Hibiscus isn’t just a plant with amazing medical properties; they are also beautiful decorative flowers that add a touch of color to your house or garden. The Hibiscus is a plant of many uses that can add a touch of the tropics (think Lilo and Stitch) to your garden. Take care of it properly, and you’ll have a colorful garden for years! But we’re sure we do not need to remind you of that, since we know that you’re here because you want to learn how to care for these gracious plants.
On this article, you will find everything you’ll need to know about hibiscus, from growing it, to caring for it, to pruning it.
A few things you need to know before starting to growing Hibiscus
Surprisingly enough, Hibiscuses are easy to grow and to care for, as long as you provide a few simple conditions for them to grow. We all know that tropical plants are usually grown indoors, but this doesn’t have to be the case for the majestic Hibiscus. There are two types of Hibiscus (Hardy Hibiscus and Tropical Hibiscus), and the planting and caring varies from one type to the other.
The Hardy Hibiscus is bigger than its houseplant counterpart, the Tropical Hibiscus. And this isn’t the sole difference between those types of Hibiscus. Indeed, the Hardy Hibiscus is stronger, and adapts well to every type of climate, even the coldest one.
They were first created in North America by combining a few less popular species of wild Hibiscus. Now, you can find them everywhere, and they will definitely bring a touch of bright color to your garden.
Just like their tropical counterpart, Hardy Hibiscus is easy to grow, and only need a spot in full sunlight, the right type of soil, and pruning once in a while.
Hardy Hibiscus grows into big, colorful flowers that will brighten your whole space. Even more than that, they attract butterflies and humming birds, which will surely turn your garden into a fairy tale forest.
For more in-depth information about this species of Hibiscus, check out this website.
Now, let’s move to the second specie. The Tropical Hibiscus is originally from Asia and the Pacific Islands and is the national flower of Malaysia. It comes in a variety of colors and its bushes can go up to 4 meters (huge, right?) if left undisturbed.
It has beautiful green foliage and big, colorful flowers (from red to peach), and blooms from late summer to mid-fall and is usually frown in a pot (it can’t really stand cold weather). If taken care of properly and regularly, it will bloom abundantly and colorfully.
These plants need a lot of sunlight to grow and bloom beautifully, which is why you should put it somewhere that’s always sunny. It might be more difficult during winter days, but the Tropical Hibiscus needs all the light it can get.
One thing about Tropical Hibiscus is that they’re better grown indoors, where they are protected from the winter’s harshness.
Preparing your soil
First of all, make sure that your soil isn’t too wet or waterlogged, because Hibiscus, even the hardy type, can’t grow well in this type of soil. Instead, make it well drained but still moist enough for your plant to thrive. If you have sandy soil, it’s even better, since it’s the perfect environment for Hibiscus to grow and bloom beautifully!
Avoid clay soil, but if it’s impossible, just mix some sand with it. And if there’s too sand in your soil, you can improve your texture by adding some kind of organic matter in it.
Furthermore, make sure your soil’s acidity ranges between neutral to slightly acidic, which is the best condition for growing healthy Hibiscus plants. If you soil is too acidic, you can lower its acidity by adding sulfur components to it. If it’s not acidic enough, lime works like a charm.
What about fertilizing you might ask? Well, it’s easy. Generally, Hibiscus doesn’t need commercial fertilizers, but it’s advised to mix in compound or some kind of organic fertilizer to the soil before planting.
If you have no idea about your soil’s acidity or nutrients, drop by your closest garden store and grab a soil test kit.
When to plant your Hibiscus seeds?
There isn’t a particular time in the year when you should plant Hibiscus, but try to avoid summer, since the heat could make the soil dryer, and this will hurt your flowers. If you want beautiful blooming flowers, the best would be to plant them during spring, when the soil is just moist enough for them to grow.
How to plant your Hibiscus seeds?
Before planting your Hibiscus seeds, you have to be ready, and of course, have some basic knowledge; and this why we’re here!
First of all, make sure to germinate your seeds. To do so, put your seeds in a plastic soda bottle (one with straight sides to make it easier), cut the top 1/3 of it, and fill the lower portion with compost or potting soil.
Be sure to moisten the soil well and place 3 seeds on top of it in the bottle, and then put some shredded tissue on tissue. Wet that tissue lightly and re-fix the top of the bottle to its bottom (using duct tape). Store the bottle in a cool dark area, and in 3 or 4 days, you’ll see that little sprouts have started forming.
After these sprouts have formed, you will need to transplant them. Here’s the best way to do that:
Weed out the weaker plants, take off the upper portion of the bottle again, and use the base as a growing pot for the next 2 to 4 weeks. You need to remember one important thing: whenever you are transplanting Hibiscus seedlings or a grown plant (of both Hardy Hibiscus and Tropical Hibiscus), always dig a hole double the size you would have dug, so you can condition the soil around your Hibiscus and provide it with all the nutrients it will need.
And now comes the more delicate step, the planting! Like we said earlier, you should plant your Hibiscus plant during the spring so they can have a full season of growth before the winter month when their growth will be declining.
First, place your plant in the double-sized hole you have created, and make sure the root ball protrudes just a little bit above the surrounding ground. Then, fill your hole with the soil that you have already prepared and pack it very lightly. Remember to moisten the soil in the evening and the morning for the next 2 days so the plant can start adjusting to its new environment.
For some tips for growing Hardy Hibiscus, click here.
