Hibiscus Plant Care
Hibiscus Plant Care Instructions and Gardening Tips
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is in the Malvaceae family and all family names end with "aceae". For identification each plant species are placed into a family. To be categorized within a family, each plant species must have technical characteristics. Plants are classified into families based on several criteria, but mainly the flower is the main classifying feature. The scientific community has devised a naming system for plants, a latinized binomial system. The first word is the genus name, the second word is the specific epithet, and together the words form the species name. For example, the scientific name for the plant commonly called southern magnolia is Magnolia grandiflora; the genus is Magnolia, the specific epithet grandiflora. Scientific names are universal and there will be no confusion when one uses the names. Several plants have numerous common names and the one drawback to using common names is that they change from state to state and from county to county. Some common plant names even include part or the entire scientific name. Hibiscus rosa-senensis has more than a few common names: Chinese Hibiscus, Tropical Hibiscus, and Hibiscus. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is native to southern China and is only winter hardy in tropical regions of the world. Hibiscus' are hardy from USDA zones 9-11 and can be planted in the garden. For gardeners north of zone 9 you may grow Hibiscus' in containers and can winterize the plant in the fall. Following are care instructions and gardening tips to maintain your new Hibiscus.
The key to a plant's success is appropriate soil, light, water, and fertilizer. An appropriately watered and fertilized plant will tolerate more stress than a plant that is not properly cared for. When a plant is under stress that is when the plant is more susceptible to insect and/or disease infestations. The less stress a plant endures the healthier the plant is. Several stress factors that a plant endures can be prevented by proper care.
Immediate Hibiscus Care Upon Arrival For 4" Pots: First, remove the plant(s) from the box and plant sleeves from around the pot. Our Hibiscus plants are shipped on the dry side. Place the plant(s) in a saucer and water the plant until the water starts to collect in the saucer, while the plant is absorbing the water in the saucer, mist the plant(s) with water. This procedure helps the plant gain back some of the water it lost during the shipping process. Do not put your plant in direct sunlight for two weeks because your Hibiscus needs to acclimate to a new growing environment. After your plant is refreshed from their journey you may want to repot your Hibiscus to a larger container, it is recommended to go no larger than 4 inches from the original pot size; an 8-inch azalea type pot will be perfect. First, remove the plastic pot, and fill ¼ of the container with your potting soil. I have had good luck with Scotts Potting Soil or MiracleGro Potting Soil; both soils will provide the drainage that is perfect for growing your Hibiscus. Next, place the 4" root ball in the container, and while holding the root ball in an upright position, fill the container with soil. Water the soil. Hibiscuses are heavy feeders. A Hibiscus fertilizer should have a low phosphorous [P], which is the middle number and a higher analysis of potassium [K], which is the last number. The recommended fertilizers for the Hibiscus are 10-4-12, 9-3-12, or 12-4-18. Osmocote 17-6-10 + minors or Osmocote 18-6-12 is also recommended for Hibiscus and is a time-release fertilizer. Follow the application and frequency rates recommended by the fertilizer company.
Soil: For container-grown Hibiscus use a well-drained soil mixture containing compost and perlite. For Hibiscus to be planted in the landscape use this method: All plants should be evenly moist before planting. Position plants in the area to be planted. While placing the plants be sure the best side or front of the plant is in the area that is most viewed. After the plants are in position take a couple of steps back and view the area from a distance, at different angles of vision, and view the area from inside the house. These steps help to determine if the plant is in the proper place. Turn the pot back and forth several times to make an indentation in the soil with the container. This marks the ground and also helps indicate how wide to dig the planting hole.
The planting hole should be less than the height of the root ball and twice as wide. Use organic compost or soil conditioner and mix it 50-50 with the soil from the planting hole; soil amendments should always be thoroughly mixed with the soil from the planting hole. Apply at a rate of one part soil amendment(s) to two parts planting hole soil. This procedure will help the roots to eventually spread beyond the original planting hole. Do not make the original planting hole too rich with soil amendments because the roots of the plant will never spread out from the original planting hole to the existing soil. Use the container from the plant as a measure and a wheelbarrow to mix any soil amendments with the existing soil.
