Please Help! Husband chopped it!

ErynLynNovember 19, 2013

Greetings all.

I finally finished crying, and hope this is the right place to get some information to keep me calm.

I recently bought a house that came with at 10+ year old Hibiscus Tree, that was too big for the previous owners to take with them.

They left me all the instructions and fetalizer id need for the next 10+ year of care for this tree.

Needless to say this is not a small bush.. its a TREE!
Was a tree... *sad face*

I came home from work and discovered to my pure horror, my husband had decided to let more light in by cutting off branches.. hes not a plant person.. and if i could show you all what he did you would see why i cried.

the tree is now missing about 75% of its former branches and what it looks like now.. makes me very sad to look at.

I am hoping that someone here can tell me what i can do to promote it to grow branches.. it use to be 18 feet tall and about 2 meters of branches reaching out nicely from its center now its .. a mess.

its just a big sad mess that makes me upset when i look at it.. because it was the center piece of this house, and now its ugly beyond all else.

its lope sided.. the tops been all hacked out.. should i bother? should i just put it out of its misery?

really looking for some help here.. i love this tree.. im devastated by why has happened to it.. i need to find out if i can somehow promote growth and restore it its former beauty.

thankyou all.


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Hello Eryn,

Yes, you've selected a fantastic forum...people here are compassionate and willing to help.
Many will cry and laugh with you. :)

I wish you had a picture to post...

Does your Hibiscus have one large trunk with side branches or all branches? In other words, did it look like a tree, 'not a bush?'

As for the branches...They will grow in. Of course it'll take time, especially now that winter is here.
Hibs are persistent. Leaves sprout in areas you don't want them to grow.

If your Hib had one main trunk with side branches, I'm sorry to say, most likely, a new trunk will not resume.
The height of your Hib will grow as tall as the area that was cut.
If your Hib was bushy, it will continue to grow.

Now about your husband...Better keep my mouth shut. :) Toni

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 2:42PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Awww, too much help. Sorry to hear, but welcome to Gardenweb!

Yes, it's OK to show a pic. You'll get the most specific advice that way.

So, you're in Canada? What kind of Hibiscus is this, if you know? There is a Hibiscus forum, if you want to solicit input 'in there' also, although I have no idea how active it is.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 3:57PM
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ok i found a photo of it before, it was a tad bushier then that because as that's a photo of how it was when we moved in, i kept trimming it back into that shape.. a round shape.. then theirs the photo of what has been done to it..

trust me the words "sleeping on the couch for the rest of your life" came out of my mouth when i saw this.. other words went though my head.

i beleave this is a Chinese hibiscus.. they never left that detail on the instructions note but from what ive read it could be.. it gets big red double petaled blooms on it.. that are bigger then a closed fist.. has no smell.. im very sad.. this trees been in my care for 2 years.. ive fought off aphids and those little fly things that get into the pots after a friend gave me a house plant as a housewarming gift that was full of bugs :( only to have my husband do more damage then i could have ever dreamed in a few moments with the tree trimmer.

one of my friends suggested giving it a high nitrogen food to help promote branch budding.. and a light.. at this point ill go spend my hubbies xbox one money on a green house to keep him away from my plants.

hopeing this image helps.. dont cry too much... like i did.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 5:45PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I would have left the couch behind to bring that when I moved. Probably cheaper to replace too, definitely easier to find - ha! It looks better than I'd expected. It was gorgeous! Being honest with ourselves, it was about to get too tall to have light hitting the top well, then soon bumping into the ceiling.

I hope plants don't cause any more discord in your home, quite the opposite. It is better if one person is the care-taker, either of all plants, or agreed-upon certain plants, since over-loving (too much water, fertilizer) can do more harm than good. It is nice he was trying to help! Does he 'need' his own plant? While it's not looking its' best, I'd probably go ahead and finish shaping it at its' new size.

Other than encouraging you to keep it in the same spot, if at all possible, where the previous owners had it, I don't feel qualified to advise more specifically about a potted tropical Hibiscus. Just looking at the pic, I wouldn't have any worries about this tree looking great again soon though. Still plenty of leaves. Sending good vibes and good luck!

