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We had the hardest winter in history, and now my hibiscus tree at my front door which is as tall as the roof, looks dead. Is it ? Should I trim the dead branches now ? Please advise. Thanks.
Hardiness Zone: 9a
By Mary from Houston, TX
A friend of mine once had an 8 to 10 foot red hibiscus she thought was killed by cold. She trimmed it back almost to the ground just to see what would happen. Within a few months she was seeing new growth and it only took a few years to get back to where it was. Apparently they are hard to kill.
I forgot to mention she lives in Katy.
Try scraping the base of the tree trunk with your thumbnail and see if there is green live wood. I find they take maybe a month longer than some other plants to recover from freezing. A neighbor was ready to toss his big Hibiscus that had frozen this year and it had live wood at the base. We too had one of the hardest winters in 160 years.
We leave things as they are until we see new growth. After a reasonable time, if there's no new growth, we cut it down. If there is new growth, we trim off the dead stuff.
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I live in Phoenix Arizona and we have had some pretty cold weather lately, in the 20's some mornings. We have around 30 hibiscus planted along the front of our house and they are not looking too good. Is there anything we can do to nurse them back or not? I think the cold weather is over now. We need some suggestions please.
Wow! What a gorgeous sight it must be when your hibiscus are in bloom. Sorry to hear about your hibiscus. The first thing you need to do is prevent further frost damage from occurring to your already stressed out plants. Watch the weather closely. If temperatures start to dip below freezing again, use newspapers, old sheets, or cardboard to keep frost from settling on your plants. Misting your plants can also prevent frost damage. Lightly mist the plants with water the evening before you suspect freezing temperatures. This covers the leaves and branches with a thin layer of ice, which acts as a protective insulator to settling frost. The next morning, mist the plants again to gently melt away the ice before the sun comes out and warms things up (this is when the real damage happens). Secondly, back off on watering. Lost leaves and colder temperatures means less moisture is lost to evaporation. Translation: plants will need less water. Thirdly, you'll need to wait until your hibiscus leafs out before you can assess how much cold weather damage was done. Hold off on pruning until the plants have had ample time to leaf out and recover. Unless your hibiscus sustained prolonged exposure to damaging temperatures, most of them should recover.
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I live in Phoenix too and the prevailing wisdom is, don't do anything just yet. They may survive and if they do, will put on new growth once it gets warmer and then you can prune off all the damaged parts. This is wait and see time of year because it is possible that we might have another freeze, which is a very unusual occurrence here. (01/19/2007)
Here in Florida the number 1 rule for frost damaged Hibiscus is to "leave them alone". When Spring comes, new growth will come out and then you can cut back any branches that do not come back. Is you cut back now you will probably cut back too much. (01/19/2007)