It can grow to a tall shrub 10 to 25 feet high, with a dense crown of foliage. Veins and stems of the smooth oval leaves are red on our plants. The flowers have an exquisite fragrance, with delicate white petals, surrounding a red stamen. (The extremely rare subspecies, immaculatus, is native to Moloka'i and has a white stamen.)
Hibiscus petals were used by the Hawaiians as a source of dye. Koki`o ke`oke`o is much used in hybridizing new horticultural varieties. It was more common in the past than today, and there are many references to koki`o in old Hawaiian mele (songs) and stories.