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How To Overwinter Hibiscus – Bringing Your Hibiscus Plants Indoors

When it comes to how to overwinter hibiscus plants indoors successfully, it’s all about getting the gorgeous tropical plant inside before the frosty cold weather takes a toll on its heat loving roots and foliage!

Hibiscus plants are one of the most popular tropical plants for gardeners to grow. And in all kinds of growing zones too. Although perennial hibiscus cannot survive the cold of winter, they can and do grow well outdoors in the summer warmth of most climates.

Many gardeners with cool winter climates keep their hibiscus plants in pots on their patio or deck through the warm months. Others go a step further and plant them directly into their flowerbeds in the summer to enjoy as a traditional perennial.

overwinter hibiscus
Hibiscus plants can be kept alive indoors in climates with cold winters. The key to success starts with getting the plant indoors before freezing temperatures can take their toll.

One thing is for sure, no matter how or where you grow them, the beautiful, glossy foliage and large, intricate blooms of the hibiscus plant put forth a dazzling display of color. The only caveat, of course, is that to keep them alive from year to year in climates with a true winter, they must be overwintered indoors.

If not, these tropical plants quickly perish as their roots freeze and die off. But the good news is that overwintering hibiscus plants is not all that difficult. Nor does it require an indoor greenhouse, special lights or expensive equipment to successfully keep the plants alive.

How To Overwinter Hibiscus Plants

Acclimating Your Hibiscus To Indoor Life

Success with overwintering hibiscus starts with getting the plant indoors early in the fall. Unlike other perennials that can be brought in right before a hard frost or freeze, a hibiscus plant is different.

For starters, it roots and foliage can suffer issues simply with cold soil. Because of this, it is best to not allow the plant to remain out below 50 degrees Fahrenheit for any extended time.

If your hibiscus is growing in a pot or container, this is a simple, fast task. If a cold night is in the forecast, simply bring it in for overnight protection. However, if your plants are directly in the soil, you will need to dig them up and pot them in advance of any cold temperatures.

bringing a hibiscus indoors
Once mid fall arrives, it is time to start moving your hibiscus indoors. If you have planted your plant directly into the landscape, this means digging it back out and potting it up to bring inside.

Digging Up Planted Hibiscus – How To Overwinter Hibiscus

If you have planted your hibiscus into the soil, it should be dug and potted early in the fall. The ground unfortunately begins to chill by mid fall. But by getting the plant out while the soil is still warm, it has a better chance of survival.

When digging out the roots, it is important to keep the soil ball as intact as possible. Since it will be overwintering, the pot only needs to be slightly larger than the root ball.

Select a good, loose, well-draining potting soil. Although hibiscus plants need a fair amount of moisture, potting soil that holds too much water will rot the roots.

organic potting mix
Select a good quality potting soil that is lightweight and drains well. This will keep the plant from becoming too soggy over the winter months. The soil should never dry out, but you also don’t want it wringing wet.

Moisten the potting soil lightly when adding to the pot. Pack it in lightly around the ball as you add. Allow for a light covering of mulch on top, as it will help keep the soil from drying out too quickly.

Bringing Plants Indoors – How To Overwinter Hibiscus

Whether starting with plants already in containers, or you have potted your plants up from your flowerbeds, they can be left outdoors on warm fall days, and brought in if the temps are going to drop. But as fall temps start to cool consistently, it is time to prepare your hibiscus for its permanent spot indoors.

Doing this earlier in the fall will allow it to slowly adjust to less light. It also protects your hibiscus from exposing it to too much cold. For best results, select the warmest, most well-lit room of the house for the plant’s winter home.

The plant doesn’t have to sit in a window, but the closer it is to natural light, the better. Avoid placing it near vents or drafty windows. These can cause stress to your hibiscus and result in both leaf and bloom loss.

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Winter Care – How To Overwinter Hibiscus

Depending on the amount of light and heat indoors, your hibiscus may continue to grow and even bloom. It can also, if there is not enough light or warmth, go semi-dormant. If your hibiscus stays active, it will require more frequent watering.

With plants that head more into dormancy, keep it watered, but be careful not to saturate the soil. The best rule of thumb is to never let the plant completely dry out.

If too many leaves begin to brown or fall off, it is likely your plant is not receiving enough light, warmth, or both. In these cases, a small grow light, or a fluorescent or LED bulb can help stimulate the plant. In most cases, it will not be necessary.

One final note on dormancy and hibiscus plants. You can allow a hibiscus plant to go completely dormant in a cooler, dark room of the house. Although it is an option for those with no sunny overwintering windows, it can be difficult to bring a hibiscus out of dormancy in good health. For that reason, we always recommend the livelier option for overwintering.

Pruning Hibiscus – How To Overwinter Hibiscus

Like many perennials, hibiscus plants bloom on new growth each year. Because of this, it is best to only prune them in the spring. That allows for new stems and foliage to spring forth, and set the stage for new blooms.

When bringing hibiscus indoors in the fall, a bit of light shape pruning is fine. Simply cut back a rogue stem or a few leaves here and there to make it fit your indoor space. But beyond a snip here and there, leave any major pruning until spring.

hibiscus blooms
The hibiscus plant requires a lot of energy to bloom. Fertilizing on a regular schedule can help keep plants on a steady blooming cycle.

Unfortunately, fall pruning can adversely affect future bloom cycles by promoting late growth. It can also put a fair amount of stress on the plant as it tries to regenerate new growth. This can be exceptionally hard on plants that are being overwintered as they already have less light and warmth than a normal tropical environment.

Fertilizing – How To Overwinter Hibiscus

One of the best ways to keep your hibiscus healthy, vibrant and blooming is regular fertilizing. Hibiscus plants perform best with a balanced ratio fertilizer of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. Look for fertilizers with equal blends of 5-5-5 or 10-10-10.

All of these options will supply a fair amount of nutrients without overpowering the plant. As for how often, fertilizing every about every 3 months is best. Early spring, mid summer, late fall and mid winter is a good rule of thumb.

You can also use compost tea monthly as an alternative fertilizing approach. With balanced nutrients in a liquid form, it works well for keeping your hibiscus healthy. (See : How To Make Compost Tea)

Here it taking the time to overwinter your hibiscus this year, and to enjoying the beauty of this tropical plant all year round!

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