Wintering over hibiscus in the far north

Perham, MN(Zone 3b)

Hi. I've been reading lots of the links on the sticky "helpful information" links. Maybe not *all* of it! But I don't see much that addresses the specific conditions that I have to address with tropical hibiscus in Minnesota.

So last spring I got a beautiful hibiscus for a song at a garden center in Minneapolis, and brought it north. I think it was cheap because it needed to be up-potted, and they didn't want to be bothered. So I took care of that, and had a spectacular summer with this plant in my backyard fire circle area. See photo.

As fall came on and temperatures dropped, I did let it get chilly, reduced watering, stopped fertilizing - all the things we do up here, to tell a plant it's time to take a rest. And now it's in the house. Quite a few leaves are yellowing of course, as might be expected. Drier, warmer air, not as much light.

So my plan is to give it a decent amount of light and moisture but no fertilizer, until January, when the days begin to lengthen noticeably. It's going to get ugly! But I can stand it. Then I'll cut it back by about a third, move it into as much sun as I can find for it (probably only four hours a day through the window) and when new leaves start to grow, fertilize lightly.

The question is - how does this plan match up to what any other of you northern gardeners have done, and had succeed? Given the conditions, are there modifications you would suggest? Because I can't really change the conditions. It's got to be able to make it as a houseplant. Unless putting it out in the shop would be better, or at least acceptable/comparable (40F all winter, and not a lot of light because the southeast facing window is shaded by evergreens to the right/west side).

I will have to winter this plant over every year. I can't keep putting it in bigger and bigger pots (my back and home have limits), and I doubt I can "bonsai" it forever either. Right? Unless one can prune roots as well as tops. Anyone done that, when re-potting? It would be great if I could keep moving up pot size, as far as a 10-gallon. But ... that's unrealistic.

So if I want to have survival insurance, ought I take cuttings and get some daughter plants, and eventually say bye-bye to Momma? And if I'm planning to take a cutting anyway, would it be a doomed enterprise to do it now (since I'm going to prune in midwinter anyway) and see what happens?

What do you think? Thanks -


Thumbnail by joanlc
Staten Island, NY(Zone 6a)

Hi joanic , I have a tropical hibiscus about 12 years now and its in a 14,inch pot with a saucer . I usually put it outside when the temp is about 70 degrees and it does very well outside Every fall I hose it down making sure I get under the leaves too, just in case little bugs are there then I shake of the excess water of the plant and bring it inside . If it still have buds on the plant i will wait until they all bloom and then I will usually cut the plant back at that time so it sprout new leaves and it nice and bushy next year.You will see the plant getting yellow leaves but that's ok , just pick them off and the plant will do well . I keep my plant where it can get some light from the outside and it does fine.

Perham, MN(Zone 3b)

cytf, thank you! That's perfect. Yeah, mine is also in a 14" pot. And I took it into the shower and sprayed it off with the highest pressure setting on the hand-sprayer, from underneath as well as above. (Made a mess of the bathroom with the splashing, but it's worth it.) And then sprayed with neem too.

Interesting that you wait until all the buds have bloomed before cutting back. Last time I did this, it kept blooming pretty much all winter - though just a bud here and a bud there. I'll be watching carefully.

Thanks again!


Staten Island, NY(Zone 6a)

Great Joanie hope the plants does well now Cyn

Monroe, WI(Zone 4b)

I prune all the hibiscus I take in to winter over for clients, and my own at the time I put them in the greenhouse. That would be now. LOL I just take the hedge trimmers to them................hack, hack, hack...........all done. If you don't, they just get leggy.

Perham, MN(Zone 3b)

Hey Anna. Well, I'm certainly considering hacking just about any time now. My lovely hibiscus has dropped almost every leaf that was on the woodier parts of the stems. The only green leaves appear to be on the newer growth. So it's starting to look a lot like it wouldn't be too early to whack it pretty soon, in spite of my resolution to wait. I'm just concerned about it being so warm inside, but not so light. Things are out of balance in here!

Say, about cuttings: The green portion at the ends of the long, woody stems is not really very long. The really tender-looking growth is about 1" long; then it's about 3" more of gradually darkening/toughening stem, until you get to where the stems are actually bark-like in appearance. How much of one of those stems do I use for a cutting? How many axils do I cut, and how many nodes do I bury?

