Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Hibiscus Tree in Westchester County

(photo of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis I took down in the Flower District on 28th Street)

I received a gift of a potted hibiscus "tree." Can you tell me where I can find info to care for it? It is on my deck (Westchester County NY). What do I do with it in winter?

Thank you for writing. By describing it as a potted “tree” I am going to go ahead and assume that you were given a tropical form of Hibiscus. In a post I wrote back on June 18th I describe the different kinds of hibiscus. On the archive menu on the right side of the page, pull down the menu for June and select the post entitled “Hibiscus in Nassau County”.

What you have been given is a tropical hibiscus. The botanical name is Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. By doing internet searches using the full botanical name you should be able to find reliable websites that give care instructions. If not, here are the basics of what you need to know.

Your hibiscus loves full sun and will flower best if you can keep it in an area with as much sun as possible. Because it has been trained as a “tree” it also requires a fair amount of water. I would water daily or every other day, making sure that the soil is kept moist all the time. Because “tree form” hibiscus have been trained so meticulously, you may find that they benefit from being misted with a spray bottle as well. The only thing about misting your hibiscus is that you want to do this early in the morning so that whatever water is on the foliage evaporates before the hot midday sun. If water is sitting on the leaves and the hot sun comes out it can actually burn holes right through the foliage. As far as winter, you will have to bring the plant inside if you wish to keep it alive through the colder months; it will not survive the freezing outside temperatures. Before threat of frost, move the tree inside to an area that has as much sun as you can provide. Keep the soil moist, and as winter comes, ease up on the watering so that the plant gets a chance to dry out between waterings. Even though it will hold onto it’s leaves, your hibiscus will go into a kind of resting period through the winter. As the days get shorter and there is less light naturally, you might experience the tree dropping some of it’s interior leaves. This is natural shedding to help the plant get through the darker winters. While the plant is inside you should expect to get more green foliage growth, but do not expect the plant to flower again until next summer when it goes outside again. You can move it back outside after the last fear of frost, and at that time you will want to consider fertilizing it through next spring and summer.

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