Old, unkempt hibiscus

wardog25January 13, 2013

Hello,

We recently moved into a house that is surrounded on two sides by hibiscus plants. The house was unoccupied for some time and the hibiscus are fairly ugly and old looking. They really only have new growth on the very ends of branches and the branches are long and spindly. Many of the branches are covered in moss and such.

Is it possible to get these to be beautiful again by pruning? Or should I chop them off and see if they'll regrow? Or perhaps just dig them up and replant with young hibiscus plants?

Thanks.

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Gutzmek(6)

Wardog25,
Depending on the variety, restoring the plants is an easy option. Pictures would help with determining. Personally, a hibiscus doesn't start to really perform until it is 3-5 years old. I suggest a good pruning is in order. First remove the restrictive material like the moss. Next I would do a slow heavy prune this winter. Cut back 1-3 branches about half way or so every 2 weeks. This will keep old growth active while the cut stems recover and start growing again. Remember to look at the node sets or 'bumps' on the stems. New stems will start in the direction these are facing. Watch the pruned areas for signs of new growth before starting another area. A well kept hibiscus will grow to great size and good pruning creates young growth that produces tons of flowers. If you look at some of the larger plants from photos people submitted, you will see what I mean.
Hope this helps,
Ed

    Bookmark   January 13, 2013 at 11:27PM
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wardog25

here are a few shots in near darkness. Won't be able to get a daytime shot for several more days.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2013 at 6:50PM
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wardog25

another

    Bookmark   January 14, 2013 at 6:51PM
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Gutzmek(6)

Wardog25,
Wow is all I can say. They have seen better days. Can the plants be rescued, yes. The question is whether you want to put forth the effort, or start anew. Either way, nothing can be done this winter. I suggest you keep the plants clear of debris and see what spring will bring. There is something to be said for those that grow older varieties. When I visited the St Louis Botanical gardens this past summer I was floored when I saw their tropicals. The 'Butterfly' variety had its lowest bloom that was out of my reach. I am 6 foot 4 and this 'tree' towered to at least 30 foot plus.
If I was in your shoes, with my hibiscus addiction, I would see what I have before I trash them. They are obviously early CVs and are in dire need of TLC. If you choose to plant others, I can recommend newer varieties. The choice is yours.
Ed

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 12:15AM
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wardog25

Thanks for the info, Ed.

I am almost 100% sure that all of them are the same variety. What I would call a common red hibiscus. I'm no hibiscus expert. I'm just saying it's a normal looking red hisbiscus that I've seen in the past. Not large, or multi-colored, or deep-red like the ones I see for sale around.

Anyway, I haven't seen all the plants bloom, but a few of them have. The two on the end (not pictured) are much healthier than the others (not sure why) and they bloom readily. Plus a few of the middle ones that are less scraggly have put out a flower or two and so far all are the same red variety.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 9:01AM
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Gutzmek(6)

Wardog25,
The common red you speak of is an early cultivar called either 'Brilliant Red' or 'President'. Brilliant has a consistent red through out with longer thinner branching and leaves where President has a thicker bush with a darker red center. I suspect you have Brilliant Red and I also have three. They are extremely resilient and require little maintenance. I dropped a plate on one when I was BBQ-ing two years ago and broke the main trunk. It is still growing great to this day, and the deformation actually worked to its advantage. Since we are still in winter mode I suggest you wait until spring to address the plants. When spring rolls around and the plants show signs of good leaf growth, I would start a heavy prune. During the summer you will need to 'pinch' new growth to stimulate lower branching. This will help fill in the gaps and give greater areas for flowers. I will say that these early varieties are prolific bloomers. Last summer I had 8-15 flowers each day from the three plants I have. The plants you have on the end are probably receiving more light than the others. And I gather the moss is a result of this.
Hope this helps and below is one of my Brilliants.
Ed

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 9:19PM
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wardog25

Thanks for the advice, Ed! I'll give it a shot. :)

    Bookmark   January 17, 2013 at 4:33PM
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