The Q&A Archives: Hibiscus

Question: I live in the mid Atlantic states and I was wondering if I had to take any special precautions to keep my hibiscus tree living during our cold winters?

Answer: Let's hope you have the perennial hibiscus (Rose-Mallow), rather than the tropical (Chinese) hibiscus. The perennial hibiscus is a hardy deciduous shrub that dies back in the winter months but springs to life when the weather warms. Planted in a sunny spot it will produce new stems each spring, that will flower during the summer. Water moderately during the growing season and mulch the soil with organic matter to help conserve moisture and to suppress weeds. Chinese hibiscus is best kept as a houseplant that's taken outdoors during the spring and summer months. This plant thrives on bright light and humidity indoors and out. Try to find out which type of hibiscus you're growing so you know whether to plant it out in the garden, or in a container that you can move with the seasons.

There is also a group of perennials in the rose mallow group called Hibiscus. These large plants need full sun and a rich moist soil and produce large crepepapery blooms in mid to late summer -- also quite lovely. Some common varieties you might see are "Lord Baltimore", "Southern Belle" or the dwarf "Disco Belle". These are late to emerge in the spring so mark the spot where they are planted and be very patient.

Once you've figured out which plant you're growing, you can take precautions necessary.

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