The Q&A Archives: Severly Pruned Hibiscus

Question: HELP! While I was away on an extended trip, I left my plants in someone's care. Upon returning I discovered my potted hibiscus, which was 3 1/2 feet tall at the end of the summer, had been pruned down to about 4 inches (yes, inches). The explanation I got was that the leaves had yellowed and most of them had dropped. Now that the deed is done and crying won't do any good, what needs to be done for it?

Answer: Hate when that happens! Are there any leaves or signs of life left at all? If you have any foliage at all left, you have a better chance. But, even if you don't, all is not lost - not by a long shot! The reason why the leaves had probably yellowed and dropped was due to improper care while you were away (no offense to the caretaker). It sounds to me like the hibiscus was either extremely underwatered or overwatered and possibly subjected to drafts. This really isn't the time of year to be fertilizing houseplants so we will hold off on that until about March. Then, start fertilizing with a general purpose, houseplant fertilizer (because the plant was growing so well under your care, I assume you had been fertilizing in the past, continue with whatever you had been using). Hibiscus need to be repotted every spring...when you do that this year, work a few handfuls of organic matter such as compost into the mix (it works like chicken soup for plants). It probably would not be out of order towork a small amount of compost into the soil now. Really, all you can do is baby the plant a bit...water sparingly during the winter months but do not let the soil dry out completely, keep it in average warmth, (minimum 55F in the winter), give it a lotof light but no direct sun, and mist occasionally. Last but not least, ask for houseplant sitting references next time!

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