The Q&A Archives: Falling Hibiscus Leaves

Question: I have a hibiscus tree in a container on my 3rd floor balcony with a western exposure. Until recently it has been healthy and blooming for about 3 weeks. All of a sudden many leaves have turned a "spotted" or "mottled" yellow and are falling off.

We have had a unusual amount of rain lately and don't know if that has anything to do with it.

Please let me know how I should care for it.

Answer: Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) are so lovely! Your plant should enjoy all that sun. It is quite possible that rain has caused the problem if the pot has been left sitting in a saucer of water so that the soil has been waterlogged for long periods of time. Simply empty the saucer after rain and watering to avoid this. Another possibility though is underwatering. Be sure when you water that the water soaks into the soil and is not running out between the soil and the inner edge of the pot.

It is also possible your hibiscus may be suffering from an insect problem. Examine the leaves very carefully on the undersides and along the stems for signs of tiny insects, eggs, fine webs, or anything else unusual.

In general, these plants prefer a regular schedule of fertilization during the growing season along with a moist but not soggy soil, and plenty of sun. Periodically a few older leaves will drop as new growth occurs, but not a noticeable amount at a time. You will of course need to bring it indoors for the winter and keep it in a sunny window; it will appreciate as much humidity as you can give it while it is indoors and will do best away from drafts.

Good luck with your hibiscus!

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