You are here to read more about Hibiscus plant care and the Hibiscus plant.
Hibiscus or rose mallow belongs to the mallow family (Malvaceae).
The Hibiscus genus consists of 250 different species, according to New World Encyclopedia.
They are native to warm temperatures and in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide.
Hibiscus 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 water- and light-hungry.
|Synonyms||Rose mallow, Shoeblack plant, Chinese hibiscus|
|Soil||Well-draining soil mix|
|Watering||Every 3-7 days|
|Temperature||18.3 - 29.4 °C (65.0 - 85.0 °F)|
|Humidity||40.0% - 60.0%|
|Fertilizer||Once a month in spring and summer|
|Propagation||Stem cuttings or seeds|
|Toxicity||Toxic to cats. No toxicity is known towards humans and dogs.|
Table of Contents
Hibiscus Plant Care Outdoors and Indoors
To care for a Hibiscus plant, provide loamy, sandy, well-draining soil and full sun for at least 6 hours. Water every 3-7 days. The ideal temperature range for Hibiscus is 18.3 – 29.4 °C (65.0 – 85.0 °F). Use NPK fertilizer high in nitrogen (N) and low in phosphorus (P), such as NPK 7-1-2 or 12-4-8.
Table of Contents
A Rose mallow plant prefers loamy and sandy soil that is well-draining and moist.
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.
Hibiscus Care Sun
Hibiscus 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 daily.
Therefore a partially shady location is not a complete no-go.
The Shoeblack plant can get sunburnt.
Sudden moves from a shady spot to a sunny location often cause sunburns.
Either by moving a hibiscus from a shaded area to a location exposed to the sun. Or by moving a hibiscus that was cared for indoors outside.
Therefore, whenever you change your hibiscus’s location, slowly adjust it to the new location, and e.g. increase the amount of sun gradually if your hibiscus plant is in a pot.
Water Hibiscus every 3-7 days.
Water your hibiscus thoroughly when they bloom, as this is when they have increased watering needs.
Water your Hibiscus daily, two days after planting. Hibiscus prefers moist but not soggy soil when there is no rainfall. 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.
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 watering.
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 overwatering cause where roots stay in soggy soil for too long.
Therefore avoid overwatering at all costs 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 when you should only water when the soil is dry.
Generally, hibiscus prefers slightly moist soil but should never become soggy.
Hibiscus prefers temperatures between 18.3 – 29.4 °C (65.0 – 85.0 °F).
The higher the amount of sunlight, the lower the temperatures for your Hibiscus should be.
Consider this when choosing a spot to plant your Hibiscus or grow it in a pot you can move around if needed.
50°F is the lowest level a Hibiscus can tolerate (10 degrees Celsius). Anything below 50°F can kill your hibiscus.
Move it inside whenever temperatures are expected to drop below 50°F. In addition, shelter your hibiscus from cold winds and drafts if possible.
A humidity between 40-60% is ideal for Hibiscus plants.
The Hibiscus plant likes humid weather, according to the North Dakota State University.
So using a humidifier when caring for your hibiscus indoors can be beneficial.
An alternative method is to use a gravel tray below the pot that you fill with water that evaporates.
Fertilize the Hibiscus plant every two weeks in the growing season with an NPK fertilizer high in nitrogen (N) and low in phosphorus (P), such as NPK 7-1-2 or 12-4-8.
The ratios describe the mix between Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K).
Read about the best fertilizers for hibiscus.
You can either use a slow-release fertilizer or make use of liquid fertilizer.
Agri Life Extension recommends keeping the soil’s phosphorus (P) content low to avoid a high distribution in the soil.
A good way to supplement the soil is to use coffee grounds that you add to the compost as a fertilizer since hibiscus is an acidic-loving plant.
You can also use Epsom salt, which 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 fertilization to half the suggested strength.
Also, please have a look at my Epsom Salt article. The miracle for plant growth!
You can propagate a Hibiscus plant by using stem cuttings.
In a nutshell, the process 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 whether 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 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 precisely what happens if you wait until the end of the summer.
Hibiscus can grow to a size of 15 feet tall (4.6m), depending on the type.
It takes a hibiscus up to 3 years to reach such size. However, as said, only certain types will grow that large.
The general range for hibiscus size is between 5- 15 feet (1.5-4.6m). 15 Feet (4.6m) is higher and can only reach tropical regions without frost.
Pick a small pot if you decide to grow your hibiscus in a pot. Drainage holes in the pot are necessary 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), also known as the Chinese hibiscus, is hardy in USDA 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.
Cold temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) are easily reached on cold nights, even in these hardiness zones.
If you do not have your tropical hibiscus in a pot and can take it indoors overnight, you can only pray.
If you have a tropical hibiscus, take it indoors over winter with 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.
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 two weeks and increase the level of sunlight gradually.
What is a Hardy Hibiscus Plant?
Hardy Hibiscus refers to Hibiscus species that can grow in USDA hardiness zone 4 and tolerate lower temperatures to -30 Fahrenheit (-34 degrees Celsius).
One variety is the Texas Star (Hibiscus cocchineus).
Hardy hibiscus plants go into dormancy during winter to survive the cold.
They die back in winter and then grow the next year. A little pruning goes a long way to bring them back into shape in spring.
What is the best Location for a Hibiscus?
The best location for hibiscus is in your garden with full sun for 6-8 hours and some shade in the late afternoon in very hot locations.
How to Repot a Hibiscus?
Follow these steps to repot your Hibiscus:
- Choose a pot with drainage holes.
- Add a well-draining potting medium using pumice and 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
How to promote Hibiscus Flowering?
Prune your hibiscus plant to promote flowering 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 in full sun for at least 6-8 hours daily. 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; this will most likely promote lush green foliage and 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.
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!
How to keep a Hibiscus Problem Free
Keep your hibiscus tidy, remove debris, and cut off dying leaves and blooms. Check your plants daily for deficiencies and pests.
Common pests on hibiscus are aphids, thrips, mealybugs, whiteflies, scale and spider mites.
Check the leaves and also look at 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 center of the plant.
If you are doing all these things, the chances are significantly reducing the chances of having trouble with your hibiscus.
You do not have a guarantee never to 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.
To eliminate pest infestations, use neem oil, horticultural soap, and beneficial nematodes. If an infestation gets bad, use a systemic insecticide.
My Hibiscus Has Yellow Leaves
If your hibiscus gets yellow leaves, the most common reasons are overwatering, underwatering, pest infestations, too much sunlight, plant stress, diseases and nutrient deficiencies, and overfertilization.
Read more about yellow leaves on Hibiscus plants and what to do about it.
Caring 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.
Ensure 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.
When to prune a Hibiscus Plant?
Prune your hibiscus in spring. Do not prune during autumn or winter. You can also slightly cut and prune your hibiscus in summer if you need to.
How to prune a Hibiscus
Cut your Hibiscus back to about a third of the plant. Leave two to three nodes for the plant to grow back.
Remove any leggy growth and remove all the dead branches or weak growth.
A hibiscus plant is simply wonderful.
Very few plants with such stunning flowers 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 many different variants with stunningly different-looking flowers.
What are you waiting for? Get your Hibiscus plant. You already have the Hibiscus care guide ready.
Daniel has been a plant enthusiast for over 20 years. He owns hundreds of houseplants and prepares for the chili growing seasons yearly with great anticipation. His favorite plants are plant species in the Araceae family, such as Monstera, Philodendron, and Anthurium. He also loves gardening and is growing hot peppers, tomatoes, and many more vegetables.