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Hibiscus Care

Hibiscus thrive in containers, if you know how to care for them

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Hibiscus flowers painted lady

Hibiscus Flower, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, Painted Lady

Photograph © Kerry Michaels

Hibiscus flowers are one of the most spectacular blossoms a container gardener can grow. The blooms are large, colorful and incredibly graceful. The foliage of the hibiscus plant is also beautiful - the dark green, glossy leaves, provide a wonderful contrast with the extravagant blooms.

Caring for hibiscus is easy and can make any container garden feel luxurious and exotic.

To find out the best way to grow hibiscus, I spoke to Mike Rimland, known as the "Plant Hunter," from Costa Farms, one of the largest hibiscus growers in the world. Much of the following information was gleaned from our conversation.

  • Sun Requirements - While most plant tags will tell you that hibiscus takes full sun to partial sun, in reality, if you live somewhere hot and light, you should go more towards partial sun. In Northern climes, your hibiscus will probably be happier in full sun.

  • Drainage and Watering are Key - Hibiscus are thirsty plants and will only thrive and produce blossoms if they are given enough water. Depending on heat, wind and humidity, your plant may need to be watered daily - in extremely dry conditions - twice a day. These are tropical plants, so they don't like to dry out. They also don't like to be soaking wet, so you have to be careful not to drown your plants. Keep the soil moist, watering your plant slowly and deeply. If your hibiscus is dropping leaves, or you're seeing yellowing leaves at the top of the hibiscus, chances are it's not getting enough water. If your hibiscus has yellowing leaves in the middle or towards the bottom of the plant, chances are it's suffocating from too much water.

  • Pot Size - For consistent production of hibiscus flowers, you don't want to transplant your hibiscus in too deep a container. If you do, your plant will be healthy, but will spend more energy producing roots than flowers and top growth, so you may see fewer flowers until the roots have hit the bottom of the pot. However, if you are doing a mixed container, you will want to put the hibiscus in a larger pot, so optimally, look for one that is wider than the nursery pot, but not much deeper.

  • Fertilizer - Chances are good that when you buy your hibiscus, it has a slow release fertilizer mixed into to the soil so you probably don't have to worry about feeding your plant for the first few months you own it. After that feed it regularly. I use a diluted, liquid fish emulsion, seaweed combination every other week.

  • Overwintering Hibiscus - If you live in a northern climate, it is possible to overwinter hibiscus indoors, though it's not easy. Your hibiscus will need at least 2-3 hours of direct sunlight. Try putting your hibiscus in an East, West or South facing window. Though your hibiscus will need less water in the winter, be aware that once you turn on your heat, your air will be dry, which can be hard on tropical plants, so you will need to water more often. If you see any buds remove them - you don't want your hibiscus to flower in the winter. In the spring, cut the plant back and put it back outside, once the nighttime temperatures are consistently above 50°F.

  • Happy Hibiscus - If your plant is consistently producing hibiscus flowers, it is happy, so keep doing what you're doing. If your plant is not producing buds and flowers, try moving it into an area that has either more or less sunlight.

Hibiscus Flower Photograph

Another Hibiscus Flower Photograph

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