Variegated Tropical Hibiscus...prune???

gardenlady48(z5 IL)April 23, 2012

Please comment if you are familiar with the care of this variety of hibiscus. The question is: Is this variety to be grown in the form shown, or should I be pruning it back to keep a bush shape??

Also, what type of fertilizer should I be using?

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Hibs should be pruned above and below the soil line yearly. Their roots become very congested, quickly, and the congestion has a considerable impact on appearance, vitality, and growth habit.

Let me know if you'd like to know what I'd do with your plant, but brace yourself. If you're not used to the procedure I'll describe, you're going to feel it's radical. If the picture is current, the plant will tolerate root pruning and pruning of the top very well.

Ball's in your court, but just so you know - I've been root pruning and teaching others how/why for years. I wouldn't lead you astray. ;-)


    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 2:41PM
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gardenlady48(z5 IL)

I'm always willing to learn new things! Yes, please tell me what you would do with my plant....

I've already learned something new....prune above and below yearly...(tropicals of course)...

Waiting for your advice...

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 7:55PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I would REPOT, as opposed to potting up. First though, I would reduce the top by about half - temporarily.

I would:
a) Unpot the plant and use a pruning saw or other to remove the bottom half of the root mass. Don't worry - here's a tree I root pruned this spring & it's doing quite well:

B) After you remove the bottom half of the roots, bare root the rest - remove all soil. Then, prune out half of the remaining roots, concentrating on the largest roots not connected directly to the trunk

C) Repot into an appropriate soil - one that is well-aerated and drains freely. If you can't flush the soil w/o having to worry it will remain soggy so long root rot is a possibility, it's not appropriate. You need something with better aeration & drainage. Lots more info on soils if you click me. The information at the link I just left probably represents the single largest step forward a container gardener can take at any one time, so please have a look.

D) Secure the plant in the pot so it can't move in relation to toe pot. There are a lot of ways. One:

Plants secured so they can't shift in the pot reestablish in a fraction of the time plants unsecured do.

E) After about 2 weeks, cut the plant back hard. You didn't do that to start with because you needed a good amount of foliage to make food (photosynthate) so roots can regenerate. By the time you are ready to cut back, your plant will have started to back-bud profusely as a result of the first pruning. Cut ALL branches back to 2 visible nodes, then remove any branches that spoil the shape of the plant.

F) You're done except for fertilizing. When you cut back, fertilize with a full recommended strength soluble fertilizer in a 3:1:2 ratio (24-8-16, 12-4-8, 9-3-6 are examples), but include 1/2 teaspoon of potash (where Espoma products are sold - it's cheap) in your fertilizer solution each time you fertilize.

G) Repeat every spring. You'll be amazed at how much difference proper root care & pruning makes.

Good luck! See additional resource below ....


Here is a link that might be useful: This will be helpful, too!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 10:16PM
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WOW, very interesting, thank you so much for the detailed information.

Sharon Cash
Zone 7

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 9:34AM
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