Abstract Background Malaria remains a serious public health problem globally. As the elimination of indigenous malaria continues in China, imported malaria has gradually become a major health hazard. Well-timed and accurate diagnoses could support the timely implementation of therapeutic schedules, reveal the prevalence of imported malaria and avoid transmission of the disease. Methods Blood samples were collected in Wuhan, China, from August 2011 to December 2018. All patients accepted microscopy and rapid diagnosis test (RDT) examinations. Subsequently, each of the positive or suspected positive cases was tested for four human-infectious Plasmodium species by using 18S rRNA-based nested PCR and Taqman probe-based real-time PCR. The results of the microscopy and the two molecular diagnostic methods were analysed. Importation origins were traced by country, and the prevalence of Plasmodium species was analysed by year. Results A total of 296 blood samples, including 288 that were microscopy and RDT positive, 7 RDT and Plasmodium falciparum positive, and 1 suspected case, were collected and reanalysed. After application of the two molecular methods and sequencing, 291 cases including 245 P. falciparum, 15 Plasmodium vivax, 20 Plasmodium ovale, 6 Plasmodium malariae and 5 mixed infections (3 P. falciparum + P. ovale, 2 P. vivax + P. ovale) were confirmed. These patients had returned from Africa (95.53%) and Asia (4.47%). Although the prevalence displayed a small-scale fluctuation, the overall trend of the imported cases increased yearly. Conclusions These results emphasize the necessity of combined utilization of the four tools for malaria diagnosis in clinic and in field surveys of potential risk regions worldwide including Wuhan.