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How To: Care for Tropical Hibiscus

tropical hibiscus

Hibiscus is a gorgeous flowering plant available in a plethora of colors. From the malcaveae family, the perennial plant boasts some of the most well-known and loved blooms.  There are hundreds of varieties of hibiscus. The plants are native to warm tropical and subtropical regions.  Many hardy varieties can grow from zone 4-11 in the United States according to the United States Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones.

Most of what I’ve learned about hibiscus has been through trial and error as a Florida gardener. After seeing multiple yards boasting the beautiful blooms, I decided my yard needed them also. Without doing much initial research, I planted one in our backyard almost immediately. But they’ve had some ups and downs since then. When the plants started to be sad and unhappy, I went searching about common issues with hibiscus and what I needed to know to fix it.

About Tropical Hibiscus

  • Hibiscus can be prone to disease and pests because of the humidity and warm climate
  • Hibiscus does well with plenty of room to grow
  • Hibiscus love warmth, but too much hot sun can be bad
  • Hibiscus are water and sun hungry

Disease & Pests

Last season there were two casualties in my hibiscus collection as a result of mealy bugs. While mealy bugs are not always a problem for hibiscus the way aphids, spider mites and other pests can be, the mealy bugs took over four of my hibiscus and two were not salvageable. So while the blooms were still trying to open, I had to finally concede and cut the plant back to avoid losing it completely.

Pruning a plant is not always a great option, but in this case every other option had been exhausted. Careful attention to your plants and containers will help you avoid these common warm weather pests.

Plantophile provides some great insight into some of the issues that can plague hibiscus. Compared to many other flowering plants, hibiscus are fairly low maintenance.

Room to Grow

It’s important to plant hibiscus in a larger pot than is needed and make sure the soil is not compacted. If your plant grows and you need to split it, make sure to split the plant in the spring. They do not do well with fall division. As spring approaches, it’s important to fluff and refresh the potted soil in a container and adding some minerals to boost the soil. A fluffy, loamy soil is preferred. The soil needs to drain well in order to keep your plant healthy.

potted hibiscus

Warmth & Sun

Hibiscus love temps between 60 and 85 degrees. They can thrive in even warmer temperatures, but you need to keep them watered to prevent drying out. Once temps drop below 50ºF most growth will stop, and if the plants experience a frost or freeze they can die back to the ground with a hard freeze killing the plant roots and all. So keep it protected or in a pot if you live in a colder climate where freezing temperatures are expected in the winter.

If you notice as summer drags on that your hibiscus are struggling, take some time to remove any discolored leaves. Move the pot to a spot with some shade in order to provide relief from the hot sun. Spray the green, healthy leaves with water each day to provide additional moisture the plant may require. Make sure to not allow the soil to get too dry, but also avoid over-watering.

hibiscus blossom

If your hibiscus are planted in the ground and need more shade, consider constructing a simple shade for it during the hottest parts of the day when direct sun may be more harsh on the plant.

Full sun for at least 6 hours per day is needed for a happy, healthy hibiscus. If your zone runs really hot and dry, less sun might be needed. More sun will produce more blooms.

Hibiscus Love Water

If you’re in a particularly hot and dry zone, your plant will require more frequent watering. Once the soil is dry each day, your hibiscus will likely be thirsty again. Soil should be moist but not soggy as over watering can produce other problems like disease. Hibiscus like constantly moist soil, but never soggy so a well drained soil and regular watering suits them best.

In my search for a way to get rid of the mealy bug issues? A friend told me to order some ladybugs. In considering way to keep your garden free of many pests, this information might be helpful to you as well. You can even attract ladybugs to your garden by planting the right blooms – hint, hibiscus are definitely on the list.

In summary, hibiscus will provide you will beautiful blooms if well cared for throughout the year. They need at least 6 hours of full sun, regular watering to keep the soil moist but not soggy, and a well-draining soil. Check your plant for pests and other issues common to tropical, flowering plants in order to keep them free of any issues.

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