Plant Type :Shrub or small tree
Mature Size: Up to 15 feet tall
Sun Exposure: Full Sun
Bloom Time: Continous from early summer
Planting Zones: Hardy in zones 10-11 only
If you want a tropical feel to your gardens, look no further than the hibiscus plant. It's big, showy flowers screem the tropics. However, knowing about hibiscus care will go a long way to getting the most out of the plant.
How do we know this? Well, we've had hibiscus plants on our deck or patio for years (in planting zone 6-7) and we've finally decided to give up on them. Why, you ask? Well, after learning about proper hibiscus care, we found out it was not going to be. More on that later.
Just know that for most of you, purchasing hibiscus for use in and around your homes will be a great choice.
Hibiscus flowers are also used for medicinal purposes. The acids have been known to reduce blood pressure, help with high cholesterol, work like antibiotics and other health benefits.
You may have heard of hibiscus tea. Trust us, it tastes great.
If you are into natural herbal remedies for health, you might want to take a closer look at what it can do for you.
Hibiscus Care Outdoors
Growing hibiscus outdoors is one of the most common uses for the plant - but knowing proper hibiscus care is helpful for getting the most and showiest flowers.
Hibiscus are known for their very large, showy, trumpet shaped flowers that bloom throughout the growing season. Each flower does not bloom for very long, but there are always new buds opening for an almost continuous show of color during warmer months.
There are many varieties of hibiscus that grow in a variety of climates but the most common variety that we all know and love likes full sun. They will bloom the most when placed or planted in an area that receives at least 8 hours of sun per day. If you have a partial shade garden you can certainly try it but will most likely not have the beautiful show you anticipated.
They are also only hardy to the warmest climates - in zones 10-11. Indeed, in frost free zones you can plant them in the ground and they will survive all year. In fact they can grow quite large when planted outdoors in the ground.
The above image shows a hibiscus planted in the ground. Great plant for great blooms, don't you think?
Hibiscus will not survive cold temperatures however. This means that if you want to keep them, as we did, you'll need to plant them in pots so they can be brought inside when the weather turns nippy.
This makes hibiscus an an excellent choice for a deck or patio. Plus, if you don't want the fuss of bringing it inside every winter, you can just toss it out and purchase a new plant every year. They are very inexpensive and available everywhere in the spring.
Hibiscus will need frequent watering outdoors. Watering every 1-2 days is not uncommon when the weather is very hot and dry. If it's colder, watering every few days will usually be OK.
Our Hibiscus Care Learning Experience
We love our tropical plants. We purchase many and, because we live in zone 6-7. We always plant them in pots and bring them indoors during the winter. We've done this with hibiscus too. Every year we bring it in and out because we just love the plant for it's big, tropical blooms. However, our plant always produced lush green foliage but as the summer wore on, the blooms stopped. Occassionally we'd get one... or two, popping out, but this was not the show of color we wanted.
Here's what happened. We've decided we've been trying to force the plant to bloom in a "less-than-ideal" location. You see, we don't have a location anywhere on our entire property that gets full sun. The most sun we can give any plant is 4-5 hours.
Now, this might be OK for other sun loving plants such as petunias or geraniums. They still bloom well. We know many plants are forgiving. They still keep their blooms. However, the hibiscus doesn't - even when applying fertilizer that helps with blooming.
This is a lesson you should know because if you have gardens that are not in full sun, you may have the same experience. We encourge you to give it a try though. It's worth the effort.
Growing Hibiscus In Pots
The most common use the hibiscus plant is to plant it in pots and bring it indoors during colder weather and outside when the weather turns warmer.
Choose a pot that is big enough to hold it as it grows and fill it with rich soil amended with organic matter. Make sure it drains well and place the pot in a sunny location.
Be sure to water regularly. When the top 1 inch of soil is dry, water it enough to soak the roots throughout the pot. If using a saucer, you can judge the amount of water by the saucer. When the water starts to drain in the saucer, it's had enough.
Hibiscus Care In Winter
As we mentioned above, unless you live in a frost free climate all year, your plants need to be in pots and you'll need to bring them indoors for the winter.
You'll want to place them near a south or southwest facing window where they get the lots of light.
In our experience, even placing them in a spot with less than idea light will get them through the winter alive. In fact, we've kept hibiscus alive for years by doing this. Of course, once they are brought in, chances are they won't bloom - but when you bring them back outside in the spring, they will come back fairly rapidly.
