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Proctor's Garden: Caring for hibiscus

If you consider what conditions they prefer, you can grow a happy hibiscus.

COLORADO, USA — Many gardeners love the big, bright flowers of tropical hibiscus. The plants, however, are tricky to grow. Their preference is a warm, humid climate. They'd much rather grow in Hawaii. We need to account for that.

I've failed several times with large plants I bought. I don't think they were grown in suitable soil and they were pot-bound, making it difficult to keep that overgrown tangle of roots moist. So I started from scratch. Lasy year I ordered three small hibiscus plants online. They were about six inches tall when I received them in May. I immediately repotted them into bigger pots. In early June I repotted them again and brought them out to the patio. 

They prospered and started to bloom by midsummer. They've spent the winter in a south-facing window. They've grown like crazy but it's all straight up. Surgery is required.

I cut all the main branches back to encourage new shoots and better branching. They'll get new, bigger pots this spring full of nutritious soil.  

The cuttings can be rooted to create new hibiscus. If you prune your hibiscus, save the trimmings. Strip off the lower leaves. Use a paintbrush to apply a rooting powder to the stems. New roots will form where the leaves were attached to the stems. 

Use the end of the brush to make the hole into which you'll insert the cutting. Firm the soil around the stem. I moistened the soil ahead of time. I placed plastic wrap loosely over the cuttings to provide a more humid environment for the cuttings to root. It may also be possible to root cuttings in water.

In the dry heat of summer, keep the plants moist but not soggy. Group them with other plants to increase humidity and set them in a saucer where excess water will evaporate to increase humidity levels. Fertilize with a bloom booster for maximum flower production. If you consider what conditions they prefer, you can grow a happy hibiscus.

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