Top 10 Questions About Hibiscus Plants

By Liz Baessler | August 13, 2017
Image by Edson Hardt
by Liz Baessler
August 13, 2017

Here at Gardening Know How we get lots of questions, and we want to answer them as best as possible. No question is too big or too small, and we know that sometimes a single plant can bring up all kinds of questions. Hibiscus is a very popular houseplant, and one that may bring up plenty of questions. The following information includes the 10 most commonly asked questions relating to hibiscus.

1) What causes yellow leaves on hibiscus?

Yellowing leaves is one of the most common problems with hibiscus plants. Luckily, it’s rarely serious and usually easy to fix. It can signal all kinds of different problems, so you’ll have to use context to figure out which it might be. Yellow leaves might be caused by too little or too much water, too much or too little light, not enough nutrients, or conditions that are too hot or too cold. Take stock of how you’ve been treating your hibiscus and change anything you think might be too extreme, then wait and see if the leaves green up.


2) What causes bud drop on hibiscus plants?

Bud or blossom drop on hibiscus is usually due to pest problems, and the most common culprits are thrips and gall midge. Both of these insects feed on hibiscus buds, making them fall off before they bloom. If gall midge is your problem, you’ll find their larvae inside dropped buds if you cut them open. Both pests can be controlled by a weekly spraying of insecticide. If pests don’t seem to be present, bud drop can also be a signal of poor health due to improper watering or feeding, or sharp changes in temperature.

3) What pest is eating my hibiscus plant?

There are several pests that target hibiscus plants. Some of the most common include sap sucking insects like spider mites, mealybugs, aphids, and whiteflies. Thrips, gall midge, and hibiscus beetles also attack the plants. These pests should all be able to be treated with a regular application of insecticide. One very effective and safe insecticide is Neem oil, which can be sprayed directly on the leaves or applied to the soil to be drawn up into the plant through the roots. Apply Neem oil once per week in the evening – low light and cooler temperatures are best for preventing damage to the leaves.

4) How do I prune a Hibiscus?

Hibiscus plants thrive on a good pruning and should be cut back once per year. The best time by far for hibiscus pruning is early spring. You can cut back a hibiscus pretty aggressively just as it’s coming out of its dormancy – this will encourage bushier growth and more buds. Cut off about a third of each branch, leaving 2 to 3 healthy nodes. Completely cut away any dead or unhealthy branches. You can prune your hibiscus less dramatically during the summer and early autumn, too. This will encourage more compact growth, but it will lose some potential for flowering. Avoid pruning at all in late fall and winter.

5) How do I care for a hibiscus in winter?

The hibiscus is a hot weather plant that can’t handle cold winter temperatures. If your climate experiences more than one or two days below freezing each winter, you’ll have to bring it indoors. Place it somewhere that receives at least some light and has a temperature of at least 50 F. (10 C.). Water it occasionally, but only when the soil is dry to the touch. If you’re overwintering your hibiscus indoors, expect it to go dormant and look much drabber than it did during the summer. The flowers will fade and some of the leaves might turn yellow, but this is completely normal.

6) Why isn’t my hibiscus blooming?

Maybe your hibiscus looks very healthy but just isn’t blooming. This is a more common problem than you might think, and it has a very reasonable explanation. Your hibiscus isn’t sick – it’s just lacking in phosphorus. Phosphorus is key to a plant’s ability to produce flowers, and it gets depleted over time. If your hibiscus isn’t blooming like it should, work some phosphorus into the soil. You can buy phosphorus rich fertilizer, but you can also use bone meal, rock phosphate, or rich compost. It’s very hard to give plants too much phosphorus because they have difficulty absorbing it, so don’t worry about overdoing it.

7) Why is my hibiscus dropping its leaves?

Hibiscus leaf drop is very closely related to leaf yellowing – a lot of the time the two go hand in hand. This means the two are usually caused by the same problems. These can be too much or too little water, too much or too little light, too much or too little fertilizer, or too high or too low of a temperature. These can all be corrected easily. It’s also not uncommon to experience a little leaf drop when you bring your hibiscus inside for the winter – this is normal and shouldn’t be a problem.

8) How do I propagate a Hibiscus?

Hibiscus can be propagated both from seeds and cuttings. Most gardeners prefer using cuttings because it guarantees that the plant will look the same as its parent. Cuttings should be taken in spring or early summer, when the new growth is young and green. Cut a 4- to 6-inch length just below a node. Remove all but the top set of leaves, dip the end in rooting hormone, and sink the cutting in a pot of well-draining soil. Cover it with a plastic bag and place it out of direct sunlight. Keep the soil moist.

9) How much sunlight does a Hibiscus need?

