Hibiscus plants are easier to grow and care for than you might think. In this post, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about them so you can keep them thriving for years to come.
The large, colorful blooms of hibiscus plants make them a favorite among gardeners. And, with the right care, you can enjoy those gorgeous flowers year after year.
In this hibiscus care guide I’ve shared essential tips on how to grow them either indoors or outdoors.
Discover what kind of light, water, soil, humidity, and other growing conditions they need. Then get tips for pruning, propagating, repotting, and more.
What Is A Hibiscus Plant
A hibiscus plant is a perennial flowering shrub that’s native to Asia. They’re fast-growing and known best for their large, colorful blooms that come in a wide variety of hues.
They can live for many years with the right care, and some varieties can reach heights of up to 10’ or more.
At a very high level, there are two different types: cold hardy and tropical. So any gardener can enjoy them, no matter where you live.
There are some subtle differences between hardy and tropical hibiscus, but they share many of the same growing needs.
Different Types Of Hibiscus
Tropical varieties have larger glossier foliage, and either single or double blooms. While hardy types feature duller green foliage and single blooms.
Between the two, there are over 200 varieties to enjoy, here are just a few if my favorites.
- Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)– This is one of the most popular hardy types for outdoor gardens, and showcases purple, pink, or white blossoms.
- Swamp Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) – The pinwheel-like flowers on this unique, hardy variety make it a popular outdoor option.
- Magic Moment (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) – Large 10” flowers on this tropical variety come in stunning peach, orange, pink, or light purple.
- Cajun Cocktail (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) – The variegated blooms are never exactly alike on this tropical type.
Across the many, many different types of hibiscus plants, ideal growing zones can vary widely.
In general, cold hardy specimens can survive down to zone 4, while tropical varieties do best in zones 10+.
The non-hardy ones are often brought indoors and kept as houseplants in climates that experience temps lower than 60°F.
The trumpet-shaped flowers of hibiscus shrubs are beautiful and can appear in dozens of colors. Some variegated types even showcase more than one.
Each blossom may only live for a day or so, but more will follow. They’re very attractive to pollinators and hummingbirds.
Outdoor plants, or those allowed to go dormant, can blossom from spring through fall. But gardeners that keep their tropical hibiscus growing indoors can enjoy the blooms year round.
Where To Grow Hibiscus
Before we get into how to care for a hibiscus, first we should chat about where to grow them. Choosing a good location will give you more vibrant colors, and a long-living, healthy plant.
Growing Hibiscus In The Garden
Since their hardiness ranges from zone 4+, just about anyone can grow hibiscus in their garden. Just make sure to choose one that is perennial in your specific climate.
Give them full sun and fertile, well-draining soil in an area protected from strong winds. They thrive in raised beds, which can help prevent excess water from collecting near the roots.
If you live in a dry, arid region that frequently gets above 90°F, choose an area that provides partial afternoon shade to prevent leaf drop and scorching.
Planting Hibiscus In Pots
Pots are a very popular way to grow hibiscus because it allows gardeners to regulate temperature and sunlight as the seasons change, or bring them indoors when it gets too cold.
Choose a container with good drainage, and if possible, made from a porous material to help regulate moisture retention.
They also tend to produce more blooms when they’re slightly root-bound. So avoid placing them in very large pots. Give them just enough room to grow for a few years.
Hibiscus Care Indoors
Tropical hibiscus varieties make excellent houseplants and, with the proper care, can liven up your home with color, even in the winter.
They’ll need a bright, sunny window, like a south-facing one. Give them a well-draining, loamy potting soil mix and they’ll thrive.
They can be sensitive to temperature swings, so keep them away from drafty areas or heating and cooling vents.
How To Grow Hibiscus
When it comes to growing hibiscus in your garden, these planting and care tips will help you establish them outdoors.
When To Plant Hibiscus
The best time to plant a hibiscus is in the spring. If growing from seed, you can start them indoors 12 weeks before the last frost.
Otherwise, wait until the weather has warmed above 60°F at night, and choose a sunny location to get them started.
Hibiscus Planting Tips
Before you plant, I want to share a few key tips to help make the transition into your garden easier.
- Amend heavy or very sandy soils to create a light, loamy, fertile spot for them.
- Plant them at the same depth they were previously.
- Provide ample space between each one to promote good airflow, and accommodate for future growth.
- Water well at the time of planting, and keep the soil moist, but not soggy, through the summer.
Hibiscus Plant Care & Growing Instructions
Now that you’ve selected the perfect location, it’s time to talk about how to grow a hibiscus. With the right care you’ll be rewarded with beautiful blooms for a long time.
In most regions, hibiscus will grow best in full sunlight. But in very hot climates, intense sun can cause scorching. In that case, protect them from the direct afternoon rays.
Indoors provide bright, direct light if possible for 6-8 hours a day. Add a grow light to help compensate if you need to.
Hibiscus watering needs will change throughout the year, depending on the variety. During spring and summer, especially during blooming, they are heavy drinkers.
For indoor plants, pour in lukewarm water until the soil is moist, but never soggy. Always drain off any excess to prevent them from sitting in it.
During the colder seasons, outdoor or dormant ones will need much less. Allow the soil to dry out several inches down to prevent overwatering and rot. If you struggle with this, a moisture meter is a handy tool that can help.
Hibiscus need high humidity as part of their regular care. Indoors you can supplement by adding a small humidifier nearby, or by misting daily with lukewarm water.
The ideal temperature range for hibiscus is between 60-90°F, though this can vary between varieties.
Cold hardy ones are tolerant of temps well below freezing. For tropical types, anything below 50°F can damage the foliage, and eventually kill the plant.
