The hibiscus is a favorite for summer gardens.
Prized for their saucer-sized flamboyant blooms, they’re a staple throughout the summer. Also, hibiscus looks equally gorgeous in containers as a decking or patio plant.
To enjoy those bursts of color and supersized flowerheads though, you need to know how to plant hibiscus for you to enjoy the best results.
How to Plant Hibiscus?
How hibiscus is planted depends on the variety you’re planting and the soil it’s being planted in. You shouldn’t plant the tropical hibiscus variety in garden soil where temperatures drop below the freezing point. Hardy hibiscus is better suited to the north. Tropical varieties can be container grown. Larger containers are better suited for patios or decking plants. You can also grow hibiscus in 10-inch diameter pots. When transplanting, both types of hibiscus need planted in well-draining soil that has good moisture retention. The ideal planting spot should receive around six hours of indirect sunlight. Also, if you plant hibiscus outdoors, there should be some shelter from the wind to protect their delicate blooms.
Transplanting Hibiscus in Garden Soil
Hibiscus plants can be transplanted into garden soil once they’ve reached a height of one to two feet.
You can’t just plunk it in the ground though. You first need to check the soil has adequate moisture retention and still drains well.
The soil may need to be amended if it doesn’t meet the said requirements.
Checking your Ground Soil
Two tests should be done on your garden soil before you transplant a hibiscus, both of which involve digging and watering.
The first check is for soil drainage. Do this by digging a hole in the ground. Then, pour a gallon of water into the hole you created earlier.
Leave it an hour and see if it drained. If there’s still standing water in the hole, the soil will have too much clay.
Soil amendments for clay soil include adding in organic compost, gypsum, or pine bark.
Your local garden center will likely be familiar with local soils and be able to supply suitable material to amend it with.
The other test is for water permeability and the purpose is to show you how much water is going to reach the roots of the plant.
As hibiscus have deep roots, you need water to flow to a depth of at least 8 inches.
To figure out how good water flows through your soil, make a small well, fill it with water then leave it a half hour to drain.
Do that a few times to give it enough time for water to penetrate deeper into the soil.
After a few waterings, dig down at least 8 inches. The soil should be moist up to the 8 to 10 inch mark.
If it isn’t, you’ll need to dig out the garden soil and fill the hole with a planting mix instead.
If the water can’t reach the roots, plants die of drought. If water doesn’t drain fast enough, root rot kills the plant.
Those two soil tests are how you’ll know you’re planting in healthy soil to ensure that your hibiscus will thrive in it.
Getting the Location Right
Hibiscus grow best in warm shade, somewhere in your garden that gets bright indirect sunlight. Six hours of full sun is good for our hibiscus plants.
When in bloom, the flowers are delicate. They need shelter from the wind.
Hence, it’s best for you to find an area that can protect the fragile flowers so your growing efforts won’t go to waste. Just make sure that the place doesn’t completely block the sunlight.
How to Plant Hibiscus in the Ground
Once you know your soil is good and you have a good location, it’s time to get digging.
The hole needs to be at least a few inches wider than the width of the root ball. If you’re planting into a planting mix instead of garden soil, make the hole wider to allow the roots to fan out.
The depth you plant hibiscus at depends on your local climate.
If your area is wet and humid, keep the roots closer to the surface.
In dry conditions where you need the soil to hold water for longer, plant the roots deeper, leaving a couple of inches of topsoil above the roots.
When transplanting, use your fingers to spread the roots out before putting them in the ground.
When you take it out of the plant pot, the root ball will be pot bound. Don’t drop it in the ground with its roots compacted.
Separating the roots before you put them in the ground helps improve airflow.
Potting Hibiscus Plants for Indoors or Patios
For those in the Northern areas, tropical hibiscus varieties will need to be grown indoors.
Tropical varieties can withstand the occasional dip below zero. But if temperatures remain freezing (-32 degrees Fahrenheit), the frostbite will damage them and eventually kill them.
Hardy hibiscus, such as the Rose Mallow is tolerant to freezing temperatures. Those types can withstand temperatures as low as 20 below zero.
Mulching can provide some insulation. But your best bet for colder climates is to either grow hibiscus as a year-round houseplant or pot them up as a summer patio plant so you can overwinter them indoors.
As these can get tall, consider the size and weight of the pot you plant these in. Terracotta pots are ideal for patio planters as they are heavier and porous.
Plastic pots are susceptible to tilting caused by too much weight on one side of the plant, but that’s only going to happen if you let it grow large.
You can keep your hibiscus indoors in pots as small as 10 inches. Just keep on top of pruning.
To pot up hibiscus, a soilless potting mix is ideal. It needs to be well-draining but still hold sufficient moisture. A good potting mix for hibiscus should have a combination of coco coir, peat moss, or composted bark to hold moisture.
For drainage, sand, perlite, or vermiculite should be used.
Once potted, fertilize regularly with a diluted strength fertilizer specifically for hibiscus because everything you put in a potted plant stays there for longer.
The main concern with potted hibiscus is too much phosphorous. It’s a key component in bloom-boosting plant foods.
High amounts of phosphorous tie up key nutrients in the potting mix. Within just weeks, hibiscus leaves turn yellow as a result of iron deficiency.
For that reason, always feed potted hibiscus with a diluted fertilizer that has a lower amount of phosphorus.
Frequently Asked Questions about Hibiscus Planting
Can hibiscus bloom all year indoors?
Tropical hibiscus can be kept blooming all year indoors. They need high light, humidity, and temperatures to keep them in bloom and regular pruning to control height. Hardy hibiscus will go dormant in the winter.
When is the best time to plant hibiscus outdoors?
Early Spring is ideal for transplanting hibiscus in the ground. Get them into garden soil before the temperatures rise. Potted hibiscus can be placed outdoors from early spring, but they should be brought indoors around late summer before the nights get cooler. Leaving them out until fall can result in the plants acclimatizing to cooler night temperatures that cause them to become stressed when they’re brought back indoors.
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.