How to Grow and Care For Hibiscus Tree
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Hibiscus plants are popular shrubs among gardeners and houseplant owners for their exotic-looking flowers. These flowering plants add a tropical feel to summer gardens and stand out among other spring ornamentals. They belong to the Malvaceae family and are plants of full sun. The hibiscus tree grows best in the USDA hardiness zones 5-11 and is the bloomer of the long season.
When growing hibiscus trees for your gardens and indoors, select from these two famous types: tropical hibiscus trees (grow best in warmer regions and make stunning houseplants) and winter hardy (Rose of Sharon) for cold areas of the USA.
This article will provide a complete guide on planting and caring for the hibiscus tree indoors and outdoors.
About Hibiscus Tree
With its prominent, striking, and trumpet-shaped flowers, Hibiscus flowering trees make the best additions to houseplant collections. They are also excellent for summer gardens. These tropical, flowering plants are the most versatile cultivars and species of the Hibiscus, including trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals.
Therefore, the h=Hibiscus tree requires various growth conditions depending on their climates. The gorgeous hibiscus flowers come in a rainbow of colors (pink, white, yellow, red, orange, purple, and maroon).
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Hibiscus Tree Ornamental Features
Hibiscus plants are grown for their large and showy flowers. The presence of these flowering shrubs gives a vivid image of a tropical paradise becasue their blooms are breathtaking and attract the attention of humans. Besides this, the red hibiscus flowers allure the hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies.
These flowering plants have a long blooming season starting from spring to summer or all year round in the South. These exotic flowers are short-lived and will only last for one day. Once it finishes blooming, the hibiscus flower will close up and fall off.
The foliage of the hibiscus tree is also remarkable. It gives a stylish appearance, but they are less noticeable because the vibrant and larges flowers are prominent from mid to late summer.
These ornamental plants reach a mature height of eight feet once established, while the dwarf hibiscus cultivars only grow up to three feet tall and can be maintained as potted indoor plants.
Landscape and Other Uses for Hibiscus Tree Plants
Hibiscus trees make unique additions to summer gardens, landscapes, and indoors because they offer large and colorful flowers throughout the summer. Their vast flowers attract beneficial insects (bees, butterflies) and hummingbirds. They are the best for foundation and urban planting (taller hibiscus cultivars).
The dwarf hibiscus varieties can be used as hedges, container plants, in garden beds with other spring flowering ornamentals to attract butterflies.
Hibiscus plants are the most versatile ones as their various hybrids can be trained as border shrubs, taller trees, and bonsai plants.
Besides ornamental values, the hibiscus tree has medicinal and cultural properties. Its flower tea treats various illnesses, such as lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and stomach aches.
How to Grow Hibiscus Tree
The perennial hibiscus plants grow best in the USDA hardiness zones 5 to 11 and add stunning colors to garden beds from late spring to fall, but in tropical climates (south Florida), they bloom all year round. Their blooms last one or two days and powerfully attract beneficial insects and garden birds.
Hibiscus trees prefer full sun to partial shade conditions to produce healthy flowers. Moreover, soil moisture and organic matter also result in vigorous growth. During the growing season, the Hibiscus plants need frequent watering to make abundant flowers.
Sow your seeds in early spring.
To enjoy the blooms of the Hibiscus tree in the first growing season, sow the seeds in early spring and nourish the sprouts carefully.
Where to Grow Hibiscus Tree
Perennial and tropical hibiscus trees present a stunning display of colorful and large blooms from late spring to fall and all year round.
Tropical hibiscus trees grow in full sun and survive the winters in the USDA hardiness zones 10 to 12. They produce dark green leaves and exquisite blooms of single and double forms in various colors, including pink, lavender, deep red, white, and orange. In South Florida, the tropical hibiscus blooms over a long period almost all year round, but in North Florida, they will freeze to the ground and return in the spring (grow them in containers as houseplants).
Perennial hibiscus trees are winter hardy in the USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 9 and produce large blooms with light green foliage. These hibiscus plants bloom from mid to late summer and need moist soil.
