By: Heather Rhoades
Growing hibiscus is an easy way to add a tropical flair to your garden. Let’s look at some tips on how to care for hibiscus.
Many people who are growing a hibiscus plant choose to do so in a container. This allows them to move the hibiscus plant to ideal locations, depending on the time of year. Provide the plants with at least six hours of sunlight, especially if you want to see those lovely blooms. Although warm, humid conditions are ideal for tropical hibiscus, you may want to provide a little afternoon shade when it’s overly hot. Again, containers make this easy to do.
Hibiscus plants prefer a cozy fit when growing in a container. This means that they should be slightly root bound in the pot and when you do decide to repot, give the hibiscus only a little bit more room. Always make sure that your growing hibiscus plant has excellent drainage.
When you care for a hibiscus, you should remember that hibiscus flowers best in temperatures between 60-90 F. (16-32 C.) and cannot tolerate temps below 32 F. (0 C.). In the summer, your hibiscus plant can go outside, but once the weather starts to get near freezing, it’s time for you to bring your hibiscus indoors.
When hibiscus are in their blooming stage, they require large amounts of water. Your hibiscus will need daily watering in warm weather. But once the weather cools, your hibiscus needs far less water, and too much water can kill it. In the winter, water your hibiscus only when the soil is dry to the touch.
A growing hibiscus plant needs lots of nutrients in order to bloom well. In the summer, use a high potassium fertilizer. You can either use a diluted liquid fertilizer one a week, a slow release fertilizer once a month, or you can add a high potassium compost to the soil. In the winter, you don’t need to fertilize at all.
These are the basics for how to care for hibiscus plants in your garden. As you can see, they are a easy maintenance, high impact flower that will make a garden in any part of the world look like a tropical paradise.
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Hibiscus is hardy to zone 5. Hardy hibiscus benefits from warm temperatures for bud growth, so if it’s a cold spring or summer, growth will be slower. To keep Hibiscus warm apply a layer of mulch to protect Hibiscus in the winter and early spring.
Hibiscus needs both moist and well drained soil. If Hibiscus dries out to much it will drop all its foliage and will look like a bunch of dead sticks. When this happens don’t stress, it will re-bud, it’s the Hibiscus protecting its roots system. It’s important to not over water or underwater. If you are growing hibiscus in a container, plant your hibiscus in a pot with adequate drainage holes. Otherwise if Hibiscus is in water to long, its root will begin to rot.
Last Updated: December 8, 2020 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Tyler Radford. Tyler Radford is a Plant Specialist at Hollie’s Farm & Garden in Tampa, Florida. With over nine years of experience, Tyler specializes in gardening, planting, mulching, and potting. Hollie’s Farm & Garden is a full-service landscape nursery offering landscape supplies including trees, shrubs, mulch, and flagstone.
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Propagating hibiscus allows you to clone an existing hibiscus plant by planting a single stem from the parent hibiscus. The process is the same for both tropical and hardy varieties, and it's easy to do at home. By taking cuttings, rooting them properly, and planting them, you can grow new, healthy hibiscus plants without having to purchase them!
Don't confuse hardy hibiscus -- Hibiscus moscheutos -- with the tropical hibiscus, commonly called Chinese hibiscus -- Hibiscus rosa-sinensis.
Hardy hibiscuses are sturdy and don't wilt or collapse in summer heat, especially the newer ones, Doug Gilberg says. He owns Gilberg Perennial Farms in Missouri, growers of many new varieties of hardy hibiscus.
The new hibiscuses grow 3 to 6 feet tall and will thrive in a wide variety of environmental conditions and endure poor soils, flood and drought. They withstand temperatures from minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit to more than 100 degrees, and they also resist many pests and diseases.
These tough perennials make excellent flowering hedges or massed plantings for a tropical-looking touch to your gardens. They mix well with other perennials.
Hardy hibiscus are good design partners with ornamental grasses -- including Karl Foerster Calamagrostis, an ornamental grass named the Perennial Plant Association's Plant of the Year 2001 -- along with daylilies, Russian sage and other tall-type plants.
Place hardy hibiscus in a site that gets at least five to six hours of sun or more each day. The soil's pH should be 6.5 to 7.0. Although soil fertility doesn't need to be high, the plants reach peak performance if they're grown in rich organic soil with ample moisture. You can mulch or not. Hardy hibiscus also do very well in damp to wet soil.
For bushier plants, place them on 3- to 5-foot centers and pinch back the growing tips when the plants are 8 inches tall and again when they're 12 inches tall. After hard frost in the fall, cut the plants back to 4 to 5 inches. New spring growth rises from the roots.
Desert Moth by Sonny Stollings photo courtesy of Bill Schmidt