Hardy hib, should I prune?

earthpearls(7aVA)May 17, 2005

I have several hibiscus that I've just let grow tall each year. There are enough stalks coming up this year, that I could cut some back to bush out and leave some to grow tall. will they do that? Can I take cuttings? Cut back to a leaf node? Any help is appreciated : )

This is one, maybe disco Bell? it has big pink flowers with dark center... should I cut it back now? it's about 18 or 20 inches tall.


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I have to admit, I've never though much about pruning the hardy hibiscus to encourage branching for some reason, but do of course especially for certain types of flowers. Some seem to do a fair amount of branching on their own while others may just produce a single stem with terminal blossoms. I'd think if you encourage extra branching you'd get much smaller flowers however, as more of the plants energy would go into numerous extra blossoms, and for larger flowers on many plants, most folks remove extra branches and keep to a single stem so all the energy can go into a few large blooms. I have noticed the ones with more branches do seem to have overall smaller flowers than the ones with no or very few branches. I've never heard of starting them from cuttings, but it's possible that's just not the easiest method, and I believe most cultivars are propagated by dividing the clumps in early spring , once the plants have had several years to increase the size of the clumps. The variety pictured doesn't look like DiscoBelle to me since it seems mine has very regular oval type leaves without the divided look some of yours show, but it's possible some of them can vary in leaf type. It's possible that I don't even have Disco Belle , but Southern Belle instead since it was years ago that I bought the seeds, and both varieties were offered in the catalog. My memory isn't what it used to be, and it's been almost 18 years since I planted mine. Do you have the red (Lord Baltimore) since those leaves remind me of pictures I've seen of Lord Baltimore or one of the other varieties. I couldn't name the specific ones!! Seeds are also the second most popular way of growing the hardy hibiscus though they may not "come true" from seeds. From my red Disco Belles I got almost white seedlings with pink shading around the outsides of the petals, but those are very pretty as well. I sometimes wonder however, if the "unplaned" pink ones , which just showed up in my garden , since I hadn't planted the seeds, could have been from a stray seed that had been mixed in with some other flower seeds by accident. I didn't plant the seeds , but left them where they came up as "volunteers" to see how they'd turn out. If I hadn't had them show up , I most likely would have ordered some varieties that were that color anyway.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2005 at 9:35AM
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beachbarbie(z9a/8b NC)

Actually, the leaves remind me of my Kopper King. The flower description is correct - white with pink veining (giving it a "pinkish" look) and a red eye.
If you do decide to prune, let us know what happens!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2005 at 6:50PM
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Iowarosie(southeast iowa)

I believe your hibiscus is Disco Belle. They do not grow as tall as Southern Belle. If your plant is not too large, you could lift it out of the ground, take a sharp knife and slice down through it making 2 or 3 pieces or in other words just divide it. They have bulbs similar to a sweet potato. If you water it well, I believe it will be fine. I like Disco Belle because they do not grow so large. It is better to divide it as it comes up. They are not difficult to raise. Your picture has the disco belle leaves---they are notched and are a little different than the Southern Belle foliage.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2005 at 9:42AM
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ljrmiller(z7 NV)

I never thought to prune my Hibiscus 'Kopper King' because the winter does that for me--it kills ALL the above-ground growth. Then it looks like it's gone forever until one day I see ONE small leaf, and the next day the plant just EXPLODES in growth.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2005 at 4:10PM
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I just took a start from a friend's Hibiscus which was about this size, just a sharp shovel, and all went well. It is growing in my yard now, with several waterings it transplanted great.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2005 at 8:19PM
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paul_(z5 MI)

I actually have the same Q as earthpearls. Mine does die back to ground level but again, the question is -- will we get branching if I prune new growth for a bushier plant?

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 10:34AM
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I did it, wacked a few stalks back some and they have branched out. All the new branches are way smaller than the stalks that come from the ground. I'm guessing they will have smaller flowers? While I wasn't looking, the tall stalks arched over, I shoulda staked them. The one I pruned is the Lord Baltimore, big red flowers. The one in the picture, I left alone. Last year I got a red Texas Star and this year I bought a white hardy (didn't get a name) and a cocinia (don't know if I spelled that right) as a pond plant. Yehaw, just luv the hibs, are they addictive?
I tried to take a pic of the prune and branching but it just looked like a bunch of green.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 10:33PM
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Last year I, not knowing any better, followed the advice of someone that told me to cut the whole plant down to ground level (it only had one "trunk" coming up out of the ground about 2 1/2 inches across). Well - later on I figured I just killed it. This spring it came back with a purpose - it now has 4-5 "trunks" growing from the ground out around the original "trunk" and it is much taller and bushier looking than the first year growth. It hasn't bloomed yet but has lots of buds. Next spring it has to be moved - I planted it in the wrong spot. I guess if it can survive being "beheaded" it should survive a move in the spring.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2005 at 2:57PM
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Yes, you can pinch out the top growth and the hibiscus will branch out and grow new stems as well. I did this with my Texas Star, and the flowers are no smaller at all. The hib in your picture looks like the foliage on my 'Fantasia'. The foliage of the disco series is pretty plain, but some of the new hybrids are descendants of 'Texas Star' or coccinia, and have the "maple leaf" foliage. The foliage doesn't look dark enough to be 'Kopper King'. I have that, too.


    Bookmark   July 3, 2005 at 12:10AM
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digsalot(z6 Ohio)

Hi there - Because hibiscus are rapid growers, If you want a fuller looking plant, height-control measures are a must to avoid "legginess." Removing the terminal bud when plants are small makes plants bushier with stronger branches. Pinch before stems elongate and when internode length is less than 3 inches. Pinching at this stage creates more vegetative breaks - and the flowers are no smaller.

If you want to use chemical growth regulators, try a 5 parts per million drench with Bonzi or a combination of Cycocel/B-Nine 500/5,000 ppm. If your plant is already well established, make the first Bonzi application after pinching, breaks are then 1/4 to 1/2 inch long. A second application, if necessary, can be made at bud set to stop vertical growth and prevent the "stretching" that typically occurs just before flowers open.

I have both hybrids as well as wild varieties that grow here in the swamps of Ohio.

Since I like "big" flowers, I have my hardy hibiscus planted with cannas ( which I also collect ) mid and late season daylilies ( another collection ) and an assortment of sunflowers and cleomes.

Maybe I can attract a "Big Foot" to nest there :)

While my website, listed below, is about archaeology, anthropology and history - I do have a decent gardening section included.


Here is a link that might be useful: archaeolink.com

    Bookmark   July 25, 2005 at 3:16PM
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desperationfalls(z5 MA)

Do hibiscus really really like water?
With my water loving plants, I use a small section of pond liner and plant it about 18 inches down in the soil, right under the plant--this keeps that area more moist than the surrounding areas and the elephant ears, cannas, ligularia
grow to beat the band.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2006 at 10:31AM
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nucci60(6 Ma.)

If you visit the Fleming Nursury website, they recommend cutting them back when yhey are about a foot tall, to about six inches. Who would know more about hardy hibiscus then the Fleming Bros? they developed Kopper King, Ol' yeller, fireball, and many more of the hardiest hibiscus on the planet.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2006 at 11:35AM
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I always cut mine back. They come back more full each year. When I worked as a student gardener at the university, we always cut them back on campus too. They would just pop out profusely the next growing season.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2010 at 3:42PM
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