Hibiscus or rose mallow belongs to the mallow group. The genus consists of several hundred different species. They are native to warm temperatures and are found in tropical and subtropical regions around the world.
Its name is derived from the Greek word ἰβίσκος (ibískos).
The reason why gardeners and green thumbs love hibiscus is because of the hibiscus flower. The flowers are rather large and stunning.
One thing to note is that hibiscus plants are very water and light hungry plants. But we will get more into the proper care for hibiscus as we dedicated the following plant care section to it.
- 1 Hibiscus Plant Care Guide
- 2 Tropical Hibiscus Care
- 3 Hardy Hibiscus
- 4 The 10 Best Kept Secrets About Growing Hibiscus
- 4.1 1. The best location
- 4.2 2. How to correctly repot your plant
- 4.3 3. How to promote Blooms
- 4.4 4.How to keep your Hibiscus blooming
- 4.5 5.The right watering regiment
- 4.6 6.How to keep your plant Problem Free
- 4.7 7. How to care for your Hibiscus indoors
- 4.8 8. The best fertilization secrets
- 4.9 9. How to prune
- 4.10 10. When to prune
- 5 Conclusion
Hibiscus Plant Care Guide
It prefers loamy and sandy soil that is well-draining and moist. Avoid soggy soil as hibiscus plants do not like that and to avoid rotting roots. They love slightly acidic soils as this helps them to absorb nutrients better.
Add some vermiculite or perlite to the soil to make it airier. The ideal pH level for Hibiscus lies between 6.0 to 7.0.
These plants prefer full sun for at least 6 hours per day. Anything less than 6 hours will lead to less growth and blooms.
However, keep in mind that these suggestions are for the best results. Hibiscus will also do well in less sunny spots and might tolerate just 2 hours of full sun per day. Therefore a partially shady location is not a complete no-go.
Hibiscus can get sunburnt. Sudden moves from a shady spot to a sunny location are often the cause of sunburns. Either by moving a hibiscus from a shaded area to a location where it is exposed to the sun. Or by moving a hibiscus that was cared for indoors outside.
Therefore, whenever you are changing the location of your hibiscus, slowly adjust it to the new location and eg. increase the amount of sun gradually if your hibiscus plant is in a pot.
The amount of water needed heavily depends on the amount of sunlight and the temperatures your hibiscus is confronted with.
If you are growing your hibiscus in warm water you might have to water it daily. High temperatures and direct sunlight for multiple hours required frequent waterings.
The colder it gets the less water your plant needs. Hibiscus, as well as most other plants, do not appreciate it if you overwater.
Root rot is a common cause of overwatering where roots stay in soggy soil for too long. Therefore avoid overwatering at all cost and test the wetness of the soil with a finger. Only water if the soil feels dry to the touch.
This is especially important during winter where you should only water when the soil is dry to the touch.
In general, hibiscus prefers slightly moist soil but it should never become soggy.
The right temperature for your plant depends on whether you have a tropical hibiscus or not. Tropical hibiscus prefers temperatures between 50 – 70 °F (10°C – 21°C).
The higher the amount of sunlight, the lower the temperatures should be for your hibiscus. Consider this when choosing a spot to plant your hibiscus or grow it in a pot that you can move around if needed.
50°F is the lowest level that should not be tested. Anything below 50°F can kill your hibiscus. Therefore watch out for cold nights below 50°F. A couple of them are sufficient to kill a hibiscus plant.
Move it inside whenever temperatures are expected to drop below 50°F. In addition shelter your hibiscus from cold winds and drafts if you can.
Let’s now move on and look into the right humidity for your plants.
Hibiscus likes humid weather according to the North Dakota State University. So it can beneficial to mist the leaves daily or even use a humidifier when caring for your hibiscus indoors.
An alternative method is to use a gravel tray below the pot that you fill up with water that then evaporates.
A good way to supplement the soil is to use coffee grounds that you are adding to the compost as a fertilizer since Hibiscus is an acidic loving plant.
You can also use Epsom salt as this is said to lead to bushier hibiscus plants. It contains magnesium and sulfur. They help the plants to absorb nitrogen and phosphorus. These are essential macronutrients for plants and are also part of NPK fertilizers.
Use either slow-release fertilizer or liquid fertilizer. If you grow your hibiscus in a pot, dilute your fertilize to half of the suggested strength.
Read our article about everything you need to know about NPK Fertilizers.
Also, have a look at our Epsom Salt article. The miracle for plant growth!
You can propagate hibiscus by using stem cuttings. The process, in a nutshell, is to take a stem cutting, root it and then plant it. You will create exact clones of your mother plant this way.
The process is the same no matter if you are dealing with hardy or tropical hibiscus. Hibiscus is best propagated in mid-summer during its growth phase. Avoid propagation in autumn and winter as the propagation process will take much longer.
On the other hand, We would also recommend avoiding taking cuttings in late summer. The woodier the stems get, the harder to root them. This is exactly what happens if you wait until the end of the summer.
Hibiscus can grow to a size of 15 feet tall depending on the type. It takes a hibiscus up to 3 years to reach such as size. However as said only certain types will grow that large.
The general range for hibiscus size is between 5- 15 feet. 15 Feet certainly is the higher end and can only be reached in tropical regions where there is no frost.
If you decide to grow your hibiscus in a pot make sure to pick a small pot. Drainage holes in the pot are a must as you do not want the pot to become waterlogged. Excess water needs to be able to drain from the pot.
Use a well-draining and airy potting mix (see above under soil).
