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April 2012

QuestionI have a hibiscus tree plant I kept over the winter. Leaves look good, but no flowers. I think you mentioned last fall to cut the branches back close to the trunk as only new ones grow flowers.


AnswerTropical hibiscus sets flower buds on new growth. To ensure plenty of new growth on older plants, you need to cut it back by at least 1/3 to ½ every year when you move it back outdoors. Repotting it to alleviate root bound conditions, and regular fertilizing and watering will also help.

March 2012

QuestionA neighbor had two beautiful hibiscus plants on her front porch last year, took them in for the winter and they were still blooming in Dec. and into Jan. She would be happy to give me a couple cuttings to start my own this spring. But neither she nor I know when, how and where on the plant to do this. Suggestions would be much appreciated.


AnswerYou can root cuttings, and she needs to be pruning them back by at least 1/3 – ½ anyway. Remember that tropical hibiscus plants bloom on the new growth, so to encourage plenty of new growth, they should be pruned annually before moving outdoors. The cuttings you are hoping to root should have no flower buds or spent flowers on them. They should be three to four inches in length. Strip off any leaves on the base of the cutting. Dip the cutting in a rooting hormone such as rootone or dip and grow. Fill a 4-6 inch pot with fresh, sterile potting soil and put up to 10 cuttings in the pot. Moisten the soil to the consistency of a rung out sponge. Then seal the pot and all inside a clear plastic bag and put under a shade tree. Avoid direct sunlight or you will cook the cuttings. In this “miniature greenhouse” in about 6-8 weeks you should have rooted cuttings which can then be repotted into their own container and grown all summer.

April 2012

QuestionI have a Schefflera that we have had outside all year. (Was given to us). It is about 3 ft wide and about 4 1/2 ft. tall. Can I trim it "down to size" before bringing it in? I do not have room for it as it is anywhere.


AnswerYour plant is more than likely going to die back a bit on its own once you move it back indoors. I am surprised there isn't damage already, since we have had some very nippy nights, even without a killing frost in parts of the state. Cut back as little as possible to make the move indoors, and then watch it for the next few weeks. It is going to have a big shock going from temps in the 30's and 40's to a static 70 degrees, plus lower light and no humidity. Next year, try to bring all houseplants back inside no later than mid October.

August 2012

QuestionI have a night blooming cereus that I rescued from someone who was throwing it out. After repotting it and giving it loving care, it has recovered to put it mildly. We’ve had blooms almost every night recently. We love it. My question deals with how to keep it within bounds. It is over 6 feet tall and still going. Is it acceptable to cut the plant back? If so, how and when?


AnswerThe night blooming cereus is a member of the cactus family and I often refer to it as an ugly duckling. It is a homely plant which produces copious running stems with small stickers but when it blooms, stand back—the flowers are amazing. Unfortunately, they only open at night and are only open for one night, but as you said, an established plant can produce an abundance of blooms. Cut it back as needed before you move it back inside this fall. The cuttings you remove root easily and you can share this plant with your friends. It is a cactus, so make sure you don’t overwater. It is not winter hardy and you want it to rest a bit this winter inside anyway.

November 2009

QuestionYears ago I bought three pale pink double tropical hibiscus plants. They were absolutely beautiful --they looked like orchids and the blooms were about 8 inches across. I have had them for about six years and have repotted them two or three times. I have never seen any of these since the year I bought them, so they are scarce. Last year I took cuttings of them to a local nursery and he put them in misting beds and grew new ones. I got two of them and several of my friends got some. Two of my friends have had blooms on theirs. They did not fertilize, however, I did and mine just grew tall and no blooms. The old ones have not had a single bloom all year. I pruned them back (in January, I think) and they have grown back out and are 30" to 3 ft. tall, with lush foliage, but no blooms. If I pruned them in January, did I cut off blooms already set? They are on my patio and get morning sun, but are not out in direct sun all day. Please tell me what I am doing wrong.


AnswerI don’t know that you are doing anything really wrong, yet I get a lot of complaints about tropical hibiscus not blooming as well on two to three year old plants. I often recommend just buying new plants every year, but that is tough when you have a favorite variety that you want to keep. Remember that tropical hibiscus blooms on new growth, so you must have healthy new growth every year to set flowers. Pruning older plants back by at least half and repotting to fresh soil I think is beneficial annually. It can be done in late winter inside or early spring as you move them back outside. I do not think you cut off flower buds last year with your pruning. Too much nitrogen can sometimes result in rapid juvenile growth, but provided they get full sun (at least 6-8 hours), they should begin to bloom. I have a double peach variety that is over five feet tall right now and still has flowers on it. Could you have put the young plants in too large of a container do you think? Sometimes tiny plants get lost with too much room to grow. We want them to slow down by mid-summer and begin blooming. Give it another go this year and let’s see what happens.


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