Cutting back in the winter

bugbite(z9a FL)December 26, 2010

Please help me resolve a dispute.

A landscaper planted hibiscus on the right and left of a walkway going up to my inlaws house. The house is for sale, no one lives there. The sprinklers comes on once a week and a lawn mowing crew is there once a week.

We are in zone 8b where by the end of this week we will have experienced 13 freezes so far this year. No one is there to cover and protect the hibiscus or water it properly before and after freezes.

The other day we looked at the hibiscus and of course they were zapped. Probably not dead, even though the temperatures were in the 20s.

We told the lawn crew to cut them back to about 18 inches thinking that it will look better on the walk way for the next 3 months. The plants now look tidy and they could be replaced in the spring if they died because of all the cold.

I have grown many similar hibiscus which died in the winter here. I only have one double red that lasted for years.

Here is the question: Will cutting the hibiscus now actually kill the hibiscus? The landscaper said they should not have been cut. Yes I know that is the common wisdom being an avid gardener (but primarily because branches may look dead but are not. So you want to wait until the spring to see what branches are source said.)

Again, Will cutting the hibiscus now actually kill the hibiscus?

Thank you for your experienced answer.


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cody_mi(z5 MI)

I can't really answer for in ground hibiscus, but I have a standard tropical hibiscus in the greenhouse that we've had for four years. The gh is set at 50 degrees all winter long and growth doesn't stop, so we cut it back whenever it needs it. Last year, it got aphids really badly, so I cut it back in january and set the whole thing out in the garage. It averages in the mid 20's to mid 30's this time of year. I was just going to toss it out once spring came, but it started leafing out again in april. I would assume that they're hardier than one might think.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2010 at 4:25PM
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bugbite(z9a FL)

Thanks Cody. After doing further reading, one source said that 25 degree temperature can kill a tropical hibiscus. If these plants die, I am convenced it will be from the 20 degree temperatures.
I guess I am still wondering how winter pruning could kill a hibiscus. A plant typically dies at ground level. Lack of mulch (2-3" inches) might hurt. Covering, if you can do it so that the ground heat can be kept, might help.
These hibiscus might die and the landscaper will say it is because of the pruning. I think it will be because she never should have planted these tropical plants at this vacant house in the first place.
Incidentally Roses should not be early winter pruned because it can stimulate growth too early.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2010 at 5:27PM
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mike423(5 IL)

Pruning now can cause further damageand or death (depending on current condition of the plant) seeing as the shrub is already stressed from the cold snap and the addition stress from the pruning can push it over the edge. As far as how to overwinter them outside, I cant really cant give you any help (seeing as I live in Chicago and the temps get really cold). I am also unfamiliar with the temperature fluctuation in your state and the hardiness of the plant/s in question. I guess it also depends on not only the overall health of the shrub at any given time but how extreme the weather is from tear to year. I keep my tropical hibiscus's in pots, placing them in their desired spots outdoors during the summer and then just bring them indoors during winter, which I also do with my tropical Bonsai.

When concerning what hardiness (cold tolerance) your tropical Hibiscus has, its a matter of what exact type/sub-species you have. This is due to the fact that different types and breeds have different resistance to weather and other factors. If you know the species I recommend doing some research on it online.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2011 at 10:09PM
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