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Hibiscus care might seem overwhelming when you bring home your first one but you can master it too. If there was anything in my life that symbolizes my tenacity in problem solving it’s this hibiscus plant. I’m so very proud of figuring out the best way to encourage it to thrive.
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 hibiscus care 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! Read how to deal with pests on your hibiscus.
After having this hibiscus tree in my care for over a full year now, I’m confident about growing hibiscus indoors. My tree seems to be happy, healthy and producing many blooms.
General Hibiscus Care Tips
Light: Hibiscus trees need quite a lot of light and even tolerate some direct sun as long as the heat isn’t too intense. I am in Canada (southern Alberta) and my hibiscus is in my large west 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’ve found the best way to handle watering is to let the plant tell me when it’s thirsty. When I see a leaf or two begin to wilt I soak it immediately. I don’t recommend leaving it for days after it has wilted as that will stress the plant.
Soil: Hibiscus grow really well in sandy, well draining soil. They like a slightly higher PH but I wouldn’t amend yours without testing it first. I planted mine in a mix of cactus soil, pearlite, worm castings and a little standard peat based potting mix. It’s also in a terra cotta pot which helps the soil dry out.
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 but the room is typically around 50% humidity and it seems to be doing well.
Fertilizer: My tree came from the nursery with slow release fertilizer grains on the soil. Do not fertilize in the winter or when the plant isn’t wanting to produce new growth. In spring I began using an organic 3-2-5 fish emulsion fertilizer and it looks beautiful. The leaves have gotten to a deep, rich green and it is blooming well – but not overly so. I do believe the right fertilizer is key with hibiscus care.
Pruning: Prune in the early days of spring, just after you see new growth pushing out and ideally, before you see the plant producing bloom buds. I cut mine back quite a bit mostly to shape the tree but also to encourage new growth.
Hibiscus Care Resources:
Spider mite control on indoor hibiscus
How to get your hibiscus plant to flower indoors
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