According to the University of Minnesota Extension Service, the hibiscus is included as a member of the mallow family, which consists of 250-300 species. These species include large shrubs, trees, perennials or annuals. Hibiscus has dark green leaves and is deciduous, meaning the flowers will fall off within a day. The hibiscus can be susceptible to disease, fungus and insect problems. Ants, among other insects, are mentioned in particular as problems for plants, including hibiscus.
Ants have been on Earth for more than 100 million years. It is estimated that there are about 20,000 different species of ants. Ants are social creatures, which mean they live in large groups. Ants build many different types of homes. Some ant nests are built underground. Ants are constantly on the move during the summer months and will chew through plant roots. Ant nests can usually be found by simply watching their movements.
Ants and Aphids
The damage caused by ants is usually indirect, and really caused by aphids or mealybugs, which the ants cultivate for honeydew. Aphids suck the hibiscus leaf fluid and mealybugs attack hibiscus by puncturing the leaves and sucking the juices, leaving a substance called honeydew behind for the ants. Directly, the presence of ants may protect the aphids and help move them around from plant to plant. Ants can also cause damage to root systems, as they burrow to build nests.
The damage to the hibiscus is the deformation of the leaves after the aphids or mealybugs attack. Both insects cause new growth to curl and existing leaves to become oddly shaped. The most serious result from the damage of an aphid is the spread of diseases. Aphids may transmit viruses from plant to plant. Sometimes they cause fungus or galls. The viruses cause mostly the same symptoms as the aphids but are more difficult to prevent through the control of aphids. Infection occurs even when aphid numbers are low. It only takes a minute for the aphid to transmit the virus
Control and Treatment
Treat ants with a soil drenching of insecticidal soap--a homemade soap which includes dish soap or laundry detergent mixed with water, or a Commercial soap called "Safer". The most serious result is from the aphids is that they can spread diseases. Control aphids at younger stages by spraying with a solution of 1 to 5 g of nicotine sulfate and 25 g of soap chips in one gallon of water or by 0.2 percent malathon every 10 days. In addition, simple attention to the plant is important for preventing infestation. Keep watch when watering and check the plants often for signs of any bugs.
All varieties are susceptible to problems including fungus, pests, and viruses. It's important to care for the plants to prevent these from occurring in the first place. The hibiscus does well in moist soil and needs to be fertilized twice a month during growing season. The hibiscus is sensitive to cold and should be protected in colder temperatures. If given proper care, fungus and other problems can be easy to avoid.