BEST TO START UNDOORS
In early spring, start seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before outdoor temperatures are reliably in the 50°F (10°C) range. Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep and 1 inch apart in seed starting mix. Keep very warm 75 to 80°F (24 to 27°C) and moist but not soggy. Provide a strong light source. When 2 inches tall, transplant seedlings into individual 4 inch pots. Feed with half-strength liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks until weather is warm and nights stay above 55°F (13°C). Gradually acclimate seedlings to the outdoors.
Hibiscus thrive in a sunny, very warm spot in rich and well-drained soil, so add compost or aged manure to the planting bed. Transplant seedlings 8 to 12 inches apart. Pinch tops when 10 inches tall to encourage a bushy, branching form.
For Containers: choose pots 18 inches in diameter and 16 to 18 inches tall.
HARVEST ABD USE
After flowers have finished blooming, harvest the deep-red, teardrop-shaped, calyxes at the base of each blossom. Snap off calyxes that are ready, removing spent flower if still attached Use fresh, or air-dry for longer storage.
To Dry: spread in a single layer on paper towels or cotton cloth for 7 to 10 days in a cool, dry place indoors out of heat and humidity. Store in an airtight container. For delicious tea, crush and steep several tablespoons to each cup of boiling water. Honey or sugar and lemon are nice additions. Makes a beautiful iced tea. For a cocktail, combine with sugar, lemon, a little ginger syrup and good rum.
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