While you often hear that hibiscus plants need full sun, this isn’t necessarily the case. They will grow and bloom perfectly well on a windowsill where they receive just 2 to 4 hours of sun per day given adequate care. Even outdoors, the amount of sunlight a hibiscus needs depends on climate. In temperate zones, the plants will thrive in full sun. The hotter your summer, however, the more shade your hibiscus will prefer – the plants are known to languish in the full sun of the southern U.S. If you live in a highly numbered zone, plant your hibiscus in a partly shaded spot.

10) How do I transplant a Hibiscus?

The best time to transplant a hibiscus is just after its flowers have faded – in most climates this will be in late summer or early autumn. The first thing you should do is dig a hole in your plant’s new location. Next, trim your hibiscus back to about ⅓ of its size. This may feel drastic, but it will do a lot to help the plant overcome root shock. Water the plant, then dig a circle 1 foot away from the trunk for every inch of trunk diameter. Place it in its new home so the soil line is at the same level. Fill in with compost and soil and water thoroughly.

We all have questions now and then, whether long-time gardeners or those just starting out. So if you have a gardening question, get a gardening answer. We’re always here to help.


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  • Hellen Windham
    Comment added October 31, 2019Reply

    I live in Louisiana and have a Shirley temple hibiscus. will this plant be o.k. in the winter ,should I bring it in or can it live outside. what tempature will it tolerate?. thank you

    • Hellen Windham
      Comment added November 6, 2019Reply

      I did not get a reply to my question.

  • Barbara Benoit
    Comment added June 20, 2019Reply

    My hybiscus tree's leaves are turning a milky white. It was recenty put outside after the Winter.

  • Darla Kilgore
    Comment added May 26, 2019Reply

    My hibiscus plant is several years old and is planted in a fairly large pot and have always been healthy, however, this summer its leaves have been turning yellow and the plant is looking "scragly", and blooms are far and few between, what am I doing wrong?

    • Marci
      Comment added August 21, 2019Reply

      How do I keep a stem that was broken in a rain storm and its filled with flower buns alive in a vase so they can bloom in my home

  • Bonnie
    Comment added May 9, 2019Reply

    When the bloom dies on my hibiscus, should I just pull it off or cut it off below the dead bloom?

  • Jeanie Horst
    Comment added November 10, 2018Reply

    Thanks about hibiscus. I live in Pa and am bringing my plant into the heated garage for the winter. It's got black spots on many leaves. What is that?

  • Rob Cantin
    Comment added October 29, 2018Reply

    Good Morning,

    My standard Hibiscus growing in pots have never been fed.They are now two and a half years old and I would like to know what to feed with and whether this could be tha reason the leaves are turning yellow. Can I give them a bit of SuperPhosphate.
    2.When growing new ones,could i use some acidic soil?

    Looking forward to your comments,

    Thank you.


    • Ruta Tamosiuniene
      Comment added August 13, 2019Reply

      I live in IL and have my hibiscus is outside in the garden I never replant it in pot and bring inside just cut off all branches to the ground for winter and in the spring comes new ones
      I do believe this plant like to “sleep” over winter
      Maybe you wanna try this
      Good luck!

  • Steve Denfeld
    Comment added October 25, 2018Reply

    This article on Hibiscus was very helpful but I have multiple plants that are in the ground and not in pots to be able bring in for the winter or freezing temps. Is there a way to protect my plants if they have to stay outside?

  • Stacie
    Comment added October 24, 2018Reply

    Can i dig up excsisting Hibiscus plants and bring them indoors? Or is better to leave them in the ground through the winter? I live in Houston, Texas. Any help would be appreciated.

  • Gail Wimer
    Comment added October 18, 2018Reply

    I have a hibiscus and I was going to trim it back for winter. Then cover it with leaves for some protection. I was to do that for winter. Is that right? Or am I doing the wrong thing?

    • Johanna T. Carpenter
      Comment added October 19, 2019Reply

      I live in Florida, mine are a few yrs. old and lived in pot up until,a few weeks ago.
      They flowered beautifully, until I trans planted them into the ground. Should I give them
      time, to get over the shock, one of them is called “Hawaiian Sunset”, and what a beautiful blossom.
      Orange-red w/yellow center. Hopefully they will come back??❤️

  • Peggye Todriff
    Comment added October 16, 2018Reply

    Great information on hibiscus and bottle brush. Thank you

  • barbara gmitter
    Comment added October 10, 2018Reply

    I have 4 hibiscus plants that i have put two in each large planters. They are outdoor plants. My question is I live in a suburb of philadelphia plants in the house for the colder temps. and was wondering If I need to bring the plants in can i put them in the basement near a glass door or will that be tocold for them.This is the first season for them I grew them from roots.

  • Grace Gibson
    Comment added August 21, 2017Reply

    Thanks. I guess that I have over watered.

  • Nick McQuistion
    Comment added August 14, 2017Reply

    How do I trim a hibiscus tree?

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