For over 10 years my son and I have been growing tropical hibiscus plants. It started when we were both living in New Jersey, but we have both relocated. I am now living in South Orleans, Cape Cod, Massauchetts and my son is living in Manchester Center, Vermont. Living in cold climates requires bringing plants inside for the winter. My son started giving me some of his plants since I had more room for storage, and he would buy some new plants each spring. Our interest in these beautiful flowers grew, and we both are growing more and more varieties. Through the years we have been learning the art of hybridization, rooting, grafting, and etc. which is very challenging and fun. There is so much to learn and the existence of the internet with so many sources of information has made the learning process easier. We are by no means experts in the field of hibiscus hybridization, but I feel we are getting better each year. The joy of creating an original hibiscus with a new beautiful flower color pattern and foliage is very rewarding. I am adding this page to my Woo's Worms website to disseminate the information we have accumulated as we are expanding our hobby of growing tropical hibiscus. Try it. You will like it
Most of the information below applies to the tropical variety of hibiscus, but also is useful when growing the perennial plants. As time permits, I plan to cover the perennial hibiscus more specifically.
Tropical Hibiscus (TH)
Most local nurseries carry hibiscus plants and they are also available on the internet and Ebay. When making a purchase make sure you select the appropriate tropical or perennial variety. Your selection should have dark green foliage and appears to be healthy and free of disease. Blooming flowers are good since you can see the colors you are getting. Buds are also important since they will bloom in the near future. Each year I sell a few plants on my farm stand to make room for new hybridized varieties. Stop by and pay me a visit if you visit Cape Cod.
TH grow very well in pots, but can be planted in your garden if you wish. In the garden they will require less watering, but will have to be dug up and put inside in non-tropical climates. In the north growing in pots is preferred since the plants can be moved to appropriate locations as conditions change. Use good size pots with holes in the bottom which will not dry out too quickly. A sunny location is desired. The more the better. As with all plants, a good mix of soil or potting mix is required for a healthy growth. Water heavily after planting.
Care and Maintenance:
TH are high maintenance plants which require much TLC for good results.
Location: Select a spot as sunny as possible, but bear in mind they can be damaged from windy, cold or extremely hot conditions. An advantage of pots is they can be moved during adverse conditions.
Water: Frequent watering so the soil remains moist and does not dry out is needed for best results A good plan in the hot weather is to water at least every other day. When watering pot, water until it comes out the bottom of the pot. TH have a tendency to become root bound which increases their need for water.
Inspection: Close inspection and TLC is required to enjoy your flowers. Frequently check the foliage for yellow leaves or holes which indicate problems such as lack of water, fertilizer, pests or disease. Daily removal of dead flowers and leaves makes for a much more attractive plant.
Fertilizer: To maintain a plant with rich green foliage and large colorful flowers, a good routine plan for fertilizing your plants is recommended. They want the middle # in the fertilizer analysis to be low. I have found Jack's Palm food 16-5-25 liquid fertilizer to be very effective using monthly feedings during the growing season. At times I also use dry hibiscus fertilizer by Carl Pool 10-4-12.
Pests: I haven't had too many problems with pests on my hibiscus, but it pays to be vigilant. On occasion I have had to pick snails off of a couple of plants. They don't seen to do much plant damage, but they appear to have eaten some paper labels used to identify fathers when I have been hybridizing the flowers. I have one perennial hibiscus that gets shredded with small green worms every year. This year I also got them on one of my tropical plants. I found a good solution was using BT which I plan to use on my perennial plant next year. This year I had a praying mantis guarding some of my plants. In fact one of my new hybrids was named PM after his guardian. Aphids can be a problem at times, but a quick spray with the hose seems to get them off the plants. However, when the plants are brought inside of the winter the aphids appear almost immediately in great numbers, especially on the buds. Removing invested buds and spraying the plants with water seems to solve the problem pretty well.
One of the wonderful things about TH is the wide selection of flower color combinations and sizes that are available. Once you get into hybridizing your own plants you can create your own original color combinations and sizes. Depending on the plant and the weather conditions the flower blooms last 1, 2, or 3 days. On occasion some might last longer. For appearance sake removing dead blooms is recommended though they will fall from the plant in a short time. When hybridizing removal of dead flowers is not recommended since it might affect the development of seed pods.
Anatomy: Familiarity with the anatomy of the flower is important for anyone interested in TH. The picture below provides a clear picture of all the flower parts.
Pruning: As the plant grows it is a good idea to prune to shape the plant to a nice symmetrical shape. On most plants it will also result in more branches being formed. However remember a pruned branch will take a long time before a flower is produced. Usually it will be over 2 months. Therefore leaving some unpruned branches for flowers is a good idea. Heavy pruning of large plants to reduce their size should be done in the fall or early spring. Studying how your individual plants react to pruning is advised. This is especially true for hybridizers trying to develop nice bushy plants with spectacular flowers.
While researching hibiscus on the internet I have found the following sites to be valuable and worth sharing.