I have a healthy hibiscus with 3 long stems and lots of leaves. I've seen them look like little trees with the stems woven together. How do I do this? Thanks.
Hardiness Zone: 8b
By nancyintx from Longview, TX
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Hardiness Zone: 4a
Bernette from WI
Are you referring to training (braiding) the stems of two or more hibiscus plants together in hope of creating a banyan-like effect? These twisted tree forms (also called "standard" forms) are often seen in home and garden centers. They consist of one tall braided woody stem with a dense cluster of leaves and flowers on the top. Sometimes this is done using a single plant and other times it's actually made up of two or more different plants with stems that are fused together. I have never done this myself, but I have read about it and can offer you some basic advice. You will have to sacrifice some time and patience to make this happen, but it will be worth it in the end. This technique works best with the stems of very young plants while the wood is still "green".
To create a traditional standard form, producers usually start with a young hibiscus plant and continually prune all of its lateral (side) branches and leaves as it grows. Over time, this promotes a dense growth of foliage at the top of one long bare trunk.
Braiding is just a modification of the traditional standard form. Multiple stems of the same or different plants are carefully braided together and secured in place while they grow (nylon stockings work well for this). Until these stems reach a desired height, the side stems must be continually pinched off. The terminal buds are allowed to remain in order to facilitate vertical growth. Eventually the stems will fuse together and form a twisted, banyan-like appearance. The stems of young hibiscus should be sturdy enough to stand on their own throughout training. If not, you will want to provide them with some dowels for support.
Use two different hibiscus plants planted side by side for a colorful bouquet. If you want to create multiple stems using the same plant, you will first have to get several offspring from a stock plant either through air layering (see link below), or by rooting some green woody cuttings in water.
A link on air layering:
About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com