We love hibiscus plants for their large, beautiful flowers and their tolerance to heat. While each bloom seldom lasts longer than a day, their continued production through the summer season makes them an invaluable addition to the home landscape. There are hundreds of hibiscus species available to gardeners, and the showy tropical types remain among the most popular.
While this perennial behaves dependably when it’s grown in frost-free regions, hibiscus plants growing outside their climate range need special care to ensure that they’ll be able to return season after season. If you live in a region that gets more than a few days a year below freezing, 32 degrees F (0 C), you should store your hibiscus indoors for the winter. In this article we’ll explore hibiscus winter care in greater detail.
Can Hibiscus Survive Winter Outdoors?
A tropical species, hibiscus plants are hardy to USDA growing zones 10-12 where they have very little difficulty surviving winter. Naturally, plants can still be lost in these zones, particularly if they are growing in excessively wet or poor draining soil. Outside of the warm zones, special care is required to keep them safe from cold conditions. Overwintering tropical hibiscus as an indoor plant is often the best solution.
How to Overwinter Hibiscus
Bring it Indoors
Hibiscus plants are not picky when it comes to indoor storage. Keep in mind, when you take an outdoor hibiscus into a sheltered room its flowers will fade and, unless you have an atrium or greenhouse, your hibiscus will most likely start to look less than stellar before spring returns. It’s best to find a place that will be out of the way. Just make sure your hibiscus plant’s new spot stays warmer than 50 degrees F (10 C), gets some light, and is somewhere you’ll remember to water it.
When all the plant’s leaves have fallen off and its branches are still pliable, your hibiscus plant has gone into full dormancy. At this time, you may want to place it in a cool dark place like a basement, and allow it to stay dormant.
Experienced hibiscus growers suggest pruning the plant to begin preparing it for winter. When to trim the plant for winter is generally dictated by the weather. Hibiscus pruning needs to be done before the frost arrives to maintain a more compact size and shape. Though the plant’s growth will slow drastically throughout winter, additional pruning may also be required while it’s indoors.
Choose a Location
Indoor conditions are a key element of hibiscus care in winter. Once inside, plants should be placed in a location where temperatures do not dip below 60 F (15 C) Potted hibiscus should also be kept from cold drafts or direct exposure to heating vents. This helps to maintain proper humidity levels and prevent damage to the plant. Potted hibiscus should be situated near a bright, sunny window, where it can receive ample indirect light.
Though these tropical plants prefer soils that are consistently moist, winter hibiscus care requires some attention when it comes to watering. Throughout the winter, watering should be reduced to prevent the development of root rot and/or fungal disease. However, plants should never be allowed to dry completely between waterings. Frequent misting may also help maintain proper humidity levels while indoors.
As with water, fertilizer should be reduced throughout winter. While it’s not necessary, you can feed indoor plants through the coldest months of the year. Feeding hibiscus is best done during periods of more active growth, throughout early spring and summer. Experienced gardeners suggest using a quality, slow-release fertilizer to promote bloom, root development, and for overall plant health.
How to Revive Hibiscus Next Year
With the arrival of spring, overwintering hibiscus plants appreciate a hardening off period before being moved outdoors. A gradual introduction to the increased light and other outdoor environmental factors helps reduce stress for the plants. Because they are tropical, hibiscus plants should not be moved outdoors until all chances of frost have passed, and when both day and nighttime temperatures remain consistently warm.