Hibiscuses grow best in well-drained, slightly acidic (pH 6-6.5) soil. The one exception is H. syriacus, which is tolerant of alkaline soils. Before planting, ensure you improve the soil with well-rotted compost or manure.
During the growing season, water regularly, and ensure drainage is good. Mulch the surrounding area with organic mulch, straw, hay or sugarcane, ensuring it doesn’t touch the stem. This will help keep the roots cool and moist in summer.
These plants respond well to fertiliser. Choose one that encourages blooms, and is high in nitrogen and potassium. You can also add a fish emulsion or seaweed extract to this feeding mix. Apply before and throughout the growing season (August through to March) as this will help intensify bloom colour and promote healthy growth.
Check plants for the hibiscus flower beetle. These tiny black insects burrow their way through flower buds and foliage, leaving gaping holes. Use a systemic insecticide to help control infestations.
The best time to prune evergreen types is at the start of the growing season or when the last frost has passed – usually in September. They flower on new season wood, as do the deciduous types, which should be pruned in winter.
Where to plant hibiscus in your garden
Plant these tropical gems and you’ll be rewarded with blooms that burst onto the scene in spring and flower right into the cooler months of the year. You won’t be disappointed!
- Put on a show of colour in your backyard with these bright beauties – the fiery red and orange combo will be a hit!
- For a feature plant that will really turn heads, look no further than the coral hibiscus (H. schizopetalus). Its pretty parachute-like blooms will light up your landscape in glorious shades of red or pink.
- Make a great addition to tropical and resort-style gardens and with its lush foliage, looks great even when not in flower.
- For those with a pool, they look are perfect as poolside plant.
- Can be pruned into a hedge.
Hibiscus will happily grace a garden of any style, including formal. Just train into a standard, plant in a large pot and wait for the flowers to shine. If they are quite big, you might need to stake them.
For the smaller varieties, they too make an excellent potted plant. Plant them up with an acidic potting mix to improve soil and promote growth.
How to prune hibiscus
Depending on the variety, pruning requirements are quite different, so keep the original label. If left unpruned, hibiscus shrubs will become scraggy and shapeless, with fewer flowers and smaller, duller blooms. A regular prune is the best way to help rejuvenate tired-looking plants.
As a general rule, remove any weak, dead or diseased wood including branches that are growing toward the centre. Trim back last season's growth and shape the bush into an ideal size as you go. Each cut should be just above a bud a third of the way back, making sure at least two to three nodes on the branches remain to encourage new growth. Aim for these cuts to be made just above the nodes, leaving about half a centimetre.
For bigger branches, a lopper or saw may be required. But for smaller plants, shears that are sharp and clean will do. Overall aim for a good clean using freshly cleaned tools to reduce potential disease spreading from affected branches.
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