I'm not much of a fan of just dropping a cutting into a vase of water; seems like I have a higher percentage of success, using the youngest material I can find on any plant, and setting into a humid, airy medium, and then tenting it up, to keep the humidity up there. It's a little more work to set this up, but the cuttings will have to be planted sooner or later anyway. Might as well just do it. So. How much to cut, and how much to bury? And do I remove all flower buds? (Pretty sure the answer to that will be Yes, but it's as well to ask, I guess.)

My experience with rooting fuchsias says I really need *young* material. Older, woody stems just don't "take". I've also found it doesn't seem to help much at all, to take a longer cutting and bury two nodes. The only one that produces roots seems to be the lower one, so one might as well just bury one node, and not try to make it support more than two pairs of leaves above, until the whole thing starts to grow. You can't "cheat" or save time by taking a 5-node cutting and burying two nodes. You end up paying, in terms of slowness to develop, if it survives. Are hibiscus anything like this?

Monroe, WI(Zone 4b)

I have never rooted hibiscus. I have never WANTED to root hibiscus. LOL My only experience is rooting brug cuttings. LOL Soooo............can't help you there.

Staten Island, NY(Zone 6a)

Hi Joanic, look at the entry for tropical hibiscus adaption and I have pictures and info on rooting hibiscus us cuttings. Hope it can help in some way.

Kure Beach, NC(Zone 9a)

It's best to use the woody portion.
Here's a great link:

Perham, MN(Zone 3b)

I'm so, SO behind in thanking you all. *Thanks!* That link, Beach_Barbie, really is helpful. I appreciate seeing pictures of the cuttings - all just about leafless. Good also to know that truly tropical conditions are desirable. I can do that, I think, even in winter, with use of a plastic bag and siting near a heating vent. Or maybe, to be as safe as possible, I'll dig out my "Agri-Mat" bottom heat supplier. Which I probably wouldn't have thought of without some input. So thanks again! I think it's about time I took some cuttings. Maybe after the Thanksgiving rush. ;)


Kure Beach, NC(Zone 9a)

Yea! Glad it helped.

Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)

Hi, Everyone!

I bought a beautiful, Tropical Hibiscus at my Home Depot last spring. I work there.
It is my 1st Tropical Hibiscus I have ever had. The blooms were amazing!
Just FYI--I am a seasoned, informed gardener. But--when I have a new plant--
I seek out information so I do the right thing. Want to learn from others if not.

I decided to check out this Forum as I just brought my pot of tropical Hibiscus outside
which has spent the winter in my cool, dark (most of the time) Shop.
It was strong enough to keep a lot of leaves on it all during this time. I did not
water it a whole lot--but a bit if it looked wilted.

This Hibiscus is one with the puckered, thick, deep green and glossy leaves.
I will attach a picture.

So--today I was outside all day working in the garden and decided to prune back
the old stems of the Hibiscus. Looking at the stem sections I was cutting off, I decided
to trim them up and see if I could root them. I had 8 cuttings,

I, successfully, rooted 17 fig cuttings (also woody) from last fall, and they are all
leafed out. Hibiscus is woody as well--so--I thought I would do all the same things.

Took about 4"-5" tip cuttings, trimmed all but the top 2 leaves on each (trimmed those too)
"wounded" the bottoms of the stems to expose the cambium in a couple places,
dipped them in Rooting Hormone and stuck them all in a 7" square pot filled with Pro Mix.
I will keep this pot on my warm light set-up as I did the Figs. No plastic tenting.

Any comments so far? I will listen to you all.....Never too much advice from other gardeners.

My ONLY concern is that the mother plant was not in the active, healthy, growing cycle.
It has been in a semi-dormant condition. I am wondering if this may affect the rooting
of the cuttings???? One could say--"The juices were not flowing".....but it was alive
and had leaves on it. Where the pruning-cuts were made--it was all green.

It did have white fly problems right after I brought it home. This may have come from the "source" of the on the trucks....etc. It took me a long time to get these under control. Lots of spraying with various things....some home-made--
some seriously Pro.

This is my Hibiscus from last summer. Does this one have a name? ???
I just loved it! Hope it thrives for me this summer....without bugs on it.

Pic. #4 is as it looks right now--just cut back.

Should i cut the stems lower?
Should I give it a systemic drench at this time? Won't hurt to my thinking...
I could also spray down all the stems with Neem Oil.
What do you think?

Thanks! I am all ears! Gita.

