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Hidden Valley Hibiscus - Hibiscus Winter Care .
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Hibiscus Care
Wintering Tropical Hibiscus

Since the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is a tropical plant which doesn't handle freezing temperatures very well many wonder how to winter their plants. "Can I store my plant in the basement?" "If I keep it indoors will it bloom?" "What if my pets eat them?" In this article we try to answer the most common questions for hibiscus winter care.

Wintering Hibiscus Outside

"If the hibiscus is planted in the ground, will it come back next year?" Well, that depends a lot on where you live. Unless you live in an area that does not freeze the answer is no. Hibiscus are tropical plants that can't tolerate freezes. However, for you that live in areas with just a few really cold nights (below 32F) such as southern Texas, southern or coastal California, southern Louisiana and central Florida it may be possible to keep your hibiscus in the ground year round if the plants are covered during the coldest nights. A 'frost cloth' would be best for you and they come in different thickness dependent on minimum temperature.

When To Move Hibiscus Indoors

If you've grown your hibiscus in the ground then dig it up and replant it as soon as possible. To keep it in its usual environment for a few weeks to let it establish itself would be good. If you have the time, that is. It's by far better to bring the plant inside but to wait so long that it freezes.

Storing Plants In The Basement

"Can I cut the plant down completely and store it in the basement over the winter?" This is a tricky question. You CAN store hibiscus in a frost free place over winter but be aware that hibiscus don't go dormant.

hibiscus Florence Nightingale
Hibiscus cultivar 'Florence Nightingale'

You will still have to water it to keep the soil slightly moist. Also I wouldn't cut the plant all the way back but leave most of the growth unless the plant is simply too voluminous to take in, in which case you could cut it. Do know that your plant will do much better with some light. Although some people winter their hibiscus in a semi-dormant state in their basement it's not something I recommend as having a very good success rate. On the other hand, if you leave it outside it will die for sure!

Adjust Outdoor Plants To Inside Temperatures

If you know you'll have about a week before the first frost here's a way to do it that will minimize plant stress.

hibiscus White Satin
Hibiscus hybrid 'White Satin'

Feeding Plants In Winter

The first day you take in the plant just 2-3 hours and then put it back outside again. The next day you increase the time inside with another 2-3 hours until the plant spends as much time inside as out at which point you bring it in for good. This only works for smaller plants as you're liable to break your back otherwise carrying the plant in and out unless you can place them on a trolley or some such.

Potting Mixture Recommendations

Soil-less potting mixes such as the HVH Recommended Potting Mix are best for hibiscus if you have it otherwise you need to amend the mix as described on the potting page. With hibiscus finding a potting medium that strikes the right balance between moisture retention and aeration is the most important aspect. If the soil is too heavy and compact it won't let the roots "breath". Also it may hold too much water and that increases the chances of root rot, hibiscus enemy #1. On the other hand, too light and airy a soil won't hold enough water in which case your plant may suffer from underwatering.

You might have heard that you should not fertilize plants during winter storage. But since hibiscus unlike some other plants never go dormant they still need nutrition. You may want to cut back to half strength if your plant is kept in a darker place. Otherwise just feed it as normal. A water soluble fertilizer is best in my estimation as it's harder to overdo it. Look for a fertilizer with medium or low amounts of phosphorus as hibiscus are happiest that way. The HVH Special Blend Fertilizer for instance is developed to suit all your hibiscus needs.

Hibiscus Bloom Indoors

Hibiscus need light to develop buds. If you keep your plant in a sunny window or give it artificial light it may well bloom all winter. Note that some varieties will bloom more readily than others. Rosalind for instance continues to bloom in less than ideal light conditions while others may stop altogether.

hibiscus Fairy Queen
Hibiscus cultivar 'Fairy Queen'

For a more detailed information on wintering hibiscus we refer you to the manual 'Growing Hibiscus At Home' that contains all you ever needed to know to successfully grow these wonderful tropicals.