Fertilizing hibiscus is an important part of their care. It encourages yearly blooms, vibrant colors, and healthy new growth, especially for ones in containers.
Choose a natural, water-soluble fertilizer to apply once a week in the spring and summer, or add slow-release granules once a month. A flowering formula, or one high in potassium are also good options
I always recommend avoiding any synthetic chemical options. It can burn and damage the foliage and flowers more easily.
Loamy, light, fertile soil that drains well is the best option for growing either container or garden hibiscus. Most varieties prefer something mildly acidic.
You can create your own container mix by combining 2 parts quality potting soil with 2 parts coco coir and 1 part perlite. Or amend poor quality garden soils with compost and sand to improve fertility and drainage.
Transplanting & Repotting
Hibiscus plants growing in containers prefer to be moderately root-bound, so repotting won’t be needed more often than every other year or so.
Repot or transplant in the spring after dormancy, but before flowering begins. Choose a pot only slightly larger than its current container. Too much space will detract from flowering as the plant focuses on root production.
If it’s been more than two years since you repotted, it’s a good idea to rejuvenate the soil. Remove the top few inches and replace it with a fresh layer.
Another important part of a successful hibiscus care routine is pruning. It’s a great way to stimulate new growth and blooms.
Tropical varieties should be trimmed in late winter or early spring. Remove the flower stems on hardy specimens in late summer after they’re done blooming.
You can safely cut either one back by 50% without damaging it, but wait until after it’s done blooming. Remove dead branches and flowers as they fade to encourage new shoots and more blooms.
Pest Control Tips
Hibiscus can be susceptible to aphids, spider mites, whiteflies, and mealybugs. Outdoor varieties may even fall prey to thrips, gall midge, or Japanese beetles.
Outside, begin treating them right away by hand picking all obvious pests. Prune away heavily infested blossoms and branches, and spot-treat the bugs with an organic insecticide if necessary.
Avoid all broad applications outdoors, as that can kill bees and other beneficial bugs. I also don’t recommend using chemical pesticides, as they can damage the plant.
Dormancy & Winter Care
There are a few ways to bring a container grown tropical hibiscus inside for the winter. You can enjoy them as a houseplant, allow them to die back and go dormant, or take cuttings.
Each is an easy way to keep them going until spring. Make sure to start the transition before temps drop to 60°F at night.
If you’re overwintering live plants, give them a few weeks to adjust to the sudden change of environment. They may show signs of shock at first. But, with enough light you can enjoy the flowers all winter long.
Hibiscus Plant Propagation Tips
Hibiscus can be propagated from seeds or by cuttings. Seeds can be collected from pollinated flowers that develop pods and are left to dry out.
For cuttings, you’ll need to take 4-6” stem segments with sharp sterile pruners. You can do this in the early spring, or fall before dormancy.
Troubleshooting Common Hibiscus Care Problems
Hibiscus can sometimes be temperamental, but they’ll give you clear signs when something’s not right with their care. Use these tips to get them back in good health.
When leaves turn yellow on your hibiscus it can be due to pests, over or under watering, or a nutrient deficiency.
Keep the soil evenly moist, but never soggy. Check the leaves closely for bugs, and treat them immediately if you see any.
Leaves Turning White
White leaves on a hibiscus can be caused by sunburn, pests, or powdery mildew.
If the entire leaf is turning white and dying, the culprit might be intense sun. Provide shade during the afternoon hours, or move it to a more protected location.
Leaf and blossom drop can be caused by too much water, temperature swings, or improper fertilizing.
They need plenty of moisture in the summer, especially during flowering. But standing water or soggy soil can do more harm than good.
If hot or cold extremes are in your forecast, move it to a sheltered area, or cover it to protect from frost. If indoors, keep them away from heating and cooling vents.
If you’ve been consistently fertilizing and suspect you overdid it, flush the pot by running clean, tepid water through it for 10 minutes. Drain off any excess, and reduce the amount you’re feeding.
The most common cause of no flowers growing on your hibiscus is lack of sunlight. They need 6-8 hours to produce buds. Add a grow light indoors if this is difficult to achieve.
Drought conditions or too much nitrogen can also be culprits. Use a fertilizer rich in potassium to encourage blooms, and keep them more consistently moist.
Hibiscus Care FAQs
Here I’ve answered some of the most commonly asked questions about hibiscus care. If yours isn’t on the list, please add it to the comments section below.
Are hibiscus easy to grow?
Hibiscus are easy to grow once you understand their sunlight, water, and temperature needs. When you create their ideal environment, they require minimal care.
How long do hibiscus plants live?
How long a hibiscus plant lives depends on the variety. Some can survive for many decades, while others only live for a span of 10-15 years.
Do hibiscus bloom all year?
Tropical hibiscus varieties can bloom all year. But usually they will enter full or semi dormancy with cooler temperatures and less light in winter. Cold-hardy types only bloom during mid-late summer.
Do hibiscus plants come back every year?
Yes, cold hardy hibiscus plants will go dormant and come back in the spring every year in the right growing zone. Tropical varieties will stay evergreen in warm climates, but are otherwise grown as annuals, or kept as houseplants.
How big does a hibiscus tree get?
How big a hibiscus tree gets depends entirely on the variety. Some tropical types can exceed 10’, while many cold hardy ones range between 4-6’.
When given the proper care, the showy, colorful blooms of a hibiscus can liven up your yard or home. With these growing tips, you’ll be able to keep yours healthy and enjoy the blooms year after year.
If you want to learn how to keep your favorite plant alive through the cold and dark months, then my Winter Houseplant Care eBook is for you. It’ll teach you all you need to know to keep your indoor plants thriving all year long. Download your copy today!
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Share your hibiscus care and growing tips in the comments section below.