Friday, March 11, 2011

Hibiscus

Bring the garden indoors with a Hibiscus, an exotic specimen that produces some of the most magnificent flowers. These lovely plants are not exclusive to the outdoors; they have been grown as houseplants for decades by people all over the world, including northerners, like me, that live in cold regions that offer very short outdoor gardening seasons.

With a variety of dazzling flower colours to choose from, including red, white, yellow, orange and pink, a Hibiscus plant is sure to satisfy every palette. Easy to grow, and one of the most reliable flowering houseplants, this tropical beauty requires only a few basic needs to be met to keep it thriving and blooming. With proper care, Hibiscus will bloom profusely from spring to autumn.

One of the contributing factors to healthy blooms is plenty of light. The sunnier the location, the better it is for your Hibiscus. As a general rule, this plant is an excellent choice for the warm southern or western windowsill alongside your cactus collection. Provide a few hours of sun per day, especially during the winter. Without sufficient light, Hibiscus will not bloom and you’ll have to settle for a pretty green bush.

During the summer season, depending on where you live and where you situate your plant, it may be necessary to provide protection against the direct rays of the sizzling midday sun; it may even be necessary to find another location. How do you determine this? By watching your plant. If your Hibiscus is sitting in the hot sun for a few hours a day and it looks tired, it’s possible that it is receiving too much direct light. Filter the strong sun with a sheer curtain, move your plant further back from the window or change its location entirely to an area that provides less hours of sunshine. Finding the perfect location for this plant may take some experimenting but it’s worth the effort for those dazzling blooms.

Use a fast-draining, porous soil and keep it evenly moist (never soggy) at all times, especially while the plant is in bloom. Water thoroughly until it runs out of the drainage holes; allow the plant to dry partially before watering again. Check on your plant regularly if it is sitting in the hot summer sun; it will dry out faster and may need to be watered every day. In cooler, shadier areas less moisture will be needed. When winter arrives, reduce watering; allow the medium to dry a little more. Always try to water your Hibiscus before wilting occurs, a sign that the plant has dried out too much. Constant under watering can cause root damage.

Keep your Hibiscus away from cold drafts and place it in a room where it’s warm. Average room temperatures that are comfortable for you will be comfortable for your plant. The plant may cease growing and developing flowers if kept in an area where it’s too cold for its liking. Hibiscus can survive very hot spells as long as it is kept adequately hydrated. In very warm locations, check your plant daily and water accordingly. Once again, watch your plant for signs of discontentment. Hibiscus may shed some of its foliage and even drop flower buds prematurely if exposed extensively to temperatures that are not to its liking – too hot or too cold. Take the hint and find it a new home.

Keep humidity above average; add a humidifier nearby, place (smaller) plants on pebble trays filled with water, double pot and fill the space between the containers with damp peat moss, group plants together to help increase the moisture surrounding them or grow Hibiscus in rooms where humidity is naturally higher. If humidity is too low, flower buds may be dropped before they get a chance to open; even some foliage may be discarded if the dry air is combined with hot temperatures. In addition to keeping a Hibiscus healthy, increasing humidity helps deter spider mites, which become a huge problem in arid areas.

Hibiscus works very hard to develop fabulous blooms and attractive foliage so it’s not surprising that they are heavy feeders. To help them retain healthy energy levels, feed them every two to three weeks (during spring and summer) with an all purpose, water-soluble fertilizer. During the winter months, reduce feeding to once a month, or once every two months.

Sooner or later your plant will become straggly and long-limbed, producing fewer and smaller flowers, so at the beginning of the growing season – late February or early March – give your plant a haircut. Hibiscus is able to withstand very heavy pruning, so don’t be afraid to remove 1/3 – or more - of the plant with very sharp shears. Cutting back your Hibiscus will stimulate new growth, encourage more flower production and induce bushiness.


Growing Hibiscus In Hydroculture

Although transplanting from soil to hydroculture is successful, it’s not for the faint of heart. Hibiscus, like the beloved Poinsettia, will shed all of its leaves within a week or two after it’s removed from soil. Don’t fret; new leaves will emerge even before water roots form. If you are interested in converting this plant to hydroculture (and brave enough to handle the plant’s dramatic reaction), I’d suggest waiting until early spring when it’s time to prune. At the same time as you’re cutting back your plant to encourage new growth, transplant it to hydroculture. After a few weeks, new leaves supported by water roots will emerge and your Hibiscus will be settled into its new water-based environment.


Warm temperatures, high humidity, lots of sunshine, regular feeding and careful watering will keep your Hibiscus healthy and happy for years to come. In return for the care you provide, your grateful plant will put on one of the most dramatic flowers displays you’ll ever witness. And it’ll even do it in a container, indoors, in the cold north.

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