The Q&A Archives: Hibiscus Dying Branch By Branch in Desert

Question: I had about 6 hibiscus, all in pots, in my backyard in Phoenix. They had all acclimated to the hot and dry temperature and were thriving. Suddenly, the leaves on one branch of my Crown of Bohemia started to droop and turn yellow. Then the rest of it started to do the same branch by branch. Now the same thing has happened to my White Wing that was doing great and putting out extraordinary flowers. Even as it is dying right now, it is trying to put out one last bloom. All the plants are watered and fertilized at the same time. The four other plants seem to be doing fine. These two plants died about 2 months apart. Why? What can I do to prevent it from happening again?

Answer: Yellowing leaves can be a symptom of many problems including overwatering, underwatering, salt burn, lack of nitrogen, iron chlorosis, fertilizer burn, and transplant shock. Although hibiscus are sold in the low desert, they are not ideally suited to our conditions, so even if they seem to be thriving, our harsh environment can take a toll on them. Summer is considered a dormant period for many of the non-native plants that grow here, such as roses. It's best not to "force" them to produce at this time with fertilizer. It stresses the plant and may cause fertilizer burn. Provide protection from the hot afternoon sun and strong winds. Water slowly and deeply, and let the water run out the bottom of the pot to leach salts. "Sprinkling" with water lightly and frequently allows salts to accumulate in the soil, burning roots. Resume feeding when weather cools in the fall and then again in the spring. I hope this info helps.

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