Thumbnail by Gitagal Thumbnail by Gitagal Thumbnail by Gitagal Thumbnail by Gitagal
Kure Beach, NC(Zone 9a)

I think the cuttings should still root just fine. I understand what you mean about the plant and cuttings not being completely awake.
Don't cut the plant back anymore, it's going to take several months for those stems to grow enough to start blooming. That being said, you'll get more blooms this year than you did last, because the trimming you did will cause the plant to branch out more.
I would think you don't have to worry about white flies again. They probably have moved onto greener fields, as it were.
I don't know the cultivar name, but it looks like one of the hibiscus we just got in at the Garden Center I work at. If I remember, I'll check the name of those tomorrow.
Have you visited the American Hibiscus Society's website? They have a lot of links with great info, including propagation.
I'm a tropical hibiscus addict myself. ;)

Waterford, NY(Zone 5b)

Any advice on how I should hard prune this tree to get more balance to it? I just acquired it and would like to give it more shape. After I hard prune, how long am I looking at before it really regrows? I've also moved it directly in front of a southwest facing window since this pic was taken and will be leaving it there until the nights in upstate New York warm up which them it will be moved out to my porch

Thumbnail by Kizykowski6682
Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)

Beach Barbie--thank you for your input.

I trimmed the branches very carefully--making sure I cur just above a node
and also which way the node was facing. If there was a smidge of green showing
in a node--I chose to cut just above that.

I have confidence that this Hibiscus will re-grow well. I just have to be better
at fertilizing it.....I am a slacker about that....

Thanks, Gita

Oviedo, FL(Zone 9b)

Kizykowski, I would pot your hibiscus up a pot size or two. Hibiscus are fast growers and get pot bound pretty rapidly. I would prune it thus: 1st. all dead wood. 2. any branches that criss cross in the interior 3. then I would cut it back to a preferred height with the cuts coming at outward facing leaf nodes.
Then, I would fertilize it and stand back. It will leaf out pretty quickly and kept on a regular fertilizing schedule bloom for you. I have one that I have kept in a pot for 30 years. and it has three flowers on it right now and another 4 unopened buds. When I lived in MA up until last year, I would put it out in the spring and bring it in at the end of Sept. I always had to prune it back so that it would fit in my indoor space.

Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)

Well--a few months have passed since my last post in April.

My Hibiscus sure has re-grown-lush and green--BUT the leaves on it
are completely alien to what they were last summer when it bloomed so nicely.
See pictures above.

The leaves on my Hibiscus are totally different shape. There are NO flowers
on it. It is totally weird!!!

We have discussed this to no end at the Mid Atlantic Forum.

NO! it is not grafted anywhere.
NO! I did not repot it and so the soil level is appropriate.

--I have taken pictures of these weird leaves and written up a summary of how
this Hibiscuss was overwintered.

--Added significant pictures and gave it to the Bell Nursery Rep. (they provide
all the plants at my Home depot)--she promised to e-mail it to the growers in Florida
to see if any of them have an idea of why this Hibiscus mutated the way it did.

Here is the leaves it grew out this summer. Compare them with the pictures above
from last summer. Any ideas why?

Thanks, Gita

Thumbnail by Gitagal Thumbnail by Gitagal
Oviedo, FL(Zone 9b)

You pruned it well above any possible graft site. What are you using for fertilizer? If there's too much nitrogen you will get pretty green leaves and not many or no flowers. I can't explain the leaf shape though. Did your cuttings take?

Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)


I have not used any fertilizer. If anything--I usually mix some slow-release granules
in the soil. Then that is it for the season. However--I did not re-pot it.
If it had bloomed--I might have fertilized it a bit more.

More N would not have caused all the leaves to grow out in an alien shape.

What cuttings??? If you are referring to the branches I cut off when I pruned it back--
I tossed those. At that time, i was still hoping i would be getting beautiful blooms.

Waiting to hear back (won't hold my breath) from the growers in FL.
I would think that they might be more interested in this unexplained change in the leaves,
Plus--not ONE bloom!!! WHAT did this plant grow out to be???????


Oviedo, FL(Zone 9b)

I thought you had mentioned cuttings. I have no idea what caused your mutant foliage. You could still fertilize and see if it puts out buds and flowers and if the flowers are the same as the originals.

Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)


Not likely! This has been growing these leaves since I pruned it back in May.
Not any signs of buds....not gonna happen this late in the year...

Someone just posted about a Hibiscus place called "Hidden valley Hibiscus"
in CA. They seem to be THE place for Hibiscus.

I may send them my information and see what they say. People here try to help--
but it is haphazard information. Everyone thinks they have THE solution.

Now I have to decide IF I want to keep it semi-dormant in my Shop for the winter????
Mostly out of curiosity --to see what will sprout next year. It IS a mystery to me....


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