How to Grow Hibiscus Treed From Seeds
To grow hibiscus from seeds need more attention and care than propagating them through cuttings. However, the results are more rewarding, with vibrant blooms in the first growing season.
Sow & Grow Hibiscus Seeds
- Sow the seeds indoors 12 weeks before the last frost in trays or containers. Before sowing the hibiscus seeds, soak them in warm water for one hour to rupture the hard outer covering and speed up germination.
- Press seeds in the fresh potting mix about ¼ inches deep and locate the trays in warm and sunny locations where the temperatures are around 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Water the potting mix with a spray bottle, and the seeds will germinate within two to three weeks under good growing and care conditions.
Transplant the hibiscus plants only in gardens and containers when they are strong enough to sustain the harsh conditions.
If you're transplanting your plant indoors to outdoors, allow for it to acclimate slowly.
Before transplanting the hibiscus plant outdoors, acclimatize it by bringing the plant outdoors for several hours.
When & How to Plant Hibiscus Tree
Hibiscus trees are native to warmer climates, so planting in spring will encourage the growth of a more robust root system through the growing season. The Hibiscus tree grown in fall will not be able to develop a healthy root system due to freezing temperatures. The process of hibiscus planting is as follows:
Transplanting Your Hibiscus Tree
- Select a sunny spot in your garden and dig a hole two times wider and as deeper as the hibiscus root system.
- Remove the plant from the plastic container and position it in the hole. Fill the around of the root ball with soil and organic mix (for extra nutrient boost). Gently press the ground with hands around the base.
- Water carefully after planting.
Companion Planting: What to Plant With Hibiscus Tree
Pair the long-season bloomer (hibiscus tree) with the plants native to warmer regions with the exact growth requirements as the hibiscus plants. Daylily, Bigleaf hydrangea, Japanese anemone, Crapemyrtle shrub, Bee Balm, Caladium, and Sweet Alyssum make the best landscapes and groundcovers with the Hibiscus.
How to Care for Hibiscus Tree?
The Hibiscus tree enjoys full sun and rich, moist, and well-draining soils to thrive and bloom. A tropical hibiscus tree is grown as a perennial in warmer climates and as a potted indoor plant in cooler regions. These all hibiscus need sunlight for six to eight hours to blossom. Here’s a guide on how to grow and maintain a healthy plant;
Hibiscus trees need regular watering to produce plenty of blooms and flourish healthily. So water them at least once a week throughout the growing season to blossom.
If your region gets heavy rainfall, you will only need to water your Hibiscus tree when there's a dry spell. However, be wary that in warmer Hardiness zones like zone 10 and zone 11, you'll want to be mindful of blazing hot temperatures during the summertime.
In these regions, we recommend watering more frequently to maintain moisture levels. We also recommend planting your Hibiscus in part sun, and part shade so it can get some respite during the day.
Keep the soil moist for young seedlings, recently transplanted Hibiscus trees, and potted plants to help them to develop robust root systems. Avoid overwatering as it will assist the root rot pathogen invasions.
Plant your Hibiscus tree in full sun especially in cooler, milder zones like 5-9 to partial shade (the sunlight of six hours is ideal) in warmer, subtropical zones like zone 10 and 11 spots.
Sunlight is key to ensuring your HIbiscus blooms vigorously. When these plants from warmer regions are in the sunnier part of the garden, they produce the best blooms and thrive. These plants will not bloom in complete shade conditions.
If you are seeing your Hibiscus tree dropping leaves and the leaves starting to yellow, it may be a sign of a lack of sunlight.
🌡️ Temperature and Humidity
Tropical hibiscus plants are winter hardy in the USDA zones 9 to 11. They grow best at a temperature between 60 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and can sustain winter temperatures below 20 °F, and below this temperature, the tropical hibiscus will succumb to freezing climates.
Hardy Hibiscus that are more cold-hardy can survive in more mild zones like zone 5-9 with minimum temperatures of -20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Overwintering Hibiscus Tree
The tropical hibiscus tree in colder regions needs winter protection. Bring the containers indoors, cut back the stem about ⅓ inches, and cover it with a heavy cloth. Situate the pot in a warmer indoor place with indirect light to induce the dormant state.
