Hibiscus are well-known for their large, colorful blooms that are sure to attract anyone’s attention. These flowering shrubs come in a wide variety of colors ranging from pink to red and white.
What many people don’t know is that there are a few hundred species of hibiscus around. Thus, you likely won’t see too many similar ones around.
That said, they can be grown indoors or outside. But, depending on which you choose, their size will vary. With those grown in your garden outdoors can get to as big as 15 feet tall.
If you subscribe to alternative medicine, you’re probably more familiar with the plant through its medicinal properties. It has been used to treat high blood pressure, bacterial infections, fevers, and stomach issues.
In your garden, you’ll be happy to know that it also offers other benefits beyond its looks. This is because it attracts pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies.
So, if you want to learn how to grow and care for these wonderful plants, read on.
Hibiscus plant Care
Hibiscus Light Requirements
Hibiscus plants like a lot of sun. For this reason most people will say they’re full sun to partial sun.
But, it actually depends where you live.
- If you live in a warm location where the sun is bright and can get intense, then partial sun is a better way to do.
- If you live in cooler climates like those in the northern states, then going full sun will work. That’s because the sun is not as intense in those areas.
So, in the end, it all comes down to how they respond.
If your hibiscus:
- Are doing well and consistently blooming, then you’ve got the right amount of sunlight. Thus, there’s nothing you need to change.
- Is not producing as much flowers and buds as they normally would, make some adjustments. If they’re currently in a very sunny area, move them somewhere that doesn’t get as much light. Similarly, if they’re getting partial sun, try moving them somewhere where they can get full sun.
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Hibiscus Temperature & Humidity
When it comes to taking care of hibiscus plants, it’s important to know what you have and where you live. That’s because these factors affect how you grow them.
Tropical Hibiscus Plants
These are the ones you often see in warm climate areas like Hawaii and Florida. They enjoy toasty temperatures. Thus, they’re hardy to zones 10-12.
The warm climate allows them to grow as perennials. And, they’re often used as hedges.
Tropical hibiscus thrive on full sun. They have bright, beautiful flowers that come in a wide array of colors including yellow, white, pink, orange, and red. You’ll likewise appreciate they’re lush, dark green foliage as well all-year-round.
While they prefer warmer conditions, you can grow these in cooler climates as well. But, they’ll only live through the winter if they’re in containers that are brought indoors.
Perennial Hibiscus Plants
Perennial hibiscus plants (or Hardy Hibiscus) are more hardy to colder temperatures. In fact, they’ll do well in USDA zones 4-9.
While they’re just as beautiful and vibrant as their tropical counterparts, they come with a few distinctions.
Perennial hibiscus has foliage that’s a lighter shade of green. They also have much bigger blooms with varying colors, including lavender, pink, burgundy, and red.
They can grow up to 7-8 feet high. As such, they’re better suited for larger gardens. But, you can opt for the dwarf varieties (3-4 feet) if you don’t have a lot of space.
Hibiscus are thirsty plants. They like a lot of water. But, don’t like “wet feet”.
As such, you need to balance between giving them enough moisture without overdoing it.
Both of which are not good for it.
Lack of water often results in a lack of production. So, you don’t get the beautiful flowers you want to see. Additionally, they can start dropping leaves. Or, they’re leaves can start turning yellow.
Yellowing leaves can also be a sign of too much water. But, these symptoms will affect foliage that is in the middle or at the bottom of the plant.
In general, your hibiscus will need 1-2 inches of water per week. An effortless way to monitor this is to get a rain gauge which will give you an idea of how much rain your garden receives.
From there, you can add whatever’s lacking or not water at all if the rain has reached your quota.
In any case, do make adjustments during droughts, dry, or very hot weather. Strong winds and high humidity also speeds up water loss. So, you need to make up for them.
One way to make sure that your hibiscus gets enough water is to check it yourself. You can do so by sticking your finger into the soil.
Ideally, the soil should be moist. So, if the top inch of soil is dry, then it’s time to water.
Hibiscus plants like soil that’s slightly acidic to almost neutral (pH levels between 5.5 to 6.5). Planting them in alkaline soil can cause deficiencies in some of the trace minerals it needs.
If you’re not sure what your soil’s pH level is, it’s a good idea to test it with a home soil test kit. You can buy them online and they’re easy to use.
As with other colorful flowering plants, this shrub needs lots of organic matter to produce its beautiful blooms.
Because it doesn’t like excess moisture lingering, growing it in soil that drains well is ideal.
Finally, if you plan on growing them in containers, choose one that isn’t too deep. Too much depth will make them focus their energy on root development instead of flowering. As such, you don’t get as many blooms as you’d like.
In addition to the organic matter content in your soil, it’s also important to supplement with fertilizer. This ensures that your hibiscus plants get all the nutrients they need to keep blossoming.
The best way to do this is to apply light fertilizer frequently. This ensures that your plants get a consistent flow of nutrients it can use to keep flowering.
The best time to prune your hibiscus depends on where you live. But, in most cases, the ideal time is in the spring. This is when you want to do heavy pruning.
You can do some light pruning during summer and fall. You can likewise do cut off dead, diseased, or weak branches and growth any time of the year.
But, you don’t want to do any pruning during the winter and fall. That’s because doing so late in the season puts your plants at risk of not developing many branches and blooms.
Whether you’re dealing with tropical or hardy hibiscus, the easiest way to propagate them is via cuttings. This allows you to grow a plant that’s identical to the parent plant.
The best time to dot this is late in spring. You can likewise do so early in spring but you’ll need to take a few extra steps to ensure that the cold winds and weather don’t negatively affect your cuttings.
- Start by getting a cutting that’s 4-6 inches long. Choose thick, strong stems. This gives you a better chance of producing similarly strong plants.
- When cutting, make a 45-degree cut, not a straight one.
- Remove the leaves. But don’t aggressively pluck them out.
- Dip the end in rooting hormone
- Place the cutting in well-draining soil
- Water thoroughly
- Put a plastic bag over the cutting to increase the humidity
- Place it somewhere it will receive partial shade. You don’t want it to get too much sunlight. At least not yet.
- Within a few weeks, you’ll start seeing roots develop.
- In about 2 months, it should be rooted. When that happens, it’s time to move it to a bigger pot.
In general, you can expect to repot every 1-2 years. A few signs that may give you a hint that it’s time to repot are if:
- Your hibiscus isn’t growing as it should
- Its leaves are dropped
- It is stressed