advice, when and if to prune hibiscus?!

ponytail73December 28, 2012

Hi all! I am new to this site and live in NH. So clearly my tropical hibiscus is in a pot, happy in my home office for the winter. Im not sure of his kind exactly, as he came from "rescue rack "last oct for $3 at my local walmart. Flowers are pink with a bit of maroon, and yellow throat. Half dead but alive I cut it way back,mostly dead foliage anyway, and gave it a nice new pot. Since then it has been very grateful, bloomed profusely on and off since this feb. Iv had 4 flowers this week and it has at least 15 more bubs to go! so, clearly he wont get pruned til flowering is over, but what about after? He isnt unruley looking, nice shape and bushy. Is all this amazing flowering do to the hack job I gave him in fall 2011? will he need a trim to continue thriving, or should I just let him grow?! Its a beautiful plant and I looked for others this fall without luck. I did however score some hardy hibiscus planted late this fall! so fingers crossed for them!! Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated, as I am a fairly novice green thumb, but enjoy it so so much! Thanks for your time and help!!

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Hello Pontail73, and welcome to the forums. There are some very knowledable individuals that stop by and can offer some great advice. Some grow other plant, while some like myself grow only hibiscus varieties. I will answer your questions in order and hopefully get you set in the right direction with my experiences.

Firstly, if your plant was purchased from a "big box" store, it is likely one of the cultivars (CVs) grown for it's reliability. They are plants designed to grow well with a low amount of direct care. 'Aris' hibiscus like the 'Wind' and 'Breeze' series fall in this category. Not to down play these CVs at all as I have 4, and I have learned a lot with them. If you decide to get into more exotic CVs, be prepared to at least look into their needs daily. My Dupont 'Cosmic Dancer' is getting to be a hassle, and is growing beyond its boundaries, almost becoming vine like. I have attached an image from one of its final blooms before this winter, and you might understand why I can't resist.

Pruning is a must with tropical hibiscus to maintain good health and continued growth. This not only applies to the stems, but also the roots.
Your previous pruning and new pot gave the plant an opportunity to excel. Personally, I prune all of mine during winter. This gets them a good start for the new year. Here is an item to remember. A pruned stem that had 1-3 blooms a week, will split into 2-4 stems producing 3-12 flowers a week. If your plant is receiving adequate lighting this winter, it may not stop flowering. Sometimes you need to 'bite the bullet' and plan for the future. With mine, I will gradually prune areas of the plants during the entire winter to prepare it for the outside next spring, and get blooms immediately. For me, I want to see the plants covered in blooms each year. I plan my pruning over several weeks so I do not dramatically affect the plant. The idea for me is to optimize next year's display.

To answer your questions, you should prune when you feel comfortable, but do not wait. "Start the pruning early to offer greater results next summer." This is my opinion, and I can go into greater detail if you need. Glad you 'rescued' other 'hardy' hibiscus. I have about 10 varieties floating around here. Lets hope they also offer greatness.

PS, I plan a major pruning for one of my tropical CVs this Sunday. I have 4 plants, and can start some cuttings if you want them.

Hope this helps,

    Bookmark   December 28, 2012 at 11:27PM
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Hi Ed! Wow your Hibiscus is beautiful I would love to try all different kinds! And your advice is great, would you just prone gradual,.. say, by starting with the stems that have bloomed, or mostly bloomed out?
Also, Iv been told not to turn my hibiscus in the window while its budded and flowering..any thoughts on that? My plant is in a bay window and gets a lot of light but mostly southern so flowers are starting to face away from the room! I would hate to see bud drop, even though I may sacrifice some in pruning. but would like to turn him just a bit!?
Oh, and I if I should try to start a new plant form my cuttings, just for fun and to share with my friends and family, what method have you had success with?

I do so appreciate your help with my hibiscus! Like I said, Ive become addicted to growing things, and even though Im fairly novice I am trying very hard to try a variety of tropicals this year including a gardenia my mom gave up on over spring time and a bouganvillea that was discarded as ananual at work! I think its my favorate to rescue or recycle new plants from others cuttings, and it keeps my collection interesting as well as my costs down.

I am going to start tomorrow gradual pruning, as I to would love to see blooms again soon! Thanks so much Ed, and Ill let you know how he goes along! ~ :) So nice to get great advice from this nice site! I am really glad I signed up!

    Bookmark   December 29, 2012 at 5:32PM
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Glad it helped. Again, I try to answer in order.

You need to look at the over all plant when pruning. Remember you will lose flowering areas on these areas for a few weeks. The idea with gradual pruning for me is that I reduce the amount of shock, and can still enjoy a flower or two as I wait. If the sunlight is as you say, the plant may not stop flowering. As hard as it will be, good pruning will give greater results. I have pruned branches with flowers and buds present. Like a savings account, you sacrifice a little each week, to give greater results down the road. I have a couple images below of plants I pruned about a month ago. When you prune, look about 1/3 to 1/2 down the stem. Find a node or eye that faces the direction you want a new stem to grow. These nodes are bumps along the stem. With clean sharp sheers, cut the stem just above the eye. The sheers should not crush the stem, but have a clean cut.

The plants will grow towards the light. Leafs and flowers will open in the direction of the light. Since all my tropicals are under artificial light, even the stamens point upwards to the light. It is ok to turn your plant to enjoy the visual effects. The plant is trying to adjust to the diminished light, and gradual turns each day or week will offer light to areas that may not have received these before. Many people think that hibiscus are temperamental to changes, when in fact they are quite robust. A yellow leaf here and there is not the end of the world.

Cuttings and propagation is another story. CVs respond differently, and in some cases can destroy the original. I equate this to the constant breeding of dogs. As the species becomes more refined for certain attributes, other problems arise.

Glad I could help with my limited knowledge.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2012 at 11:22PM
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    Bookmark   December 29, 2012 at 11:24PM
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Thanks again Ed! I really will prune and turn this guy! and keep you posted with my results!!!

    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 7:22AM
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