Since their growth has slowed when indoors, watering once per week is usually enough.
Bring them inside once temperatures start to dip to the 40's and even better, the 50's. This is a tropical plant that likes it warm and sunny. Bringing it in sooner will help to reduce the stress of the move.
One type of stress you probably won't be able to avoid is the lack of light. Many homes just cannot provide the right amount of light the plant needs.
There is a chance you will see the plant go down when bringing it indoors. Leaves may turn brown and drop. In extreme cases, it might lose most of it's leaves. However, that doesn't mean it's dead.
Keep giving the hibiscus care by watering regularly and once the temperature warms, bring it back outside. Chances are it hasn't died and will come back. Depending on the amount of stress, it may take 1 month or longer to come back with green foliage and possibly longer to start blooming again.
How To Prune Hibiscus
We would encourage pruning hibiscus to prevent the plant from becomming too leggy. In fact, it likes to be cut back which encourages even more and healthier growth.
In fact, it can be pruned hard, cutting much if the plant back close to the roots. This is especially true if you live in a climate where they are planted in the ground and have been hit by an unexpected frost or if you have a variety that is supposed to survive cooler temperatures.
Many people prune hibiscus without any thought of where to make the cut. For most plants this is not ideal but for hibiscus, it will still work. Ideally though, the best cut is made about 1 inch above a node (the place where stems grow out of other stems.
Pruning back is also good if you want to keep the plant to a certain side to fit the spot in which it's planted.
The question is... should you deadhead hibiscus?
Usually the process of deadheading is a good idea because doing this sends more energy to the plant to produce more flowers. However, because hibiscus flowers bloom and die so quickly - sometimes in the span of 1-2 days, it is not necessary to deadhead hibiscus for the reason of producing more flowers.
Of course dead flowers don't add to the look of the plant so the only reason you might way to deadhead this plant is for asthetic purposes.
Beautiful Hibiscus Colors
Here are some example photos of the just some of the varieties of color of the hibiscus flowers you might see available for purchase. You can see why they light up an area.
How To Keep Hibiscus Blooming
As we mentioned previously, the first plan is to make sure they are in a spot that receives full sun. That will be the biggest thing you can do to keep hibiscus blooming.
Of course, proper hibiscus care also plays a part. Keeping it watered and preventing it from drying out is up there on the list of important things to do.
Finally fertilizing can help with blooms, especially if yours is planted in a pots. Why?
Plant, by nature use up essential nutrients as they grow and therefore, need new supplies.
Any plants in pots have a finite availability of nutrients available because of the pot. In the ground, nutrients flow to the plant from the soil around it. Pots, being an enclosed space, don't allow for outside nutrients to flow in.
So plants in pots have a double wammy. They use up the nutrients available when planted - then, no new nutrients can get to the plant if it's in a pot.
This is why it's important to fertilize potted plants regularly, and hibiscus is no exception.
What Is The Best Fertilizer For Hibiscus?
If you're wondering the best fertilizer for hibiscus, you're not alone. If you search Google, you will get lots of confllicting advice.
Some people are recommending fish emulsion. Others talk about epsom salt and how great that is. More people talk about fertilizing hibiscus with coffee grinds. Still more people recommend different amounts of N.P.K. as the proper amounts for hibiscus.
What should you believe?
First, what we have to say is... trust in the source of the information.
Plant science is reliable but it's not infalible. There is more to plant health than just the nutrients. It's planting location, too much or too little water, soil conditions etc.
This is why we trust in commercial fertilizers for hibiscus that have been tested and all ingredients are known and specifically included for a reason. We won't be debating, for instance, fish emulsion and is it good because it has fish waste or bad because it could contain chlorine?
Now, if you want to try some homemade recipes for fertilizing, then you can, but we chose not to and won't recommend any here.
However, there are commercial fertilizers available for hibiscus and here they are:
Hibiscus Care Tips Summary
We hope we've given you helpful tips on hibiscus care and growing them in your landscape and overwintering them indoors.
- They like warm temperatures full sun
- They will not survive cold temperatures
- Great in pots for bringing inside or choice of placement
- Very important to keep up with watering
- Fertilize once per month
- Prune back to keep size under control
Now, we say, go out and get one, or two, or three and create that tropical vacation vibe right on your patio and in your gardens.
For more information on other flowering shrubs that would look great in your gardens, READ THIS ARTICLE NOW.
We also have information on flowering trees. No one should be without at least one flowering tree, don't you think. FIND OUT MORE HERE!