Hibiscus Care: Do Hibiscus Require Fall Maintenance?

Posted by: on August 24th, 2012 | Make A Comment
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Hibiscus Care: Two red hibiscus blooms

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis– in a container


It’s hard to beat hibiscus flowers just for pure visual impact. They’re pretty easy to grow, too. But depending on what type of hibiscus you have, you may want to take some steps when the weather turns cold to keep your hibiscus producing those big, beautiful flowers.

That’s what Laureen had in mind when she asked:

“What is the fall maintenance for a hibiscus to come back the following summer? We planted them in May and they have grown and bloomed all summer. Would like to keep them going for as many years as possible.”

A couple of our resident experts on The Home Depot’s online How-To Community teamed up to answer Laureen’s question about hibiscus care.

Three Types of Hibiscus

Community associate LawnRanger says when it comes to hibiscus care, a lot depends on what type of hibiscus you have:

  • Hardy hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos) are perennial plants that die back completely to the ground in the winter and will reappear next spring to produce the largest of blooms in the summer.
  • Althea (Hibiscus syriacus), or Rose of Sharon, is a deciduous shrub that retain its woody growth while losing its leaves in winter. These are often tree formed and can reach 10 feet in height.
  • Tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) are the most prolific bloomers, with a wide variety of colors, continually blooming all summer. These tropical plants cannot tolerate exposure to cold weather. This is the only hibiscus that requires over wintering indoors.

The first two, Hardy hibiscus and Althea, are hardy to Climate Zones 5-8, and generally don’t require much preparation for cold weather. But, Tropical hibiscus varieties, as the name suggests, don’t like cold weather, and will need some special attention.

Maintain Your Hibiscus in Cold Weather

CoachDave spelled out how to care for your tropical varieties of hibiscus:

If you are in an area that has freezing temperatures your hibiscus should be in a container so you can bring it into a garage to protect it during the winter. Hibiscus is a tropical plant and can only tolerate a night or two of light freezes.

During the times of the year when there is little sunlight (like October), you can prune your hibiscus to get the shape you need. At this time you won’t want to fertilize because there will be little blooms for most areas. If you are in a place like Florida, southern parts of Texas, or Southern California, you can enjoy blooms all year round. But if you live in a zone with cold winters, you should cut off about 4-5 inches of growth. This will help eliminate bugs and let the plant rest instead of struggling to grow with limited light.

At this time the leaves will turn yellow and fall off. Don’t worry, this is normal and they will regrow when the weather gets warmer. Remember, also, it’s important not to fertilize at this time.

In spring it’s time to take your hibiscus back outside to enjoy the weather. Some water-soluble acidic fertilizer will give them a gentle push to begin creating new leaves and blooms. When you see the new growth, use some slow-release acidic fertilizer every other month until fall.

It’s not terribly difficult to keep most hibiscus growing and blooming for many years, which is probably another reason so many gardeners love hibiscus.

We have more advice and project ideas from our experts. Visit the Forums for DIY tips and and gardening advice from our store associates. From the Forums Friday is our weekly column highlighting the best of The Home Depot’s Community Forums.

Photo (cc) pizzodisevo

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