Once the danger of freezing temperature and frost has passed, bring the containers outdoors and provide them with ideal growth conditions to start new growths.
Hardy Hibiscus is able to survive most winters down to zone 5. Hibiscus in these zones will die back each winter and there's no need to mulch the stems through the cooler months.
🌱 Best Soil for Hibiscus Tree
Hibiscus trees can be forgiving of the majority of soil types from moist to dry. However, to promote their vigorous growth in growing, plant them in moist, rich, and well-draining soil. Loamy and sandy soils work best making these plants great options for coastal regions.
If your soil is too sandy, you can always amend it with organic mulch or compost to help with nutrition and absorption.
Perennial Hibiscus can usually handle more moisture than a tropical hibiscus, so it is more forgiving of slightly soggier soils.
A good potting soil mix for Hibiscus plants includes two parts of potting soil, one part of perlite, and two parts of peat moss. This potting mix will ideally support the growth and blooming of potted hibiscus trees.
Hibiscus trees need regular fertilizer applications because they produce blooms for a long season. Healthy and colorful hibiscus flowers prefer high-potassium and nitrogen fertilizers and lower phosphorus in the growing season to encourage the production of new growths.
You can always use a balanced (10-10-10 ) fertilizer, but for more regular feeds a 17-5-24 or 12-4-8 NPK ratio fertilizers will also work.
Apply organic fertilizer in early spring as a starter to fight back aphids and assist in young foliage.
😎 Pruning and Maintenance
The hardy perennials need regular pruning and maintenance to produce more bloom, while other hibiscus varieties do not need much grooming.
So, pruning off the old, damaged leaves, branches, and spent flowers on hardy perennials will encourage the new growths and give them a tidy look. It will also improve air circulation.
How to Repot Hibiscus Tree
Tropical hibiscus trees, when grown as indoor houseplants, require repotting every two to three years. So, repot the nutrient-loving potted hibiscus plants in early spring and provide them with a fresh potting soil mix.
Hibiscus trees prefer to be root bound to encourage more bountiful blooms. If you see that your Hibiscus is extremely root bound, you should definitely repot into a larger container and replace your soil.
❗Use smaller containers when repotting Hibiscus Trees.
Do not repot the potted hibiscus in large containers regularly; otherwise, they will use their energy to develop a robust root system instead of unique funnel-shaped flowers.
They prefer to be slightly, but not extremely root bound.
They prefer to be slightly, but not extremely root bound.
Propagate Hibiscus Tree from Hardwood Cuttings
The Hibiscus tree is easy to propagate by different methods. One such method is hardwood cutting.
To reproduce the Hibiscus tree through hardwood cuttings, separate a mature and dormant branch from the perennial shrub in late fall to early spring, which should be 4 to 30 inches long. Dip the hardwood cutting into a rooting hormone solution.
Plant the cutting in a well-draining potting mix and water it regularly. The cutting will take two months to develop a robust root system and nine months to bloom.
Propagate Hibiscus Tree By Grafting
Another best method to propagate the hibiscus tree is through grafting. It is a much faster and more effective way to develop new varieties of hibiscus plants with robust root systems.
To propagate through grafting, select a healthy rootstock from a hardy perennial and a scion or stem cutting from another cultivar of three inches long. Make sure both the scion and rootstock are of the same thickness.
Now unite both cuttings (rootstock and scion) in this way, the cambium on cambium, and firmly wrap the union with the grafting tape. Cover the grafted hibiscus with a plastic bag for two weeks to maintain high humidity.
Once the new growths appear on the scion, remove all eyes or buds on the rootstock.
Propagate Hibiscus Tree By Layering
To propagate the hibiscus tree by layering, select a healthy and mature branch from a mother hibiscus plant. Make two cuts on the chosen branch about one inch apart and remove the bark between the cut, thus exposing the cambium and white core.
With the help of a paintbrush, apply the rooting hormone to the bare section of the branch. Cover the bared area of the branch with moist sphagnum moss and aluminum foil and firm it with a plastic bag. It will develop new roots within four weeks, separate them from the mother plant below the rootball, and transplant them into a pot or garden soil.
