Q: I recently inherited two beautiful Hibiscus plants. I have managed to keep them alive throughout the summer and they have done pretty good. Two questions - I plan to bring them into my garage for the winter. I am not sure how to cut them back, how much should I take off and which of the branches should I cut - also should I fertilize them before I bring them in?
Some people aggressively cut back their hibiscus in the spring. Others prefer the "maintenance pruning" approach to shape plants, which can be done any time of the year. One strategy of maintenance pruning is to cut back by 1/3 to 1/2 only those branches that are long and out of balance with the rest of the plant. You can either cut all of these long branches or only half of them-cutting the other half next year.
To do this, follow branches down until you find a node or "eye" pointing in the direction you want the new growth to grow (an up and outward direction is usually preferable). Using a sharp pruning shears, cut the branch off cleanly leaving 1/2" of wood between the eye and the cut. New growth will start below the cut from the eye. Don't be afraid of pruning, your hibiscus will do well with it. If you prefer, you can wait and cut the entire plant back hard in the spring. Make sure you leave the thick wood and some leaves, or at least 2-3 nodes (eyes) on each branch. Begin fertilizing when you see new growth emerging.
In regards to fertilizing, I'm not sure where you live, but I assume you're in a zone with frost. As you prepare to bring them indoors for winter, stop fertilizing. If your garage stays cold enough to give the hibiscus a chance to go completely dormant, you can prune them hard after 6-8 weeks of being cold and then bring them into an environment of warmth and light to stimulate growth. Resume fertilizing then with a low phosphorus fertilizer to encourage blooms.
If you don't think your hibiscus will go completely dormant, especially if your garage has a lot of windows and stays relatively warm, maintain a feeding and watering schedule, but cut back on watering and reduce fertilizer to no more than half strength.
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I don't know where you live. I live in Michigan I bring my hibiscus trees in every fall. I keep them in the house. I put them next to the window so they get a lot of light. I don't think they will survive in the garage. They are tropical. (09/20/2005)
By Donna J.
I don't know where you live, but it must not be in the tropical parts of the South. You can cut the plants back when you bring them inside. No fertilizer until next spring/summer when it is time to move them outside--and outside cannot be before all frost is gone. The most important part of all this is sun.
Unless your plants are in direct sun for a good part of the day (as they were when outside) they will not survive the winter. In any event, after a few years, it is best to replace them and start with new. I have kept mine successfully over winters, but only in my sun room. Good luck. (09/21/2005)
I have a Moscheutos Hibiscus. Can I leave this one outside for the winter. I live in Ontario, Canada. The leaves on this one are red. I also have another one with pink leaves. Not sure if this one is as Hardy as the other. People are telling me that I cant leave any Hibiscus plants outside in the winter. (Confused) (08/27/2008)
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