The tropical hibiscus is the number one selling flowering plant grown in southern
Florida and California for gardeners across the country. Hibiscus will grow only
in a climate where temperatures seldom dip down below 40 degrees, as it is not
frost-hardy. The plant will not flower if temperatures routinely drop below 50
degrees, so if you want hibiscus for your home or as a potted plant on your deck,
it will require special care to grow. This magical plant is well worth all the
work and effort you put into it for its unique flowers. Here are a few things
to know about growing hibiscus plants where you live.
In the southern or western part of the country, the hibiscus plant is a woody
shrub that is evergreen and flowers all year long. So all you have to do to grow
this plant where you live is copy their climate and light conditions. First of
all, let me tell you about this plant because it originated in tropical Asia
and it was brought to this country by gardeners, who like you, loved its flowers.
The foliage is dark green, and the leaf is shiny as long as it has enough water,
but when the plants begins to dry out the shine will fade, making the foliage
dull green. The leaf is oval, with large indentations or teeth on the
edge of the leaf margin. The leaf will grow up to 6 inches in length, depending
on sunshine, watering, and fertilization of the plant by you.
The flower resembles a flared trumpet that will grow from 3 to 8 inches in
diameter, depending on the variety you choose and how it is cared for, again:
sunlight, water, and fertilizer. The flower colors will range from red, orange,
yellow, and pink; you may also find many new hybrids with two or more colors
on the same flower and many new, semi-double, double-flowering and ruffled hybrid
The number one requirement is temperature, as the plant requires a warm location;
after all it is a tropical plant. If you want lots of flowers, you will have
to provide a location with temperatures that stay between 60 and 90 degrees all
year. When you put the plant outside in early June and when you bring it back
indoors in mid-September, expect the plant to lose leaves with the move. Even
the slightest change will cause leaf drop, but the plant will quickly replace
the fallen foliage.
As I said earlier, if the temperature drops below 50 degrees, the plant will
stop flowering until it warms up again, so don't panic if that happens. Also
expect that the flower size will decrease with cooler temperatures. In the middle
of the winter, just keeping it alive is a challenge but I will help you. If you
have the plant outside in a container on your deck for the summer and the forecast
is for temperatures above the mid 90's, move the plant into the shade until the
heat spell passes or the flower buds will drop due to the high heat.
Number two requirement is watering, as this plant requires a steady source
of moisture, especially during the hot days of summer. Water the plant every
day from June to September unless it rains, because the plant has a lot of foliage
and flowers and they require lots of water. Never place the plant with a saucer
under the pot as the soil needs to drain freely after watering. If you're away
and it rains, the saucer will fill up with water quickly, forcing all the air
out of the soil and root rot will quickly develop--killing the hibiscus. Always
water according to the weather, less if it's cool and wet, and more if it's hot
To help hold water in the soil add Soil Moist Granules when repotting the
plant. If it is a new plant for you, make several holes in the soil ball with
a pencil 3/4 of the way down in the pot and add a good pinch of product in the
hole. Soil Moist will retain 200 times its volume in moisture in the soil, so
check direction to determine the amount needed for your container, and never use
a container without drainage holes in the bottom. When the temperatures cool,
cut back on the watering, as the plant will require less water and—again--wet
roots will cause root rot!
Number three requirement is fertilizing the plant to keep it healthy and flowering.
Because most of us are busy, we will forget to fertilize this plant so I encourage
you to use a time-release fertilizer like Osmocote or Scotts Shake and Feed.
During the summer months especially, the plant is growing fast and flowering
heavily with the hot weather, so give the plant extra fertilizer every week;
I like Fertilome's Blooming and Rooting with trace minerals or Miracle
Gro 20-20-20 with minerals. If the plant stays well fed, the foliage will stay
deep green and the plant will flower all year long.
Number four requirement is insect control, and on hibiscus you will have two
insects--aphids and red spider mites--on the new foliage and on the flower buds.
Both can be easily controlled with a systemic insecticide such as Tree and Shrub
insecticide or Systemic Granules applied every 4 to 6 weeks. If problems develop,
spray the plant with All Season Oil--a natural product that will smother the
insects on the plant--and repeat applications 2 times, spaced 7 to 10 days apart.
Always turn the plant upside down and spray under the foliage as well as on top
of the leaf, as insects tend to hide under the leaf.
During the winter months, it's important to keep the plant as warm as possible
at all time and ALWAYS avoid drafts. Hibiscus is a tropical plant that will do
very well in a northern climate if you keep it warm--always above 60 degrees
in your home. If the weather gets cold, especially at night, pull the plants
away from the windows and move them to the center of the room to keep them warm.
If your windows are a bit drafty, keep them back 3 feet from the glass on those
cold and windy days. Keep plants away from doors that open and close often, so
temperatures stay uniform and warm.
During the winter months, water as needed and keep plant moist but not wet.
Poke your finger into the pot as deep as you can and feel for moisture. If it's
moist, leave it alone as plants will do better indoors during the winter a bit
on the dry side--but never let plants wilt. Always use warm water when watering
the plant, never cold or you will chill the root system and hurt the roots, causing
Fertilize with time-release fertilizer when you bring the plant inside for
the winter and repeat every 2 months. When the plant comes into bloom, also use
a liquid food like Miracle-Gro every 2 weeks; food equals flowers! The more direct
sunlight the plant receives, the more it will flower.
Every week spin the plant around so the front of the plant now faces inside
the room and the back faces the window. This sequel sunshine will keep all the
foliage on the plant , not just the foliage on the front of the plant. Once the
plant is in place do not move it from its location or you will have additional
leaf drop. It should stay there until spring arrives and you're ready to put
it outside again.
One more thing, repot in the spring when you put the plant outside for the
summer, as the plant will grow faster and need repotting. Increase the pot size
by 2 inches when you change the pot size. Always use a good potting soil--never
cheap stuff--or the roots will suffer and so will the plant, giving you fewer
and smaller flowers.
Oh, yes, one more thing...pruning. Prune to control the size of the plant
especially when you bring it indoors for the winter. Prune 1/3 of the branches
every two weeks until all the branches have been all pruned , that way you do
not lose your flowers and the buds. Pruning will stimulate growth; I also
prune the plant when I put it outside in the summer the same way. Enjoy!
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