The tropical hibiscus flower belongs to a large genus of flowering plants in the family Malvaceae that includes more than 200 natural species and countless numbers of cultivars and hybrids. The large variety of hibiscus grows in warm, temperate, subtropical and tropical regions throughout the world in form of annual and perennial herbaceous plants, and woody shrubs that can attain a height of a small tree. Hibiscus have been divided into two main categories; tropical and hardy. Tropical, as the name suggests, grow in regions that offer a warm temperate climate, whereas hardy hibiscus has been cultivated from wild native hibiscus flowers that are winter-hardy enough to suit zone 4 climates as well. Hibiscus plant care will ensure that your hibiscus grows well and blooms even better.
Hibiscus plants are woody, and in most cases will develop into small trees when trained to do so. The foliage is dull to a bright glossy green with flowers that range in size anywhere between 3 to 4 inches to 8 to 12 inches in diameter. Hibiscus flowers could be single or double petaled, single colored or with shades either of the same color or different ones. The flowers, large or small, range in vibrant colors and hues of pink, red, orange, magenta, purple, cream, yellow, and a bright white among other colors. New cultivars have been developed that not only offer lots of colors, but varieties that are with ruffled edges, bi-colored and dark veined too. The petals are delicate, papery thin with a prominent pistil and stamen in the center. Hardy hibiscus can be easily distinguished from tropical ones, hardy foliage is dull green, whereas tropical ones are a dark green. In warm climates, flowers bloom almost round the year, whereas in colder climates, they bloom mid-summer and continue until frost sets in. The leaves are arranged alternately, are simple, ovate to lanceolate, with margins that could be toothed or lobed. The bark becomes a shade which is darker brown as it grows old, and once your plant is well established, it will produce larger and brighter blooms consistently.
Hibiscus Plant Care
Both categories of hibiscus are hardy in their growth patterns, and will survive most climatic conditions, except extreme winters. Hibiscus can be propagated through cuttings, either through the graft method or by starting them in soil, and seeds. Seeds are often not used as they take a long time to germinate and in most cases, they do not flower. One can always hop into a plant nursery that specializes in hibiscus varieties and trust me the choice to make can be mind-boggling. Hibiscus do well in both; ground as well in large pots.
Hibiscus like sun, full and plenty. Their colors will stand true when exposed to adequate amount of sun. Hibiscus growing in shade bear smaller flowers with dull colors. Being tropical they like well drained fertile soils, moist but not water retaining. Maintain the pH balance of the soil between 6.5 to 7.0. The soil should be rich in terms of fertility and not compacting. Add perlite, peat moss, coconut coir, bone or fish meal to it. Water hibiscus as per the climate, everyday in summers and sparingly in winters (when the top soil becomes dry). A large bloom or even buds waiting to bloom should be your indicator to lots of watering, and few or no blooms, for less watering. Hibiscus plant needs lots of nutrients during its growing as well as blooming period. Use fertilizers which contain a high level of potassium and phosphorus to promote prolonged growth. Liquid fertilizer can be added every 15 days, or slow releasing ones every month.
Hibiscus don't survive temperatures below 32 ºF, hence experienced gardeners advice that they be grown more in pots and containers, than in ground in regions that are susceptible to cold dry winds and/or frost. Winter care for hibiscus involves mulching to keep the soil warm and roots from freezing, a frost plant cloth to keep the whole plant warm, and/or moving the plant indoors, if possible. Another aspect of hibiscus plant care in winter is the minimized use of fertilizers. Avoid fertilizing as the plant usually goes into a semi-dormant stage. So don't add fertilizer and force it to sprout new growth; leaves and flower.
Pruning hibiscus is easy, prune only in spring. How you prune depends upon, well, why you want to prune. A young plant can be pruned to make it more bushier, or develop a strong structure and shape, while established ones can be pruned to increase air and light flow between the branches, promote growth and prolong the blooming period. Don't forget to pinch off all deadhead flowers, to ensure more blooms. Hibiscus can be hard pruned to control growth. Just make sure that you do it in spring and water it well. Prune all dead and diseased wood along with branches that have gotten entangled.
Pest Control for Hibiscus
Besides, aphids on hibiscus, it is quite susceptible to other pests and diseases like mealybugs, spider mite, whiteflies, thrips, caterpillars, slugs, millipede, etc. Hence, hibiscus care also involves pest damage control. A regular spray of germicides and pruning will take of most pests. Fungal diseases like leaf spots, and root rots and collar rots need to be looked into individually and treated accordingly. Bud drop and yellowing of leaves are physiological disorders that can cause permanent damage to the plant. Bud drop generally affects hardy hibiscus where buds fall off before they bloom. If it happens with consistent regularity, for proper hardy hibiscus plant care, it best to replace the hibiscus with another variety. Leaves turning yellow and dropping off is a natural process in these plants, but when it happens to the leaves and stems to the top of the bush, it is time to find its cause. In most cases it happens when fertilizers or insecticides are excessively used, or there is too much or too little moisture around the roots. Before one starts to use insecticides indiscriminately, understand what has inflicted your plant, and research different means to control them.
Whether outdoor hibiscus plant care, hardy, tropical or indoor care, hibiscus thrive when given attention, and yours will too, rewarding you along the way with blooms that are unmatched in beauty and elegance!