The hibiscus rosa-sinensis plants add a bright tropical flare to one's garden. They belong to the family Malvaceae and are also known as China rose, Chinese hibiscus, or just the shoe flower. Hibiscus flowers are renowned for being bright and showy, and are very popular with those who are fond of gardening. These plants are natives of the warm temperate climate of the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Nevertheless, they do survive in places with long winter months. However, this is possible only if proper winter care is provided. A plus point is that one of the main steps of winter care is bringing the plants indoors, which gives them the opportunity of being grown as houseplants.
Move Them Indoors
In case you live in a place where the temperatures drop below 32°F, you will have to get your hibiscus plants indoors to survive the harsh winters. These are tropical plants that won't survive in very low temperatures. However, it is best to allow a hardening period to your plants. This means that instead of bringing them inside the house immediately, place them under a shade outside for a few days so that they are prepared for their successive months indoors. The same procedure should be followed while moving the plants out after winter.
The first consideration for winter care for the hibiscus plants is their location inside the house. Ensure that the plants get adequate amount of light and heat. Hence, a place close to the window that gets direct sunlight would be an ideal location for proper hibiscus plant care during the winter months. However, it is important to remember that heat is a crucial requirement for these tropical plants, even more than light. Hence, if there is no place in the house for them, then consider keeping them in the garage, shed, or utility room. If that is the case, consider putting a heater in such rooms with the thermostat set at 50°F.
Providing adequate amount of water is an important aspect of winter care for these plants. Although in layman terms it is often referred to as a tree, hibiscus plants are shrubs. It is important to remember that hibiscus require less amount of water during the winter months. Water the plants so that the soil is just dry to touch. Make sure that the excess water can run off as too much water in the soil will kill the roots.
While using a fertilizer for the plants during the winter months, give them only half of the manufacturer's recommended strength. Prefer a water-soluble fertilizer and feed the plants with this once a month.
Care in Warmer Climate
For those who live in places with a warmer climate where the temperatures either rarely falls below freezing point or even if it does, it does not happen for more than 2 or 3 nights, they can take some measures to protect their plants without transferring them indoors. One can put a layer of mulch over the soil to prevent the roots from getting frozen. For the rest of the plant, cover it up in heavy frost cloth. Not only would this keep the plant warm, but would also protect it from the frost of the cold nights. Additional warmth can be provided by lighting lights, say for example, Christmas lights under the frost cloth. For potted plants, just move them to some shaded area or close to the house. Ensure that these places get good sunlight throughout the day.
Tips for Plant Care in Winter
There are certain telltale signs that the plants depict during the winter season. These symptoms give a clue that the plants are suffering from severe effects of the low temperature and give you a better understanding of the steps to take for plant care. Some of those signs are:
- If the plants are outside and exposed to frost, check the leaves. Black and mushy leaves are a sign that the plants have suffered from cold and may be dying.
- In case they show signs of wilting even when watered adequately, then probably the roots have succumbed to some fungal infection. Brown and smelly roots are a sure sign of root fungus.
- Look for tip die back symptoms in which the fungal attack starts at the tip of the branches and progresses inwards towards the main stem. It starts with leaves wilting and falling and the branch turning from its normal healthy look to green, and finally to a diseased brown, mottled look.
Despite all the winter care for hibiscus, one must remember that these plants will not look as vibrant as they do during the spring and summer months. Some amount of yellowing of leaves may occur, even when they are kept indoors. However, as long as there are other healthy leaves, one need not worry. But there is one thing for sure. And that is, that if proper winter care is provided while growing hibiscus, then one can expect vibrant plants with beautiful blooms in the successive spring season.