How to take care of your Hibiscus
Watering your Hibiscus plant
Water Hibiscus can be tricky, since the method and frequency might not be the same for Hardy Hibiscus and Tropical Hibiscus. The two species differ from each other, not only in how much cold they can tolerate, but also in their care requirements.
Hardy Hibiscus requires moist soil at all time (but still can survive in dry soil), but don’t over-water it during the winter, since it may cause your plant’s roots to rot. For Tropical Hibiscus, it’s the same, but the soil should constantly be moist, and during winter, provide with just enough water to keep the soil from dying out.
If your plant is potted, it will need more water than a Hibiscus planted in a garden, which means you’ll need to water your plant more often if they’re in pots or containers. The pots should always have drainage holes in the bottom so your plant’ roots won’t be overwatered. Water slowly and stop watering when water runs from the drainage holes in the bottom of your pot. Wait for it to drain completely, and then repeat the process. And if it’s particularly hot, you might need to water your potted hibiscus (if it’s outdoor) twice a day.
But what about the watering frequency, you might ask? Hibiscus is a plant that thrives in humidity, so if you live somewhere hot and dry, you will need to water your hibiscus more often than regular. Normally, it’s advised to water your Hibiscus plant once a day, but if the weather is really hot and dry, increase the frequency to twice a day. This watering frequency works for both types of Hibiscus, Hardy and Tropical.
Read more about how to care for Hibiscus plants here.
Fertilizing your Hibiscus plant
A Hibiscus plant needs good fertilizing in order to grow and bloom well, which is why, in the summer, you should use a fertilizer high in Potassium (you can use a diluted liquid fertilizer once a week, a slow release one once a month, or add a high Potassium compost to the soil). During the winter, you will not need to fertilize at all.
As you can see, the Hibiscus plant is pretty low maintenance, especially considering the result of taking care of it well.
Pruning your Hibiscus plant
Pruning is a great way to keep your plant in shape and give it what it needs, since it helps stimulate budding on new shoots, rejuvenates the plants after winter, and keeps them healthy.
The best time to prune your Hibiscus plant is spring and late summer or early fall for a light pruning; try your best to avoid pruning your plants during the end of fall of winter. During spring, you should completely prune your plants, by pinching the branch tips to encourage a bushier growth.
Read more about pruning your Hibiscus here.
What about growing Hibiscus in pots?
As we said before, the Hibiscus is pretty low maintenance, which makes it easy to grow in pots. Choose a wide container, the biggest one you can afford, so the plant’s roots will have enough space. Make sure your container has drainage holes in its bottom and sides, since if there’s too much in your soil, the root might rot away.
Most importantly, start with planting a small Hibiscus, so it doesn’t outgrow its container. If it’s getting too big and out of control, don’t hesitate to prune it. And always, always remember to put your pot in a sunny place, and water it every time you check the soil and it’s dry (which means for most, daily).
Read more about caring for your potted Hibiscus here.
Like any other plant, the Hibiscus has many species (beside the tropical hibiscus and hardy hibiscus) that differ in size and form. If you want to have Hibiscus add some color to your garden but lack inspiration, discover those species here:
● Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus Syriacus)
The Rose of Sharon usually blooms during the summer, in colors such as white, purple, red, or pink. They are easy to grow and even easier to take care of. So, if you goal is to have a colorful garden and attract some birds and butterflies, go with the Rose of Sharon.
● Roselle (Hibiscus Sabdariffa)
Native to West Africa, this specie of Hibiscus is primarily used in folk medicine. So, if you need a plant that’s at the same time pretty and can help your upset stomach feel better, go for the Roselle.
● Cranberry Hibiscus (Hibiscus Acetosella)
Also know as False Roselle or African Rosemallow, this specie will add a striking touch of color to your garden with its bright red or purple leaves.
● Midnight Marvel Hibiscus
If you’re a fan of deep red flowers, then the Midnight Marvel Hibiscus is for you. This specie of Hibiscus will add a classy touch to your surroundings.
Some Hibiscus diseases and their solutions
Like every other plant, the Hibiscus can be subject to pests and diseases. Here’s a list of the most common ones, and how to get rid of them:
If you see rots in your Hibiscus plant, it is probably the fault of some sort of fungus. The symptoms might be discolored leaves, mushrooms appearing on the base of your plant, and your plant’s leaves dying out quickly. This is probably the result of soil that’s too watery (and if your Hibiscus is grown in a pot, then it possibly has a poor drainage system). The best defense against this kind of disease is to make sure your plant is growing in a wet, but well-drained soil.
● Spots on the leaves
Various types of fungus can cause your plant’s leaves to be spotted. The spots are often discolored and irregular, and leaves might be falling from your plant. This leaves should be removed and destroyed as soon as possible, so the fungus won’t spread. Those leaf spots are usually not very dangerous and cause little to no harm to your plant.
● Crinkled leaves
A wrinkled leaf is a common Hibiscus problem. To avoid it, check for any leaf hopper or aphid on the underside of the leaf. Aphids usually forms large colonies under your plant’s leaves and draw the life sap from it. If you notice an infestation, remove the leaves immediately and get rid of the pests. In case this infestation is severe, you will have to use herbal pesticide.
To know more about Hibiscus pests and diseases, check out this website.
Now that you have all the information you need, we believe you can go on and grow your own garden full of colorful, huge Hibiscus flowers! With little care and a lot of sun, this plant will turn your place into a spectacular color show!