Hibiscus - Winter care

paulsm(z5)October 14, 2005


We are pretty set on everything except our hibiscus. We have a small tree, a large bush and a smaller bush. Our current thought is to take them inside where they will have more or less about 2 to 3 hours of limited sunlight each day.

Or should we just leave them outside. I am not sure what kind of hibiscus each is.


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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

There are several cultivars of Hibiscus hardy all the way down to zone 4, which would need minimal protection in your zone. If you're inquiring about a tropical plant, you can try giving it all the light available & keep it as warm as possible over winter, or do what I do. Prune back hard & put in basement on the cool floor and keep it quite dry. The plant will go semi-dormant. In May, I repot and begin to water and fertilize when I'm ready to move it outdoors.


    Bookmark   October 15, 2005 at 8:11AM
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Whatever you do, don't leave it outside. I have just treated mine with marathon and will bring it in in a few weeks. It still looks great as a houseplant until winter. I put it in the sunniest room in the house away from drafts. It will go dormant starting in Jan and look horrible (my leaves fall off and the leaves left get very rough like sandpaper). Sometimes we will get beautiful red flowers in early spring. It goes through phases.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2005 at 12:32PM
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theosof1(z6 sepa)

I agree to cut it back hard. I cut my first one back quite by accident and never got around to tossing it- then it began to sprout in the Spring. I also left it in my basement and kept it dry. I have done this twice more with the same plant and it keeps coming back in the spring- just cut back hard, keep it dry in a cool spot and begin to water in May. This is for a tropical one. I have my hardy one and a rose of sharon planted in my small from yard....good luck....

    Bookmark   October 18, 2005 at 3:31PM
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help!!! i juse brought in 3 hibiscus trees last week, now the leaves are turning yellow and falling off.what should i do ? it has been raining here so i havent watered them till yeaterday.i live on long island, so the winter is coming.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2005 at 8:05AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Gee. I thought that was covered in my and theosof1's replies. ;o)

It's not at all unusual for a plant to shed leaves that are conditioned to bright outdoor light when you bring them in to over-winter.


    Bookmark   October 31, 2005 at 5:16PM
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I have what I believe is a hibiscus tree it has pretty large redish pink blooms and heart shaped leaves. I need to know if I should bring this in the house now it is suppose to be in the high 30's tonight, I have brought it in today but can I put it back outside in the morning? should I just leave it inside for now? when can I put it back outside I live in southeastern ohio

    Bookmark   September 20, 2006 at 7:39PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If it is a tropical or sub-tropical variety, it should be protected from frost. If it is a temperate plant that goes dormant over winter, exposure to freezing temperatures is a natural part of the growth cycle. You'll need to determine what you're dealing with or provide more information for specific recommendations.


    Bookmark   September 20, 2006 at 9:32PM
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tcharles26(usa texas)

Regarding Jr29's inquiry: You said heart shaped leaves. Are they serrated, like a bread knife? How big are they? How large are the 'reddish pink blooms' are the flowers doubles? Could be a tropical (H Rosa Sinensis) variety. In which case it should absolutely be protected in your zone. They need some protection where I live in zone 8.

The tropical hibs are often grafted onto standards or grown as standards. (probably what you're calling a tree- the species is a tropical shrub but in mild zones can be treated like an herbaceous peren.)But there is at least one 'hardy' type that is also sold as a standard. I've seen lots of H. syriacus standards. (rose of sharon) That's a temperate, woody, deciduous, plant. But if you cant tell the difference, protect it, because even the syriacus will go dormant unless you simulate tropical type conditions when you protect it, i.e, put inside under HID light, keep humid, water, and fertilize. even then I dont know....Also I haven;t seen a syriacus with heart shaped leaeves.

Since you called it a tree, My guess is that you have one of those species. There are probably thousands of different plants called 'hibiscus' There are inmumerable cultivated varities of many different species.

