How to grow and care for hibiscus – and add a touch of tropical to your backyard

Hibiscus flowers bring vibrancy and a tropical look to any space, whether planted in a backyard border or grown in a container by the front door. If you are looking for tropical backyard ideas to brighten up your home, hibiscus must surely be the shrub for you. The diverse range of hibiscus species and varieties means there is quite possibly a different flower for every color, ranging from pinks to white, yellows to purple-black. There are both hardy and tropical hibiscus shrubs, and your location will determine which hibiscus is right for you. Whilst many of the hardy species are native to North America, tender hibiscus species are native to warmer geographies, thriving in tropical and subtropical regions.

Things To Consider Before Growing Hibiscus

Before considering how to grow hibiscus, it is important to first identify what hibiscus shrub is right for you. 'There are two categories, tropical and hardy perennial,' says Tricia Hunt, plant expert and owner of Millstone Nursery. 'Both categories are stunning,' Tricia says, 'but have important differences and care requirements.'

General Advice For Planting And Maintaining Hibiscus

Soil: 'Enhance the soil by incorporating some organic, nutrient-rich compost in the planting hole,' says Tatiana Anderson, plant expert and co-founder of Top Tropicals. In areas with 'alkaline, sandy or poor soils, your hibiscus might exhibit signs of iron deficiency, such as yellowing leaves,' Tatiana continues. One option is to make the soil more acidic, using a product such as this Soil Acidifier from Garden Goods Direct. For hibiscus growing in a container, 'opt for well-drained soil that leans towards the acidic side and is rich in organic matter.' It is important to note that the color of your hibiscus flowers can be affected by the acidity of the soil. If the flowers are not the anticipated color for the variety, consider assessing the soil pH using a device such as this Soil pH Meter from Walmart.

Light: Most hibiscus varieties prefer partial to full sun. Whilst many will tolerate growing in shade, 'it is important to consider the practical consequences,' says Tatiana. 'Planting in low light conditions may result in a lack of flowers. Remember the more light, the more flowers.'

Watering: Water regularly after planting, checking the soil frequently, especially during dry spells. 'Hibiscus has a penchant for water,' says Tatiana, 'but they are not a fan of soggy conditions.' Ensure that there is adequate drainage by adding drainage material when planting and using well-draining soil. It is recommended to monitor the soil after watering your hibiscus, to ensure that water can quickly and freely drain away.

Fertilizing: 'Hibiscus plants are known to be heavy feeders,' says Tatiana. It is recommended to use a 'fertilizer with high phosphorus.' Bone meal is a source of phosphorus and a good option to consider, such as this Organic Bone Meal from Walmart. Whilst feeding can help with flowering, if your hibiscus plant is in the wrong situation, for example, if you have planted in shade, feeding will not help, and over-fertilizing can harm the plant.

Pruning: 'All hibiscus species and varieties respond well to pruning,' says Tatiana. Knowing how to prune hibiscus is important, as doing so correctly will result in 'bushier and fuller growth.' Whilst your pruning approach will be determined by your specific hibiscus, most will benefit from regular cutting to 'prevent the shrub from becoming too leggy,' says Tatiana. In general, tropical hibiscus shrubs prefer spring pruning, when the risk of frost has passed, whilst hardy, native shrubs will benefit from pruning in the fall once they have lost their leaves.

Additional Tips: Hibiscus are prolific flowering shrubs, but blooms only tend to last for a day or two. Once the plant starts to flower, a daily job to remember is to deadhead and remove spent blooms as they finish flowering. If you are growing hibiscus in a container, remember to regularly water and feed throughout the growing season, and any tender, tropical varieties must be brought indoors before the first frost.

When Is The Best Time To Prune Hibiscus Shrubs?

When thinking about how to prune hibiscus, remember that timings will be determined by the variety of your hibiscus shrub. Tropical hibiscus plants should only be pruned in spring when there is no risk of frost. Hardy hibiscus shrubs should be pruned in late fall or early winter. Remove any dead, damaged or diseased stems and any old wood, and prune to keep a compact, bushy and desirable shape.

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