Hibiscus – Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis

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I came to own a Hibiscus Tree in rather a foolish way, as I often come to acquire things, without much real research or thought. It was a purchase of the heart – I fell in love with the idea of it.

I merely wanted a large plant to fill the vacant corner of the living room – you can see the hibiscus tree in the left corner of the photo above. When I went to the nursery ‘just to browse,’ the lovely lady there showed me about 5 hibiscus trees and several were in bloom. “If I were you,” she said, “I’d choose the braided tree. There’s only 1 left.” Well that was it. I’d been snookered!

She shared some basic info with me and off we went into the sunset. I really didn’t know what I was getting into – heck, I didn’t even know what colour the flowers were to be – but I’m a decent researcher who loves to problem solve so I was game to give it a shot. I was ready to fail and told myself that even if I got to enjoy a handful of blooms before the tree died, it would be worth it.

And boy was it worth it! It bloomed, and bloomed and bloomed. At one point there were six of these huge gorgeous flowers on it at once. This is what I would call the honeymoon phase. I was all gaga eyed over this tree and I no longer just wanted to enjoy it’s beauty temporarily – I wanted it to thrive!

Of course, that’s when the drama began. I noticed several buds dropping off before they were fully developed. Leaves were turning yellow and newer ones were misshapen. At first, I thought it was a water issue and I began to fret over giving it too much or not enough. I bought a water meter and while most of the tree looked happy enough, things still weren’t right.

I started getting pale, small and malformed flowers and more leaves yellowed. The culprit? Spider mites! I’ll get into the spider mite (and other pests) issue in another post once I’m confident that I have it under control and have solid info to share. For now, here is some general care information.

General Hibiscus Care Tips

Light: Hibiscus trees need quite a lot of light and even tolerate direct sun as long as the heat isn’t too intense. I am in Canada (southern Alberta) and my hibiscus is in my large East facing window. It gets a little direct sun (about an hour or so) in the late afternoon and when it becomes very hot in the summer, I’ll close the sheer blinds so it still gets light, but less direct heat.

Water: During times when hibiscus is actively producing new leaves and flowers, they need more water than during times when there is no new growth appearing. They don’t want to dry out but neither do they want to sit in sopping wet. This is a bit tricky. I am currently soaking it through about once a week with a little dribble to top up in between. They will droop when they need water but it’s best not to let it get to that point. Dropping flower buds is a sign that it needs more water.

Humidity: Hibiscus love humidity and keeping it high in southern Alberta with the furnace running is difficult. We do have a small humidifier on the other side of the room for the calathea, and I have the hibiscus sitting over a pebble tray as well. I believe it would love more humidity and that would likely help with the issues I’m having. The room is typically around 50% humidity. Aim for higher than that if you’re able.

Fertilizer: My tree came from the nursery with slow release fertilizer grains on the soil. I will not fertilize until I see they are gone – maybe next spring.

Pruning: When it comes time to prune my tree, I will include a post here with my experiences.

Hibiscus Resources:

Growing Hibiscus outdoors – varieties, hardy zones and more.
The Laidback gardener has a very extensive post on indoor Hibiscus care
Propagating Hibiscus from a cutting – a how to

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