If you have a digital camera post a photo.

with respect to tropicals, Some yellow leaves are normal even on a healthy vigorous plant in the middle of summer

    Bookmark   September 26, 2006 at 1:52AM
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Since you give no indication whether you are in South Florida or in Maine, advice is of little value.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2006 at 3:57PM
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I just saw my post from last year. We did take the tree and one large bush and one smaller bush inside for the winter. We watered about once a week. They got some light from the window for an hour or two each day.

When we took them back outside this year it took awhile for them to bloom but then they took off and did quite well.

We are bringing them back inside again this year along with some rose bushes and other plants.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2006 at 10:06PM
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What exactly do you mean my "prune back hard"? Could someone post a picture? I dont want to cut too much. I have two hibiscus "trees" that I am about to plant in containers that can not be brought inside (too big). So I am considering potting them and digging them out every winter to protect them.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 10:16PM
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I think it depends on your plant. I prune mine back to about 12 inches from the top of the soil level in the container. I tried bringing the whole plant in once and it was covered in aphids or white flies or something in no time.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 8:25AM
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How important is light when overwintering Tropical Hibiscus? Will they survive being in a bright room but not directly in a window?

    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 3:06PM
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Hope someone is still monitoring this thread. I brought my Hibiscus indoors back in early October. It's in the basement (dry) and gets about 2-3 hours of sunlight a day. I water it once a week and it stays green and even develops new leaves. I did the exact same thing last year. The only problem is that although nice and green it only bloomed a few flowers by late summer. I've read the treads above about pruning back hard but I'm wondering if it's to late to do it since it's the end of January. Can I do anything to increase the blooms in the spring time or do I need to stand pat and wait until next fall? I'm pretty sure it is not a Tropical Hibiscus.
Thanks - Rookie Gardner

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 7:41PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Mmhmm. Pruning hard won't help a plant that's horribly root bound. You need to remove the plant from it's container & saw off the bottom 1/2 - 2/3 of the roots. Then remove the compacted soil from the remaining roots (that's right - bare-root it) and remove any problem (inward-growing, girdling, encircling roots and plant in a soil that drains well.

If you expect a fertilizer to help optimize bloom production on this plant, you NEED to insure it's low in phosphorous (the middle number) or you can look for a high % of aborted buds or minimal budset. Do not use anything labeled bloom-booster (or similar) on hibiscus. There is also no need to pay the long dollar for anything labeled "hibiscus food/fertilizer". Miracle Gro all purpose soluble fertilizer in the 24-8-16 or 12-4-8 blend works wonderfully on these plants, and its performance can be enhanced by adding 1 tbsp of potash per gallon of soil at potting/repot time or including a K supplement like ProTeKt 0-0-3 in your fertilizer regimen. Ca and Mg are also very important to the plant, so you need to be sure they are included in the soil (dolomitic [garden] lime) when you purchase it, or add it yourself - the same applies if/when you make your own soils.

PS - it's hard to give you time-related advice because your user info doesn't tell us where you live. It's helpful to those offering considered advice if you include your state & USDA zone.


    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 8:47PM
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I live in Minneapolis and have had the same Hibiscus tree for about 8 years. In the fall I bring it in and put in a cool 60 - 65 degree room in front of a North facing patio door. I trim it back by about 5 inches each fall when I bring it in, it is now about 6 feet tall. I have repotted it twice in 8 years. I start fertilizing it with Miracle Grow around March 1 and it is covered with blooms by July.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2009 at 1:42PM
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I bought one mystery variety at the depot last summer, brought it inside last fall and to my delight its getting buds. The only thing I did was give it sips of water each week and put it near a southern facing window, no trimming or special care. It should do just wonderfully this spring.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2009 at 12:57AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

E-brown & So-Hooked - These plants have very vigorous root systems and quickly become root bound. Being tight in the pot affects budset AND reduces branch extension, so it is not a good thing. Best performance can be had with regular attention to root reduction (every year, or every other year at most) and an annual pruning up top to rejuvenate branches.

