Plant profile: Hibiscus
Posted by: scentandviolet November 11th, 2018
The genus Hibiscus in the Malvaceae (mallow family) includes more than 200 species, including annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees. Most of these do not make good houseplants. The Chinese hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) though is by far the most popular species offered for indoor use.
This plant is of tropical origin and grows best under tropical conditions. That means, in temperate climates, outdoors in the summer and indoors in the winter.
The Chinese hibiscus is a shrub or small tree with woody stems from 3 to 16 feet (1 to 5 m) tall. Its evergreen leaves are shiny dark green (some cultivars have variegated foliage) and elliptic with a toothed margin and a pointed tip. Potted hibiscus can become very old, forty years or more is not that rare.
Chinese hibiscus are tropical plants that need both light and warmth to thrive. They prefer moderate heat with a few hours of direct sunlight every day. South or west facing windows are the best areas to place this plant. Keep hibiscus out of cold drafts, especially in the winter, an protect roots from excessive heat.
Water hibiscus thoroughly but, to prevent root rot, let the top inch of soil to dry between waterings. Do not let the plant sit in water. Use warm water when watering, especially in colder months. Keep your plant in a humid environment by misting and placing on a pebble tray filled with water.
Hibiscus must have regular feedings during the growth period, March-October, to promote abundant flowering. Use a water soluble formula with every watering, but to prevent salt build up in the pot flush with clean water every month or two. If the plant has dried out between waterings it is essential not to fertilize until the soil has been rehydrated. To do this, place the pot in a bucket with about 2" of water. Add a dash of regular dish detergent to break water tension, this will allow the water to better penetrate the dried out soil. Leave pot for 30 minutes in bucket then return to planter. The plant can be fertilized when the soil is once again moist through.
Short care instructions: Chinese hibiscus thrive in bright direct sunlight and warmth. Water hibiscus regularly and thoroughly allowing top inch of soil to dry between waterings. Fertilize regularly during the growing season. Repot the plant in the spring. Prune in the fall to control size and promote new shoots for flowering.
Special thanks to Rajiv Bajaj for this fabulous photo via Unsplash
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