Hibiscus likes to be pot-bound and prefers when its roots are getting crowded. This is when it thrives.
Tropical Hibiscus Care
Tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) is also known as the Chinese hibiscus, is hardy in zones 10 – 12 according to the United States Department of Agriculture. It has striking foliage and loves direct sunlight. Tropical hibiscus blooms from spring to autumn.
Tropical Hibiscus is best planted in pots as it does not tolerate temperatures between 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). It likes warm and humid conditions. Up to 8 hours of direct sunlight are best.
In cold nights temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit are easily reached even in these hardiness zones. If you do not have your tropical hibiscus in a pot and can take it indoors overnight the only thing you can do is to pray.
If you have a tropical hibiscus, take it indoors over winter if you have temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) and put it into a south-facing window where it gets at least 6 hours of direct sunshine.
Read our article about light levels for houseplants and where to place them.
Remember to adjust your tropical hibiscus slowing to lower light when moving it indoors. Do the same in Spring when you are about to move it outdoors. Do it over the course of 2 weeks and increase the level of sunlight gradually.
Hardy hibiscus refers to several hibiscus in the mallow group. Hibiscus comes in many varieties ranging in size and colour of their flowers. One variety is the Texas Star (Hibiscus cocchineus).
Some hardy varieties can grow in USDA hardiness zone 4 and tolerate temperatures that are 30 below zero Fahrenheit. Hardy hibiscus plants go into dormancy during winter to survive the cold.
They die back in winter and then start to grow back the next year. A little pruning goes a long way to bring them back into shape in spring.
The 10 Best Kept Secrets About Growing Hibiscus
1. The best location
The best location for hibiscus is a place in your garden with full sun for 6-8 hours and some shade in the late afternoon in very hot locations.
2. How to correctly repot your plant
Follow these steps to repot your Hibiscus:
- Choose a pot with drainage holes.
- Add a well-draining potting medium using pumice and/or perlite
- Remove the hibiscus from its old pot
- Untangle the roots and remove the old potting soil
- Remove mushy or damaged roots
- Pot into the new pot with the new potting soil
- Do not water immediately! This is a mistake most people and even experienced gardeners make. The roots might have been damaged during this process. Let the roots callous over for a day or two.
- Water your hibiscus
3. How to promote Blooms
Prune your hibiscus plant back to about 1/3 in early spring. When you move it back outdoors in spring let it adjust slowly to the increased light levels over 7-14 days.
Place your hibiscus into full sun for at least 6-8 hours a day. When the new growth matures and gets more woody, flowers will start to build that can last from spring to autumn.
Do not overfertilize your hibiscus as this will most likely promote lush green foliage and will reduce blooming.
When you repot your hibiscus once a year it will already have loads of nutrients in the new soil and only needs to be fertilized every two weeks.
4.How to keep your Hibiscus blooming
- Repot your hibiscus every year
- Cut the plant back to 1/3 in early spring
- Put your plant in a location in spring where it gets at least 6-8 hours of full sun
- Fertilize every two weeks but not more often!
5.The right watering regiment
Water your hibiscus thoroughly when they are blooming as this is when they have increased watering needs.
Water your hibiscus daily 2 days after planting. Hibiscus prefers moist but not soggy soil. When there is no rainfalls water about twice a week and every second day in the second week after you have watered daily in the first week.
Depending on the weather you have to water more or less often. Hot weather will require you to water every day. Decrease watering if temperatures are lower or fall.
6.How to keep your plant Problem Free
Make sure to keep your hibiscus tidy and remove any debris around it as well as cutting off any dying leaves and blooms. Check your plants daily for deficiencies and pests.
Check the leaves and also look on the underside of the leaves. Make sure your watering schedule fits the environmental conditions your plant lives in. Check the soil and make sure it is lightly moist and not soggy.
Fertilize your hibiscus every two weeks from spring to summer.
Prune your hibiscus regularly to allow airflow to the centre of the plant.
If you are doing all these things chances are that you are significantly reducing the chances of having any troubles with your hibiscus.
You do not have a guarantee to never have any pests on your hibiscus. But at least chances are that you will spot them early on and can do something against these pesky buggers.
7. How to care for your Hibiscus indoors
Keep your hibiscus in a south-facing window if possible as these plants are very light hungry and prefer warm temperatures. Water regularity and always water when the soil is dry to the touch. Make sure temperatures stay above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Make sure that you are not taking a perennial hibiscus indoors as these should remain outdoors. The most likely scenario is that you are bringing in a hibiscus from outdoors to overwinter in your four walls.
The hibiscus to care for indoors is the Chinese hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) or at least a cross-bred variation of it.
8. The best fertilization secrets
The best fertilization ratios for Hibiscus are 7-1-2 or 12-4-8. Read our NPK fertilization guide to get a better understanding of what we are talking about here. The ratios basically describe the mix between Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K).
You can either use a slow-release fertilizer or make use of liquid fertilizer.
9. How to prune
Cut your hibiscus back to about a third of the plant. Make sure to leave two to three nodes for the plant to grow back. Remove any leggy growth and remove all the dead branches or weak growth.
10. When to prune
Prune your hibiscus in spring. Do not prune during autumn or winter. You can slightly cut and prune your hibiscus in summer as well if you need to.
Hibiscus plants are amazing. There are very few plants with such stunning flowers that can grow in USDA hardiness zones down to 4 that look so tropical. The flowers are unmatched and hibiscus has been cross-bred so that it comes in so many different variants with stunningly different looking flowers. What are you waiting for, get yours!
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.