Additionally, continually watering ANY plant in sips is a death sentence. It guarantees that soluble salts will build up and remain in the soil. There is direct relationship between the amount of solubles in the soil solution and the plant's ability to take up water - the more salt, the more difficult for the plant to absorb water and the nutrients dissolved in water.

I only mention these facts because I want others to know that while some folks might be satisfied with a more relaxed approach to care, better results are possible with a little more attention to husbandry.

It's also important to remember the point I made above (about fertilizer). It's worth rereading. The plant prefers less P than most plants and it likes more K.


    Bookmark   January 31, 2009 at 12:18PM
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This ends in a question.
A plant in undersized container gets root bound; result is less flower & less branch photosynthesis exposure.
Pruning roots resolves sub-surface limitation & above surface responds favorably.
So, I rephrase a question:
? Could some annual vegetables benefit from a single (strategic timed) main roots pruning, permitting the use of smaller containers, allowing us increased use of growing space, causing a reduced plant size & still yielding a worthwhile trade off in amount of produce harvested ?

    Bookmark   January 31, 2009 at 1:03PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I'm not trying to be evasive, so I'll generalize and say 'no'. Most vegetables are annuals (asparagus and rhubarb, a couple of exceptions). Perennials like peppers and tomatoes are technically fruits & berries respectively, but are probably not the vegetables you inquire after.

For those plants that complete a life cycle in one year, I think the setback caused by lifting & root pruning them (many of them you couldn't anyway - carrot, beet, etc.), and the set-back due to the recovery period (Chemical & hormonal signals will stimulate the plant to slow growth above ground and focus energy on replacing the roots you removed.) would reduce yields such that in all probability it would be counterproductive.


    Bookmark   January 31, 2009 at 2:16PM
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I'd welcome any follow up on root tinkering for tomato fruit.
Stems that lie on the ground keep putting out roots, planting them on a slant
makes them develop roots & their suckers can take root too.
(If plant gets our external support this makes plant's own anchoring less critical.)
The concept I am toying with would be a single incident of main root pruning at +/- 3 months age from bare seed.
(I do not know if tomato's above ground hormonal growth signal is apical driven.)
My ability to experiment these days is space & climate constrained. I keep wondering if there is a way for Haitian agricultural development group I am working with to cut back on the daily +/-2 gallons of water per adult tomato.
(In that environment prolongation of the growing season required is not a problem; water supply is.)
Pardon any bad forum manners by pursuing this here.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2009 at 5:05PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I'm not sure of what you're asking - what you're trying to accomplish other than using less water, Gringo. Is that the crux of your queries?

We are kind of off topic here - would you like to start a thread?


    Bookmark   February 1, 2009 at 9:44AM
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I live in Nova Scotia where the winters can be quite cold. I just bought an Hibiscus and planted it directly in the ground where it gets a lot of sun. When the cold months start should I dig it up out of the ground and put it in a pot and bring it inside but the way that our house is situated on our property we do not get any direct sunlight in the house - surrounded by tall trees. How can I store it in the house and where can I store it? Our basement is not heated and no sun gets in and it's quite damp. Help me please.,

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 11:42AM
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Ok so I live in central columbus. I am not a plant person. However I have a beautiful very tall hibiscus tree. I've had it for a couple years now and I have brought it in over winter. It takes a while for it to spring back in the spring. Should I not bring it in? Should I be cutting it back? I'm afraid to cut it to much. I'm not really sure how to make it thrive to its potential. Plz help.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 1:30PM
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mistascott(7A VA)

crikket14: If it is tropical, bring it in. There are easy ways to tell if it is tropical. In Ohio, you have to bring in all tropical plants. You can cut it back by 1/3 to 1/2 if it is too big to work inside. It is nearly impossible to cut them back too much (i.e., kill them from pruning), but I wouldn't cut the branches more than 50% at any one pruning if you want them to come back quickly in the spring. Don't expect much regrowth during winter indoors. It may be slower to reemerge and flower in the spring if you pruned significantly. As long as it is not overwhelmingly large and taking up too much space in the house, you don't need to prune at all and you may see faster regrowth in the spring as a result.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 11:25AM
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