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 6:03PM
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Its not as bad as I had imagined, I'm sure there is hope and yes you have come to the right place for help. Now as for the husband, I'd be duct taping his hands together LOL.....

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 6:05PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Christine, IKR! After having NO help for a long time, I'll take a little misplaced, unbridled enthusiasm any day. It's a teachable moment, to use some current mumbo jumbo.

This post was edited by purpleinopp on Tue, Nov 19, 13 at 18:10

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 6:09PM
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im so nervous now...

looking at it though i think i will be removing whats in the red area, and trying to get it back into that globe top

he is not a plant person.. my house is full of plants.. and hes never touched the others. this is my first tree though.

i wont even let him touch the outside trees.. *giggles*

its just so sad to look at..

i really think in my heart that what caused him to attack the tree was I had recently suggested swapping out the couches in our living room for 4 cozy chairs to make room for the tree.. sigh

he must really love his lazy boy recliner couches, since hes gonna be sleeping on them for a while.

but id like some feed back on if what im thinking needs to be removed needs to be.. alsoooo

does anyone know a sure fire way to root cuttings.. i love this tree... and now im gonna fight dirty and see if i cant get a few more in the house.. the others i wont let get this big, but its such an awesome tree..

thanks everyone for your feed back and help.
im very glad to have found plant lovers finally.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 6:23PM
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I'm so sorry for your loss! I know how you feel. We've all been there. Hopefully it will have a speedy recovery!

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 6:40PM
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info I found:
Tropical hibiscus may be propagated by seeds, stem cuttings, leaf cuttings, air layering or grafting.

You can read more here:
propagating hibiscus

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 7:04PM
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After seeing the before and after photo I don't know what you are worried about! Your husband may have done the plant a favour. Yes it will take a couple of years to fill out, but you may also have more blooms than ever. On your last post it looks like the branches in the red rectangle are reaching for the sun and have green stems, I'd cut those off just slightly beyond the green circle and turn the plant. All in all, the plant will recover.

Tell your husband you will look after this plant and be responsible for it. Make sure you tell him straight up to NEVER TOUCH IT AGAIN!

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 11:28PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Please take more pics from other angles and wait for other opinions before trimming it more. The big branch left sticking off on the left should probably come all of the way off, but you may be advised to wait until another time for more trimming, IDK. Just don't want to see one drastic action followed by another. You can't un-cut, but you can always wait.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 11:35PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I'll add that you might start a dialog with your husband about how he really feels about all of your plants. Does he get any say about how many and how big? Blocking the light would probably be a big issue for me, too.

Trust me, in a short time, you would have been asking for advice about how to "lower " your plant. That will still be an issue as this plant continues to mature.

People need to come first....plants second.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 8:08AM
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looks like half the leaves were cut off. that is too much already. it's better not to take more then 1/3 at a time - or it's too stressful for the tree. sure it looks lop-sided, but leave it be until it's main growing season. when it starts actively growing, and regrows more foliage, then you can trim it again. do not trim any thick branches though, only long twiggy ones. we'll need more close-up pics to see the main branch structure.
do not feed it now give it a rest for a few weeks. make sure it's in good light, warm, etc.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 9:07AM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

The OP is in Canada and it's late November ie low light and artificial heat. I'd be inclined to concentrate on getting it through the winter before doing anything else to it. If it is pruned more now it is not the optimum time for it to regrow. I'd let it recuperate and finish shaping it in the spring then it can go outdoors for the summer.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 12:40PM
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Oh, i had this experience once. My husband cut off a lot of my house plants to the ground to "prune" them. They still haven't recovered and that was 2007. I cried a lot. He's learned to not touch them :)

At the same time, both my and your husbands probably thought they were being helpful. So perhaps a good thing to do is to take him along on your hibiscus journey. I agree-- just wait until winter is over, and then shape it.

Maybe talk to him about what seems obvious.. but that the leaves are how the plant makes food, so you need to be careful about starving it via cutting off too many.

You never know. He may get into them.