Place the plant in the hole. The top of the root ball should be 2 inches above normal ground. Fill the planting hole with the soil mixture and add mulch as a top dressing. Next, water the root ball of the plant, planting hole and a small area outside the planting hole thoroughly. After watering, apply a root stimulator on a weekly basis for two months. There are several on the market today to choose from.
Light: Correct light helps to ensure proper growth and health of the plant. Given too little light the plant grows spindly and leggy. When given too much light the plant gets sunburned. Hibiscus needs a minimum of 5 - 6 hours of full sun. When growing your plant indoors give a southern or western exposure. The more hours of sun your Hibiscus receives the happier and healthier it will be. During the warm spring and summer months it is recommended to enjoy your Hibiscus outdoors.
Water: Watering plants on a regular time schedule helps to keep your Hibiscus plant healthy. Keep your Hibiscus evenly moist, but not soggy wet. Let the water run out through the drainage holes at the bottom of the container. Avoid letting the water stand for longer than 24 hours in a saucer. While the Hibiscus is actively growing you may have to water more frequently.
Fertilizer: Fertilizers are the vitamins or the essential elements that a plant needs. The soil, atmosphere, and water usually provide the plant with these essential nutrients. There are times when the soil is generally nutrient deficient and in this case a fertilizer is essential. There are sixteen essential elements to plant nutrition. These elements are separated into two categories, macronutrients and micronutrients. The macronutrients are: oxygen [O], carbon [C], hydrogen [H], nitrogen [N], phosphorus [P], potassium [K], Calcium [Ca], magnesium [Mg], sulfur [S] and are required by the plant in large amounts. Oxygen, carbon and hydrogen are provided to the plant by the atmosphere and water. Required by the plant in small amounts the micronutrients are: iron [Fe], manganese [Mn], zinc [Zn], baron [B], copper [Cu], molybdenum [Mo], and chlorine [Cl]. These elements are the building blocks to plant nutrition.
Using a complete fertilizer can prevent deficiency symptoms. Fertilizers are sold in a wide variety of types such as granular, spikes, cartridges, liquid, water-soluble, and slow-release. Each has advantages depending on what type of plant the gardener is fertilizing. Granular is generally used for lawns, shrubs, and trees. On lawn usage a spreader is required for even distribution. When applying a granular fertilizer, for shrubs, spread the fertilizer around the root zone, and for trees spread evenly under the tree's branch circumference. Apply at the rates recommended by the fertilizer manufacturer. Because granular fertilizer may cause burning, it should not come in contact with a plant's leaves or stems. After applying a granular fertilizer, water thoroughly. Spikes are inserted into the soil at specific locations recommended by the fertilizer manufacture and are usually used for large trees and shrubs. The fertilizer is slowly released when water is applied and will last for a specific amount of time. Cartridges require a cartridge holder that is attached to a garden hose where the water slowly dissolves the fertilizer. A depth of 6 to 10 inches is sufficient. Liquid and water-soluble fertilizers are quickly available to the plant. The liquid or water-soluble products are mixed with water and are applied to container plants or can be poured directly into the soil. Fertilizer companies have made hose-end sprayers to use with their products and can be used at every watering. Time-release is a fertilizer coated with a special material, which allows a small release of nutrients when it is exposed to water. These fertilizers are formulated to last from 3 to 12 months. Temperature is also a factor in the release of the nutrients. Hibiscuses are heavy feeders. A Hibiscus fertilizer should have a low phosphorous [P], which is the middle number and a higher analysis of potassium [K], which is the last number. The recommended fertilizers for the Hibiscus are 10-4-12, 9-3-12, or 12-4-18. Osmocote 17-6-10 + minors or Osmocote 18-6-12 is also recommended for Hibiscus and is a time-release fertilizer. Try our Nutri Star Hibiscus Food 10-4-12 on your Hibiscus that you purchase from Hibiscus and More. Click Here For Purchase.
