The exotic blooms and lush leaves of the hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) plant make for a stunning potted plant. Hibiscus come in an assortment of colors, including red, orange, yellow, pink and bicolor. They’re sun-loving plants that grow well in zones 10-12, 30° to 40°F (-1° to 4°C). If you keep a container-grown hibiscus outdoors in zones other than 10-12, you will want to bring them inside, to a bright sunny spot, when the weather turns cold.
As a tropical plant, hibiscus acts like a perennial in climates that stay relatively warm all year, but they will act like annuals and die off in colder climates. Also, keep in mind, that the roots of potted plants are more vulnerable to cold and freezing. If you keep hibiscus in a pot outdoors it’s best to assume that it’s only cold hardy to zone 11, with the lowest temperature range of 40° to 50°F (4° to 10°C).
How to Pot a Hibiscus Plant
When you buy your plant, it will likely be in a black nursery pot. You will want to replant it into a pot that is one to two inches larger than the nursery pot. Since hibiscus can grow large, you will want to select a sturdy pot; cement, ceramic or clay pots work well. Tall hibiscus varieties can reach 5-6 feet (1.5-1.8m) in height. Shorter varieties usually grow from 2-5 feet (0.6-1.5m).
Hibiscus’ roots need to be well-drained, so choose a pot with drainage holes, and use a tray or saucer underneath. To prevent the soil from seeping out through the drainage holes, place a coffee filter over each of the holes before filling the planter with soil. To prevent root rot, be sure to drain off excess water after each watering so the roots do not sit in the water.
If your container does not have drainage holes, you could drill holes in it. If you don’t want to drill, you could put landscape rocks in the bottom before adding your soil, so the water has a drainage area to go to. The rocks also serve to add weight and stabilize the container.
Otherwise, you could use a cachepot. A cachepot is a larger (often decorative) pot into which an already potted plant is placed. Put landscape rocks in the bottom of the cachepot. Replant the hibiscus into another nursery pot (one or two sizes larger than what it came in) and place it into the cachepot. Water will drain out of the nursery pot and into the rocks on the bottom.
What Type of Potting Soil to Use for Hibiscus Plants
When repotting, choose quality, all-purpose potting soil. Soil with vermiculite or pumice in the mix will aerate the soil and help drainage. Place an inch or two of soil in the bottom of the pot, remove the plant from the nursery container, gently break up the soil and untangle the roots so they have space to grow and place the plant into the new pot. Continue adding soil until the roots are covered and the soil line is just to the base of the main stem.
Hibiscus Plants Need Bright Light
Hibiscuses love light. If you will keep your plant outside, choose a sunny spot that is protected from strong winds. To keep it indoors, choose a sunny spot that is not near any heating or cooling vents since these can harm the leaves. For more light, there are several options for providing artificial light.
How Much Water Does a Potted Hibiscus Need
Hibiscus need to be well-watered. Water weekly at first and during active growth times. When outside, note the amounts of rainfall and adjust your water schedule accordingly. During hot spells, it is better to thoroughly water twice weekly rather than a little every day. If the plant is wilted or if the top 2 inches (5 cm) is dry to the touch, it is time to water. Be sure that excess water drains away from the roots.
Feed Your Hibiscus to Keep it Healthy and Flowering
For bright blooms and lush foliage, fertilize regularly. Find a fertilizer that is specifically for hibiscus or flowering plants. Follow the directions on the package for mixing and timing of applications. Too much fertilizer can harm the plant. Slow-release fertilizers are a good choice for container plants. In winter, use about half the recommended amount to give your plant a rest.
Pruning a Potted Hibiscus
Prune branches when necessary to promote growth or to maintain a certain size or shape. For best results, use a quick snip at a slight angle with sharp shears or pruners. Removing old, withered leaves and blooms keeps your hibiscus looking healthy and keeps the plant’s energy focused on new growth.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is great as a containerized plant. The large, vivid flowers will bring you joy and instantly create a relaxed, tropical atmosphere. For more information on the general care of flowering plants indoors, check out Top 10 Tips – Caring for Flowering Indoor Plants. If you will be keeping the container outdoors, read Secrets of Success for Outdoor Potted Plants.