Common Hibiscus Tree Problems
The Hibiscus are grown as annuals, perennials, and evergreen shrubs or trees around the world due to their funnel-shaped blossoms. Under poor growing conditions, the hibiscus is prone to many microbial diseases and insect pest attacks.
This disease results from overwatering and poor aeration. It is caused by Phytophthora spp, also known as water molds. These species feed on the underground root system and turn the aboveground foliage into yellow and brown, while the entire plant appears dry and wilted.
To prevent the hibiscus root rot, avoid overwatering the container plants and keep them in full sun. Always use pots with enough drainage holes to drain the excess water quickly.
Fungal Leaf Spot
The damp conditions favor the development of fungal leaf spots, and they appear as ugly, black, irregular spots on both of the leaves of the hibiscus tree. As the infection proceeds, these spots unite and cover the entire surface of the plant leaf. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease except for preventive measures.
Keep the immediate places of the indoor hibiscus tree neat and clean and cut off the infected leaves, and discard them.
Botrytis Blight (Gray Mold)
Botrytis cinerea infection starts on the hibiscus tree during warm and high humidity conditions. Gray mold pathogen infects all plant parts, including foliage, stem, flower buds, and branches, and symptomatic plant shows discolored leaves and deformed flower buds.
To prevent further spread to healthy plants, prune off the infected foliage and buds and properly discard them. Apply neem oil spray to inhibit the spore germination and block the fungus growth.
Common Hibiscus Tree Pests
Like microbial diseases, the hibiscus tree is also vulnerable to insect pest infestations.
Aphids are tiny, soft-bodied insects with piercing mouthparts and suck the nutrients out from plant tissues. Their feeding turns the hibiscus foliage into yellow and brown with the premature falling of young leaves. Under warm, humid conditions, their few numbers turn into heavy populations and damage the host plants.
Apply soapy water and horticultural oil sprays to smother the aphid bodies and kills them.
These insects are cousins of aphids and have the same feeding manner. Whiteflies are considered more harmful to the hibiscus tree because they transmit deadly plant viruses. Therefore, to avoid severe disease damage, early detection is critical. Introduce the natural enemies of whiteflies such as lady beetle and green lacewings to control them.
These are the tiniest pests that infest or hide on the underside of leaves. Spider mites suck the plant juices out from their foliage and cause a mottled appearance. When in heavy numbers, spider mites can kill the young seedlings.
Spray the infested plants with neem oil and insecticidal soap to deter the mite populations, their eggs, and nymphs.
You can read our more in-depth guide on spider mites here.
How to spot a spider mite infestation on my Hibiscus tree?
Mite infestations are easy to spot because these tiny creatures develop the small pale yellow dots on infested plant leaves and fine webbing on the bottom side of plants.
Where to Buy Hibiscus Tree?
If you want an easy-to-care-for and long-season bloom for your indoors and gardens, then consider a hibiscus tree without giving it a second thought. To get hibiscus plants and other spring ornamentals for your home gardens with comprehensive propagation and care guide, visit Neverland.
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FAQs on Hibiscus Trees
Does the Hibiscus tree spread quickly?
Different types of hibiscus trees have somewhat vary in their growth rate. For example, the Rose Mallow is a fast-growing hibiscus, while the Chinese rose spreads moderately.
Does the Hibiscus tree come back every year? Is it annual or perennial?
The perennial and hardy hibiscus varieties come back every year and add vibrant summer colors to gardens. The tropical hibiscus, on the other hand, does not come back because it can not tolerate the harsh winters and best thrive as an annual indoor plant.
How far apart do you plant the Hibiscus tree?
When growing hibiscus in the garden, plant them at a distance of 2 to 3 feet apart.
When should the Hibiscus tree be planted?
The hibiscus tree should be planted in spring, so the plants will have an entire growing season to establish a robust root system and fight back against pest invasions.
Is the Hibiscus tree toxic to dogs?
Most hibiscus varieties are non-toxic to dogs, but the Rose of Sharon flower causes nausea and vomiting upon ingestion.
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