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Do you have a favorite tropical hibiscus plant that you’ve enjoyed all summer and you want to keep your plant successfully through the winter? They’re just too beautiful to let die! This article is all about overwintering hibiscus.
From bringing your plant back inside before the cold weather, to reintroducing it outdoors back in the Spring (and everything in between), keep reading to discover my 5 step plan for success.
The two main options that you have in overwintering hibiscus are the following:
- Allowing your plant to go dormant and then reviving it in the spring
- Keeping your plant in active growth
From personal experience, I will say that I strongly recommend the second option. If you let your plant go dormant completely, it will take far too long to bring it back to life and bloom.
One year, when I tried that, my hibiscus didn’t bloom again until August, so it missed much of the summer. I’ll focus this article on the second method, which I strongly recommended.
Here is a 5 step process to prepare your tropical hibiscus for overwintering indoors.
1. PRUNE YOUR PLANT
A well grown hibiscus plant can grow quite larger over a single summer, and pruning your plant back will have many benefits:
- Allows your plant to fit indoors more easily.
- Creates a bushier plant.
- You’ll stimulate more flowering. Hibiscus grow flower buds right at the tip of each branch. By pruning your plant, you’ll stimulate more branching, and this will result in a lot more flowers on your plant.
For hibiscus growing in pots outdoors that you’ll overwinter indoors, pruning will be the first step of the process. Do this before the minimum temperatures outdoors get consistently below 50°F (10°C).
Use a pair of clean, sterilized pruners and prune about 1/3 of your plant back and up to about 50% or so. Do this on each branch.
2. INSPECT AND TREAT FOR PESTS
After you’ve pruned, you’ll need to prepare your hibiscus so you’re not bringing in any pests into your home.
First, rinse your hibiscus plants off with water to knock off any pests (particularly spider mites!). You can use a hose with a shower attachment. Rinse off the entire plant, and try and get the undersides of the foliage as well.
Do this a couple times per week for a couple weeks before you bring your plants indoors to overwinter them.
If you do notice any of the characteristic spider mite webbing, keep spraying with water as best as you can.
Lastly, apply horticultural oil to the entire plant, allow it to dry, and then move your plant inside.
Be sure to cover all leaf surfaces including the undersides of the leaves, stems, etc.
Typically, for other plants indoors, I will stop fertilizing during the winter months if the plant isn’t actively growing.
For hibiscus, it is important to not let them slow down too much, otherwise it will delay blooming the following year.
An amazing fertilizer to use for hibiscus is the Hidden Valley Hibiscus special blend fertilizer. It’s heavy on potassium, which hibiscus love. You will notice a big difference in the vigor and blooming of your plants with this fertilizer.
You can use this fertilizer year round. Use as directed on the label for best results.
In the winter time, fertilize less frequently than you would during the summer outdoors, but you should still fertilize.
4. MOVE INDOORS
Situate your hibiscus immediately in front of the sunniest window that you have.
Keep in mind that any location that you have indoors (including your sunniest window) will not be providing nearly as much light as a location in full sun outside.
The intensity of light indoors, just by virtue of light going through our windows (and only coming from one direction), is much less than outdoors, so for sun-loving plants like hibiscus, it will be best to place it in the sunniest window you have.
Don’t be surprised if you get some yellowing of leaves after you move your plants indoors. This is perfectly normal and it’s simply your plant shedding some leaves as it adjusts to lower light levels indoors.
Never allow the potting mix to go completely dry. Let the top inch or two of the potting mix dry out, and then water thoroughly.
5. RETURNING YOUR HIBISCUS OUTDOORS IN SPRING
When temperatures are warming up again in the Spring, don’t be tempted to simply move your hibiscus out into full sun immediately or all your hard work will go to waste.
As I mentioned, the light intensity indoors is much less than it is outside, so you must allow your hibiscus plant to acclimate slowly when you place it back outside otherwise it will quickly scorch. How can you do this?
When you move your hibiscus from indoors to outdoors when minimum temperatures are consistently 50°F (10°C) at night, move your plant into FULL SHADE at first and leave it there for about 7-10 days.
Then, and only then, start to introduce some direct sun a little at a time (starting with morning sun only since it is gentler). Increase any direct sun a little each day over the period of another week or so.
Just keep an eye on your plant to make sure there is no sun scorch. You can’t acclimate too slowly, but you can acclimate too quickly. If you noticed any whitish, bleached out areas on the top of your leaves, you haven’t acclimated your plant slowly enough to direct sun.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post on overwintering hibiscus. Have you overwintered hibiscus before? What has your experience been? Comment below. I’d love to hear!
Saturday 24th of December 2022
I’m afraid I’ve killed my hibiscus. I left it too late before bringing it inside and I think the leaves froze… they all dried up and fell off. It appears to be still alive, but dormant…. It’s inside now. Should I just leave it alone til spring and see what happens, or try to revive it slowly now?
Monday 26th of December 2022
I would put it in a sunny window and see if there are signs of life, and then resume normal care if it starts growing. Good luck! If it starts growing back, you may need to prune any dead parts of the stems.
Tuesday 29th of November 2022
We live in Pennsylvania. I cut back our hibiscus and moved it inside in early fall. It is continuing to grow more than I expected it to. Should I let it go or continue to cut it back over the winter? Thanks! Bob
Wednesday 30th of November 2022
Hi Bob! You can definitely cut it back again. Just trim back any new growth (not all the way though). This will further increase branching and should get you more flower buds down the line! And if you haven't already done so, try and give your plant as much direct sun as you can indoors to keep growth stronger and more compact. Good luck!
Monday 10th of October 2022
I came to your article too late in that I've already moved my hibiscus inside, but did not do any pruning beforehand. It's leaves are turning yellow and dropping like crazy (as expected). Should I go ahead and prune now or is that too much stress on the plant at once?
Monday 10th of October 2022
You can still do it! Don't remove more than about 1/3 of the plant though when you do it.
Friday 7th of October 2022
I have been overwintering my hibiscus for almost 20 years now and it's enormous. I would like to prune it back some this year, as I am running out of space inside. It's blooming now, but we are starting to have cold nights here in Illinois and I will be bringing it in this weekend.
Do I wait until after blooming to prune back?
Sunday 9th of October 2022
Hi Karen! Sounds like quite a specimen! Late winter/early spring is a good time, before it starts any new growth. Good luck!!