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Tropical Hibiscus

November 2012

QuestionWe have a hibiscus plant in a pot outside our front door that we bought earlier this summer. It still has a flower and some buds on it. Yesterday I put a black garbage bag over it to protect it over night from the freezing temperatures. How should I take care of this plant so it survives the winter ?, if they do. Can I plant it outside ? Please give us your advice.


AnswerTropical hibiscus will not survive our winter outdoors. You have a few options: 1, leave it outside until the frost kills it and buy a new one next year (which is what I do), 2, move it into your garage or under the house in your crawl space to protect from freezing. This must be done before a hard frost. It won’t look pretty when you move it back outside next spring, but you can cut it back, repot and it should rebound. The third option would be to treat it as a houseplant all winter. However, since you have left it outside in all this cool weather, a move into a heated house would probably cause it to lose all of its leaves. Many areas of the state have had light to moderate to hard freezes, depending on where you live. I have had a light frost, but my tropical hibiscus and mandevilla are still growing fine.

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.

October 2011

QuestionI have a beautiful tropical Hibiscus. It is 5 ft high and in a large pot on my deck. I am planning to move it into the house by a large window in the winter. Is there anything special I should do to winter it?


AnswerMove it inside fairly soon. I think many people wait too late to move tropical plants indoors, and then wonder why they struggle getting acclimated to inside conditions. Be sure it is inside the first time you turn your heat on, or when the inside and outside conditions are similar. Allowing it exposure to many cool nights, will get the plant used to those conditions, and then you move it into a heated house with low humidity and lower light and it tends to shed a lot of leaves. Keep it a little on the dry side indoors and as cool as you can keep it. Don't be alarmed if you do get some leaf shed even if you do move it early. With enough light, they can bloom indoors all winter. Prune it back by half or more when you move it back outdoors next spring.

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 ear 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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