Pruning hibiscus

Hawaiian hibiscus are pruned in spring at the beginning of new growth. This is because these plants are very sensitive to ‘cold snaps’ after pruning, and it is also easier to see just where to prune. In temperate areas, leaving the pruning of Hawaiian hibiscus until the first weekend in October is a good rule of thumb.
Immediately before new growth begins, lower leaves turn bright yellow and fall from the plants, and growth buds swell. Pruning hibiscus during First Quarter phase will result in faster recovery from pruning. Remove all withered branches with sharp secateurs, and also remove any branches pointing towards the centre of the plant. Then reduce the size of each plant by a third, cutting above an outward-facing growth bud.
Finally, give the plants a deep watering, a generous feeding of poultry-based organic fertiliser and a drink of seaweed extract tea. Add some compost to the soil surface, if you have it, and cover it with a 7-8 cm thick layer of organic mulch. Hawaiiian hibiscus are heavy feeders, and will continue to supply large blooms if further light applications of organic fertiliser are given every 6 weeks, or so, until May.
All species of hibiscus other than Alyogynes can be pruned at the same time as Hawaiian hibiscus. Alyogynes are pruned lightly after summer flowering.

6 thoughts on “Pruning hibiscus

  1. Will Hibiscus survive heavy frosts?

    I had a great one at my last place that was frost free, and I miss it since I’ve moved into a heavy frost zone.

  2. Mushy Peas, Hawaiian hibiscus can be grown in Warm and Temperate parts of Australia. However, when winter temperatures can drop to 1 degree C., or lower, in winter, young plants must be protected from frost to prevent loss. They also need to be protected from cold winds. Fertilise them well because healthy plants of all types are better able to withstand frost. Where frosts occur, plants can be protected with a chicken wire hoop that is covered at night (see post on Cold and Frost Protection in the “Ornamental” category. If plants are affected by frost, do not prune off the damaged parts until all danger of frost has passed. In very cool climates, the Syrian hibiscus (Hibiscus syriacus) is a safer choice.

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  4. Hi, just wondering if it’s to late to prune my hibiscus.. They’re growing in W.A’s south west… we do’nt tend to get frosts… thanx for your time
    Hi Amber. Yes it is a bit late to prune hibiscus now. Although they are not deciduous, they have a period of dormancy through the cooler months. Both native and Hawaiian (Chinese) hibiscus are best pruned when the soil has warmed in spring and they are about to start a new growth cycle, followed by an application of fertiliser.
    The first week in October is usually a good time in Temperate climates, so make a note of it in your diary. – Lyn

  5. I have a couple of hibiscus plants in my backyard. I planted them last October 2014. They have just experienced a bit of frost damage. Was just wondering if they will be ok and will come back. I have now covered them overnight. We live in the North west part of Victoria not far from Mildura, we do experience frosts. Will they survive?
    Hi Frances, covering them is a good idea but try to support the cover above the foliage. If the foliage touches the cover, cold can be transferred. Hibiscus don’t like frost and if they are damaged, don’t be tempted to prune off the damaged sections because the burnt parts will actually protect the plant from further damage. The frost damaged parts can be pruned in spring as the plants show signs of new growth. You could water in some seaweed extract tea solution around the plants and repeat this every late summer–early autumn. Seaweed contains nutrients that strengthen cell walls and help plants to be a bit more frost (and drought) resistant. – Lyn

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