Hibiscus kokio

leaf Main Plant Information






  • kokio
  • saintjohnianus

Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Kokiʻo
  • Kokiʻo ʻula
  • Kokiʻo ʻulaʻula
  • Mākū

Hawaiian Names

  • Kokio
  • Kokio ula
  • Kokio ulaula
  • Maku

Common Names

  • Hawaiian red hibiscus
  • Red rosemallow


  • Hibiscus arnottianus var. kokio
  • Hibiscus kahilii
  • Hibiscus oahuensis
  • Hibiscus roetae
  • Hibiscus saintjohnianus
  • Hibiscus ula

Names with Unknown Sources

  • Hibiscus kokio subsp. pukoonis
  • Hibiscus kokio subsp. st. johnianus
  • Hibiscus saint johnianus
  • Hibiscus saint-johnianus

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

At Risk

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Shrub
  • Tree

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Shrub, Small, 2 to 6
  • Shrub, Medium, 6 to 10
  • Shrub, Tall, Greater than 10
  • Tree, Small, 15 to 30
  • Tree, Medium, 30 to 50

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Container
  • Hedges
  • Screening
  • Specimen Plant

Additional Landscape Use Information

Kokiʻo ʻula is a small tree which does well as a container plant in a 3 gallon or larger pot in sunny locations.

Source of Fragrance

  • No Fragrance

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type


Flower Colors

  • Orange
  • Pink
  • Red
  • Yellow

Additional Flower Color Information

Kokiʻo ʻula flowers can be red, orange red, dark orange, yellowish orange, pinkish or, more rare, yellow.

Blooming Period

  • Year Round

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine
  • Medium

Additional Plant Texture Information

Kokiʻo ʻula leaves are about an inch to nearly 4 inches long.

Leaf Colors

  • Dark Green
  • Medium Green

Additional Leaf Color Information

Leaves are green and glossy.

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Plants are prone to sucking insects. Chinese rose beetles can be removed by hand. The native red hibiscuses is just as prone to attract the hibiscus erineum mite as non-native red hibiscuses.

leaf Growth Requirements


Fertilize this hibiscus using a 2-1-3 or 2-.5-3 ratio with minor elements. It is important to keep the phosphorus low because it tends to accumulate and prevents the nitrogen and potassium from working. Minor elements such as magnesium and iron are also important to maintain healthy green foliage. [1]

Pruning Information

Kokiʻo ʻula tolerates pruning. Hedges may need pruning two or three times a year. Clear out dead wood occasionally for minor shaping. It can also be pruned to form upright plants with optimal heights of 3 to 6 feet.

Water Requirements

  • Dry

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun

Additional Lighting Information

Kokiʻo ʻula can tolerate shade, but appears to flower more profusely with more sunlight.


  • Drought


  • Cinder
  • Organic


Protect plants from strong winds, especially those planted in containers.

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Kauaʻi
  • Oʻahu
  • Molokaʻi
  • Maui
  • Hawaiʻi

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • 150 to 1000, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 1000 to 1999, 0 to 50 (Dry)

Additional Habitat Information

Kokiʻo ʻula grow naturally in dry, mesic and wet forests.

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

The large Mallow family Malvaceae contains some 2,300 species, with notables such as okra, cacao, durian, baobab, kenaf, and cotton. [4]

There are perhaps as many as 300 species worldwide in the genus Hibiscus. There are six native species of hibiscuses in Hawaii and all but one are endemic.

The Hawaiian name Kokiʻo ʻula is shared by our two native red hibiscus (Hibiscus clayi and H. kokio). The word ʻula means "red" or "scarlet" and ʻulaʻula refers to a deeper red. Even though the flowers of subspecies saintjohnianus are orange (ʻalani), orange-yellow (melemeleʻiliʻalani), or yellow (melemele), and not red (ʻula), they still go by the name Kokiʻo ʻula.

Hibiscus clayi differs from Hibiscus kokio in a few ways:

  1. Leaves of H. clayi are smooth, or occasionally toothed only near tip; H. kokio leaves are toothed from below middle to the tip (sometimes smooth).
  2. H. clayi is restricted to Kauaʻi; H. kokio is naturally found on Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Maui and Hawaiʻi.
  3. H. clayi shrubs are generally more compact in habit or form than H. kokio.

Early Hawaiian Use

The wood was used by early Hawaiians to make a fine charcoal. Both the native red and white hibiscuses were grown near their houses for their flowers. [3]

The beautiful flowers were fashioned into striking lei, but lasting only a day. [5]

Kokiʻo was pounded with other plants, juice strained, and taken to purify blood. The leaves were chewed and swallowed as a laxative or mothers would chew buds and given to infants and children as a laxative. Mother would also chew the buds and give to chidren or children would eat the seeds to strengthen a weak child. [6]

Modern Use

There are several cultivars known for this species. Those for subspecies kokio are cv. 'Garden Club of Hawaii', cv. 'Hakalau Red', cv. 'Kipu Red', and cv. 'Oʻahu Red'.

Those for subspecies saintjohnianus are cv. 'Haena Red' and cv. 'Velvet Sunset'. [2]

Propagater and grower Dennis Kim has also created a few cultivars such as cv. 'Mary Foster,' cv. 'Keahi,' and cv. 'Gold.' [Priscilla Millen, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Additional References

[1] Jill Coryell, Hibiscus Lady
[2] http://www2.bishopmuseum.org/HBS/botany/cultivatedplants/?str=hibiscus&fld=&pge=2 [Accessed 10/1/08]

[3] "Native Planters in Old Hawaii--Their Life, Lore, & Environment" by E. S. Handy and Elizabeth Green Handy, page 233.

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malvaceae [accessed 10/14/09]

[5] "Nā Lei Makamae--The Treasured Lei" by Marie A. McDonald & Paul R. Weissich, page 47.

[6] "Hawaiian Herbs of Medicinal Value," by D.M. Kaaiakamanu & J.K. Akina, page 54.




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