Winter Hibiscus Care Tips

Winter Hibiscus Care Tips

Keep your favorite tropical hibiscus alive in winter -- even if you live in a cold climate.
So you bought a tropical hibiscus this spring or summer and now that fall is here, you're wondering what to do with it with winter coming. Don't worry -- I've been there! Every year when I lived in Iowa, I'd bring my favorite hibiscus in and out. If I can do it, you can, too. Here's how!

Keeping Hibiscus Inside Over Winter
First off, if you live in an area where temperatures stay below 50F (10C) for more than brief periods, you'll need to bring your hibiscus indoors to save it over winter. These are tropical plants and don't survive exposure to freezing temperatures. (That said, if you have a hardy hibiscus, which is sold in the perennials section of your local garden center, that plant can stay outdoors over winter. It will go dormant this fall, rest over winter, and produce new growth in late spring with flowers following in summer). 

How to Bring Hibiscus Indoors Before Winter
Good news: It's pretty easy moving your tropical hibiscus inside before winter. Just follow these simple steps. 
First: Give your tropical hibiscus a haircut. Remove up to a quarter of the new growth. This quick step will save you from having to clean up a ton of yellow, fallen leaves (this naturally happens as a result of shock when the plant goes from indoors to out). You'll still see some fallen leaves, but it's nothing to be concerned about. It's totally natural. 

Next: If your hibiscus is potted, you can move the whole pot inside after you cut it back. If your plant has been growing in the ground, you'll want to dig it up, then pot it in a container. Be sure to use a potting mix made for container plants. And whatever you do, don't use garden soil. Soil from your garden is great for growing plants outdoors, but inside it doesn't drain well. And it can encourage pests to hitchhike in.

Optional: Speaking of pests, if you'd like, give your hibiscus a preventative treatment or two to keep pests from coming inside. Popular sprays that are okay to use on a plant you're bringing indoors include insecticidal soap and neem oil.
Get more tips for saving tropical plants before winter.  

Winter Hibiscus Care Indoors
The biggest thing to know in terms of plant care for your hibiscus indoors is that it likes light. Actually, it doesn't just like lots of light, it loves light. And as such, your plant will do best in a high-light spot in your home. Have a big, sunny window? Bingo! A large patio door can also do the trick. Not much natural light? You're in luck: hibiscus will happily grow in winter under a shop light or plant light. (Tip: It's not necessary to splurge on a fancy, expensive plant light; a good, old-fashioned shop light works. That's what I always used.) The more light you give your hibiscus over winter, the happier it will be.

Water your hibiscus when the top inch or two of the potting mix dries to the touch (just like you would any other houseplant). I always found -- and I bet you will, too -- hibiscus require substantially less water indoors during winter than it did when you grew your plant outdoors. Happily, that makes it easier to care for! When I would bring my Tropic Escape hibiscus in for winter, I ended up watering it about once a week or so. The exact frequency you'll be watering is influenced by many factors, though, including how warm or cool your home is, the humidity levels, how big your hibiscus is, how big its pot is, type of potting mix, etc. 

Note: Protect your hibiscus from both warm and cold drafts over winter. This includes heating vents. Bursts of hot (or cool) air causes yellowing or brown foliage. 

Fertilizing Hibiscus Over Winter
More good news! You don't need to worry about it. Give your hibiscus a nice winter's rest. You can hold off until the days (finally!) grow longer come spring: March or so. 

Winter Flowering
I hate to say it, but don't count on flowers over winter. You probably won't see many because your plant is resting and unless it's in a super-bright spot, It may not have enough light to flower. Back in Iowa, I kept mine in my dining room, a couple of feet from a north-facing bay window and the plant only managed to put out three or four flowers each winter. 

By the way: If your plant does make buds and you see them fall off, don't worry. This is also natural. Hibiscus are notorious for dropping their flower buds in response to stress (such as being grown inside). 

So all it takes to bring your tropical hibiscus in for winter is a little planning, a bright spot, and regular watering.

Bonus: Get our tips for mandevilla care in winter.

Written by Justin Hancock