are native to warm temperate, subtropical and tropical regions throughout the world. Member species are renowned for their large, showy flowers and those species are commonly known simply as “hibiscus”, or less widely known as rose mallow.

Eight hibiscus species are considered the ancestors of the modern exotic hibiscus; these species were native to China, Fiji, Hawaii, India, Madagascar and Mauritius.  All of today’s exotic hibiscus are hybrid crosses of any of these eight original hibiscus species.  Explorers brought many of these species to Europe in the 1700s, where they were grown in botanical gardens and private collectors.

The genus includes both annual and perennial herbaceous plants, as well as woody shrubs and small trees. The generic name is derived from the Greek name ἰβίσκος (hibiskos) which Pedanius Dioscorides gave to Althaea officinalis (c. 40–90 AD).