What You Need to Know to Grow Hibiscus
No summer garden is complete without the iconic silhouette of the hibiscus. These brightly colored flowers are a vivid symbol of the tropics, and spruce up any garden space. While hibiscus blossoms are certainly gorgeous, these plants can be difficult to grow and properly care for, which dissuades many newbies from attempting to cultivate them. Fortunately, growing hibiscus plants to be healthy and strong is possible when you have the right information and a bit of patience.
Choosing a Hibiscus Plant
If you want to know how to grow hibiscus, the place to start is in choosing the right plant for your garden. While all hibiscus plants seem to look similar at a glance, there are actually two different kinds, and they have a surprising number of differences between them. The first is the tropical hibiscus, possibly the most well-known of the two types. These are defined by:
- Dark green leaves
- Glossy leaf texture
- Red, white, pink, orange, lavender, or bicolor petals
As their name might suggest, these hibiscuses thrive in a more tropical environment with plenty of sunlight and moisture. They shine most brightly in zones 10 to 12, the only zones where they can survive throughout the winter. If you don’t reside in this zone, it’s still possible to grow a small tropical hibiscus plant in a container, allowing it to be moved into the house during winter. The USA Plant Hardiness Zones are the standards by which gardeners and growers determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a certain location. Find your zone here.
The other type of hibiscus you might choose is the perennial hibiscus. These can survive the winters in zones four to nine, making them a bit hardier than their tropical counterparts. Some defining features of the perennial variation of hibiscus include:
- Lighter green leaves
- Larger flowers
- Red, burgundy, white, or pink flowers
Another unique feature of this selection of hibiscus is its huge growth capabilities. It’s not uncommon for these plants to grow up to seven or eight feet tall. Be sure to consider this while choosing a plant for your garden. If you live in these cooler zones but don’t have the space for a full-sized perennial hibiscus, consider keeping an eye out for a dwarf variety that will be better suited to your small garden space. There are plenty of varieties of hibiscus that follow under these two umbrellas, so you’ll almost always be able to find the perfect size and color combination for your garden.
Regardless of which type of hibiscus you choose, it needs full sun in order to truly thrive. Pick a space that’s uncrowded by other tall plants and away from the shadow of porches, roofs, or walls throughout the day.
Of course, sunlight isn’t the only thing to consider when choosing your hibiscus’ new home. You also have to ensure the plant is getting the appropriate amount of water. Generally, tropical hibiscus will need soil that is moist, but that still drains well in order to prevent over-watering. Meanwhile, the hardier perennial hibiscus does best in soil that is moist and never quite fully drains. The second variety can handle more water than the tropical counterparts and are excellent for planting in the lowest part of your garden where other plants might struggle to deal with moisture buildup.
You need to plant your hibiscus at the right time if you want the best possible results. Ideally, tropical hibiscus plants should be kept inside of your house until the lowest night-time temperatures outdoors are above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. They are warm-weather plants and will wilt in the cold rather quickly, especially if you don’t happen to live in their native zone.
Perennial hibiscus should be planted in early spring to ensure they have time to develop their root system before summer arrives. This early growth is imperative because it improves the chances of the plant returning the next year. Make plans to plant a perennial hibiscus in early spring, to give your plant an entire season to grow and prepare for lower winter temperatures.
In terms of work, perennial hibiscuses are by far the simpler of the two. Choose the location for your hibiscus in early spring and dig a hole that’s equally as deep as the plant’s existing root system. Discard the plastic pot the plant came in, and then put it in the hole. However, don’t just begin scooping the dirt back into the hole. Instead, create a half-and-half mix of local soil and a fertilized potting soil mixture. Adding a bit of organic soil additive is also highly suggested to give every plant a good start.
Tropical hibiscuses should be kept in a pot because they need to be taken indoors during the colder months. For optimal results, your pot should be no wider than double the size of your hibiscus’ existing root ball. Again, you don’t want to choose any dirt for growing a hibiscus, especially one of the tropical varieties. Ideally, you should fill the bottom third of the pot with a moisture-control variety of potting soil to ensure your plant doesn’t succumb to either overwatering or underwatering, both common causes of demise for tropical hibiscus. Set the plant inside so that the upper edge of the root ball is approximately an inch below the top of your container, and then fill in around the root ball with more of the potting mix.
Water both types directly after planting to begin restoring any nutrients lost during the transplant process.
Feeding and Watering
As you might expect, the feeding and watering habits of these hibiscuses are quite different as well, at least after the first few weeks. During the initial weeks after planting, both types should be watered thoroughly every other day. However, after that, you only need to water your perennial hibiscus twice each week for the first growing season and then only once per week after. Overwatering these plants is difficult, so continue to water even if it rains.
After the initial period of watering every other day, tropical hibiscus plants should be kept consistently moist – which can be a challenge in warmer zones. Generally, these plants will need to be watered between three to four times per week for most of the growing season, and often daily during the hottest part of summer when the plants are growing. Water less often in cooler months.
Feeding your plants is imperative to create as many beautiful blooms as possible. Fortunately, this is one area where tropical and perennial hibiscuses don’t differ. A month after planting, begin feeding them with a water-soluble flower food. Follow the directions on the package to get the best results and encourage healthy growth in both types of plants.
When it comes to growing beautiful, hearty, and long-lasting plants, more information is always better. Contact Harvest Gold Organics to learn more about soil additives and how you can make your hibiscus thrive through the coming seasons and years. Caring for hibiscus can seem like a challenge, but with a little dedication, care, and the right resources, you can add this iconic summertime bloom to your garden without a hassle.