And I guess yeah, see if perhaps you two have competing views on plants and the house. If so, come to a compromise. I myself like to be in control of my domestic space, but then I know that makes me husband feel mad/trapped in something he doesn't want. So I have to reel myself back in and try to compromise. It sucks :P But it's what is fair.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 1:24PM
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paul_(z5 MI)

Well while you hubby did do a rather half-____ job of it, as others have noted, it could have been far far worse.

Before making any final recommendations as to what else to trim, I would say that Purp's suggestion of additional photos from other angles would be wise. Based on your photo, I would say you will likely want to cut off the branch in the red box. However, those other angle pics would be helpful to see first.

There is no rush for additional pruning nor will having been pruned in the fall be an issue. (If I prune mine, it is almost always done in the fall. Root pruning, on the other hand, I only do in the late spring.) Spring would be fine. In the mean time, you can "sit back" and try to envision just where you'd like to take this plant shape-wise.

NOTE: I have NO idea what area of Canada you are in, and I know there can be a very wide range of winter conditions. So the advice I provide now may or may not be highly applicable.

But -- assuming you get long cold, winters and have dry heating -- don't be surprised if your hib loses some leaves. It's not uncommon, IME. It's nothing to freak out about.

Because your shrub has lost so much of its canopy pay very close attention to your watering. It will NOT be able to use as much water as it otherwise would have. During the sun-poor, cooler winter months, keep the soil more on the dry side.

Do not bother fertilizing at this time. If your conditions are similar to mine, you will get little to zero growth this time of year. That, again, is normal -- and in many respects actually very desirable. Essentially, your hib will be entering a semi-dormancy period as conditions for active growth over the winter are far from optimal for us northerners. If the plant is not actively growing, it will have no use for the fertilizer.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2013 at 3:16PM
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puglvr1(9b central FL)

Eryn, It doesn't look that bad at all...I have a feeling it will come back much better and healthier...

FWIW, I had a large mango tree that the freeze severely damaged a few years ago...

Here's the tree in its glory (before the freeze)Loaded with blooms...taken appx. 6 weeks before the freeze "nailed" it.

This post was edited by puglvr1 on Fri, Nov 22, 13 at 11:11

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 11:07AM
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puglvr1(9b central FL)

After the freeze I had to "pug" it (aka hard pruned)'s what the tree looked like right after the hard pruning...

Taken Feb. 27, 2009

This post was edited by puglvr1 on Fri, Nov 22, 13 at 11:17

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 11:10AM
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puglvr1(9b central FL)

Five months later...came back very nicely, nice new growths.
This tree is still alive I'm happy to say :o)

July 21, 2009

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 11:14AM
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Tropical hibiscus are often quite vigorous (esp if outside in the heat and full sun) and grow quickly. I suspect by end of next summer (and a structural trim about time you move it out in spring), it'll be just fine.
You *may* want to consider summering it'll appreciate it.

Do take care not to move it into full sun immediately, or the leaves will all crisp and burn.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2013 at 3:55AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

EL - you have little to worry about, insofar as your tree remaining viable. Your biggest concern is probably related to the fact that your tree will use a lot less water post-op than before the trim.

Your plan should probably include learning about how important root maintenance is going to be to your plant over the long haul, especially since hibs have extremely vigorous root systems that quickly limit the plants growth and vitality if not regularly tended to. Also, hibs are one plant that do not do well with fertilizers containing as much P as other plants.

An annual hard pruning of the top, and root pruning should be part of your regular maintenance, Sep-May is not a good time to do any significant work.

I'm going to leave an embedded link that addresses the long term care of woody plants in containers. It goes into some detail about why repotting and root maintenance is important. If you would like to talk about nutrition, or if you have questions or comments, I can help you with your understanding about how to deal with hibs of all sizes in pots.

Sometimes we do more harm than good in our attempt to keep our plants looking as good as they can be at all times. A forward-looking plan that takes into consideration the plant's current energy level as well as where the plant is in its growth cycle is much preferred to doing things because it might be convenient at the time.

Don't fret - any set-backs are temporary and easily fixable.


    Bookmark   November 26, 2013 at 5:39PM
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