Winterizing Your Hibiscus: Start getting your Hibiscus ready to bring indoors when Daylight Saving Time ends. The temperature slowly starts to drop in the evening leading to cooler nights. Place the Hibiscus in a shady location for two weeks to begin acclimatizing it for interior residence. During this time check your plant for any insects and spray with the appropriate insecticide. Place the Hibiscus in a southern or western exposure. Your Hibiscus may experience yellowing of the leaves and leaf drop. Your plant is just adjusting to their new surroundings. During the winter months it is recommended to use a humidity saucer for your Hibiscus. You can easily make this by getting a saucer and lining the bottom of the saucer with small gravel or pebbles and filling the saucer with water to the level of the stones.
Time to Go Outdoors: Once the weather warms up, to 40 - 50 degrees, you can start acclimatizing your Hibiscus by placing it in the shade outdoors and then slowly move the plant to partial shade and finally to full sun. Now would be a good time to fertilize and prune your Hibiscus. Follow the recommended fertilizer rates listed on the label. Pruning encourages a bushier plant.
Pruning: Is an art but it is also a science. Along the plant's stem are nodes, which are dormant until a cut is made just above that node. The nodes are growing points along the plant's stem. When the plant's stem is cut this stimulates chemical and/or hormonal reactions in the plant. It is these reactions that stimulate the dormant bud to grow. When pruning the dormant buds should face along the outside of the plant's stem, the buds will grow to the outside of the plant. Envision the path the future growing bud will take. This will help prevent future headaches, such as branches growing into each other and rubbing against each other. The best time to prune is in the spring or just before new growth begins to appear.
PRUNING GUIDE LINES:
- Remove branches that cross or rub one another, and dead or diseased wood on the Hibiscus.
- The pruning cut for all branches less than two inches in diameter should be made at a 45-degree angle from the growing bud.
- The growing bud should be pointing toward the outside of the plant. One wants the plant to grow outwards not inwards or on vertical lines.
- The cutting edge of the pruning shears should be on top of the part of the plant to be cut; the hook will be underneath. When done in reverse order a stub will result. The blade should be held as close to the plant as possible.
- All pruning tools should be kept sharp and clean. When pruning diseased plant material always sterilize the tools afterwards.
Pest and Disease Management: There are several ways to prevent insects and/or diseases in your interior plants or garden. Most important: start with healthy, disease free plants. Proper light, water, and soil requirements usually insure a happy, healthy plant. Incorrect light can either cause the plant to have sunburned leaves, or cause the plant to become leggy and spindly. Both these conditions will weaken the plant causing more susceptibility to insect and/or disease infestations. Incorrect watering will lead to disease infestations. In your garden, do not apply overhead irrigation in the evening hours; this sometimes can lead to diseases. For established gardens and newly transplanted gardens there are preventative measures that can be taken. Tour your garden on a weekly or daily basis looking for signs of ill health or insects, on new growth, on top and underneath the leaves, and for holes in the plant's leaf surface. Here are some clues or symptoms to look for. A caterpillar usually makes holes that start on the edge of the leaf and chews toward the center of the leaf. Some caterpillars work at night. If you suspect a caterpillar and can't see one check the soil underneath the plant; most likely he is hiding in the soil. Holes that start in the middle of the leaf are usually the work of a slug or snail and the plant can disappear quite rapidly. Brown circles on the leaf that enlarge in circumference are usually fungi.
Integrated pest management (IPM) is becoming more popular. The concept is to prevent chemical spraying or to cut down the use of chemical spraying, to monitor the plants for insects or disease, to use biological controls whenever possible, and to use alternative methods of controlling the pest at hand. Some alternative methods of controlling insects include using insecticidal soaps, dormant or summer oils, and biological controls. Some biological controls include: predators that consume other insects such as, Ladybugs just love aphids and the parasite Encarsia formosa, love whitefly that plague poinsettia. Scientists are researching more and more biological controls for the grower and the homeowner.
Prevention is the best cure. Tour the garden looking for signs of damage by insects or disease. Identify the problem, and choose the appropriate action. Spray only the plant or plants that have the problem. Several gardeners have reported good results with insecticidal soaps and the oils; it is better for you, the environment, and the plant.
Happy Gardening From Hibiscus...and More!!!
Cheryl Ann Meola Texas Certified Nursery Professional #1282
© 2005 Cheryl Ann Meola