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red hibiscus - care - powell river

How to Care for Hibiscus Plants

The hibiscus flower is one of those quintessential tropical blooms that leaves us dreaming of sunsets, beaches and fruity blended drinks, and luckily here in Powell River, our weather is just warm enough to reliably care for hibiscus plants even though it isn’t exactly a tropical rainforest climate. 

While most hibiscus plants can only be kept as annuals here since they can’t survive sub-zero winter temperatures, there are a few cold-hardy varieties available that can be planted as perennials. We have brought in a very special Hibiscus that can withstand the coldest temperatures that our climate can subject it to.   With deep green, almost black tinted foliage and 9 inch diameter bright red blooms, this hibiscus is appropriately named the “Holy Grail.” It will come back year after year, growing up to 5 ft in height and spread. The Holy Grail won’t bloom until early August but we promise it will be well worth the wait. 

While hibiscus plants can be a little bit needier than some other popular flowers, mastering the basics of hibiscus care isn’t exceedingly difficult, and their vibrant blooms are well worth a little extra effort. With repeated blooming that lasts from spring until fall, there’s so much to love about these bright, exotic flowers. We’ve assembled this hibiscus care guide so you can confidently grow your own hibiscus right at home.

Hibiscus Care: Containers vs. Outdoor Planting

Hibiscus can be grown in containers or planted in garden beds outdoors, but all things considered, most folks find it a bit easier to care for them in containers. The beauty of container gardening is the freedom to move your plants around to make sure their needs are being met. If the spot you’ve chosen for your hibiscus isn’t getting quite enough sun, you can easily move it to a new spot. Once temperatures begin to drop, you can even bring it inside to overwinter it so you can enjoy it for a second summer.   

When choosing a container to put your hibiscus in, don’t get one that’s too large. Hibiscus plants actually prefer a slightly snug fit around their roots, so a smaller pot with some drainage holes will work best. If you’re keeping it indoors, find a sunny windowsill to place it on, but don’t let it touch the glass as the sun can heat the windowpane and end up scorching the plant.

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Hibiscus plants in containers should be fertilized a little more frequently than ones planted in garden beds— about once a week during the blooming period should suffice. Garden hibiscus should be fertilized about once every two weeks. Neither require any fertilizer during the winter months. A slow-release 14-14-14 fertilizer, or one specially formulated for hibiscus plants should work fine— just don’t go too overboard, as too much phosphorus could bring your hibiscus to an untimely end. Fertilizers with a bit of extra magnesium and iron will help them to bloom especially well. 

When planting hibiscus in the garden, make sure there are about 2-3 feet between each plant. They grow pretty quickly during the summer, so they’ll fill out really nicely. Do a little pH test of the soil if you think it might be more on the alkaline side— hibiscus does best in slightly acidic soil, and you can make conditions a bit more ideal by mixing in some loam.

Hibiscus Care: Water and Sunlight

The first rule of hibiscus care: always water them with warm water. Cold water from the hose will shock your plants, so it’s best to fill a watering can with warm tap water instead (not too hot, though—you don’t want to cook your hibiscus). During the sunny summer months, hibiscus plants will need to be watered frequently, but it’s important to make sure their soil has excellent drainage, so the roots don’t become waterlogged. Container hibiscus should be watered daily, whereas garden hibiscus needs to be watered about every other day. If you’re overwintering your hibiscus indoors, always wait for the soil to dry out before watering again. 

As for sunlight, hibiscus plants like lots and lots! The more direct sunlight, the better they will bloom. Aim for 8+ hours of direct sun, daily. While they can sometimes tolerate a bit of partial shade, the blossoms won’t be quite as frequent or impressive, so if you’re planting your hibiscus in the garden, make sure it’s in a spot that isn’t going to get shaded by tall trees or a nearby fence. As we mentioned before, one of the nice things about a container hibiscus is that you can move it around to make sure it’s getting enough sun, so keep an eye on your container plants to make sure they’re thriving in your chosen spot for them. 

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Hibiscus Care: Extra Tips

Now that you know the basics of caring for hibiscus here in Powell River, here’s a few bonus tips that will help you keep your plant happy and healthy:

  • Be on the lookout for pests. Aphids, spider mites and whiteflies like to munch on hibiscus, but a simple insecticidal soap solution made from castile soap and water should help get them out. 
  • Prune your hibiscus once in the spring. While this, of course, doesn’t apply to annual hibiscus plants, if you have one that you’re overwintering, or if you have a cold-hardy variety in your landscape, pruning will help promote future blooms. Remove about 1/3 of the branches, starting with any that look weak, or awkwardly jut outward, and leave behind at least 3 or 4 sturdier main branches.  
  • If the leaves are turning yellow, cut back on watering. This tends to happen in the winter for indoor plants, so reduce the frequency of watering if you spot those early signs. 
  • Don’t use clay pots. This material can actually cause the soil to become a bit more alkaline over time, so stick to plastic or stone pots for your hibiscus.

Hibiscus care can sometimes be a labour of love, but the resulting blooms that keep reappearing for months on end are totally worth it. So long as you keep an eye on your plant and monitor its growth and colouring, your hibiscus will be in good hands. To find the perfect hibiscus variety that suits your landscape design, visit us at Mother Nature in Powell River, and one of our experts will be happy to help. 

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