How to Prune a Hibiscus Tree


Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) is a tropical flowering shrub in the mallow plant family that comes to us from Asia and the Pacific. You can grow this prolific bloomer as an annual throughout the United States and a perennial in USDA climate zones 8 and higher. Some species are more frost hardy, such as the rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), which can grow as far north as zone 5, or where winter temperatures drop below 0 degrees F. You can prune any variety of hibiscus to keep it compact, revitalize an older plant and remove any diseased or dead branches. Pruning a hibiscus will allow it to grow better.

Step 1

Evaluate your hibiscus in early spring before you begin to prune. Decide the shape and size you want to create. A good practice is to prune about one-third of the plant, leaving at least two or three nodes on every branch.

Step 2

Sterilize your clippers with a water-free hand cleaner. Just squeeze some of the cleaner onto a clean rag and wipe your blades with it, leaving it on for at least 15 seconds before you wipe it off. Repeat this procedure every few cuts, especially after you cut any diseased wood. This helps to prevent plant diseases from entering the cut branches.

Step 3

Begin by cutting off long, gangly branches and any dead growth. Look for a node that is pointing in the direction you want new branches to grow, and then cut about 1/4 inch up from the node. Prune off dead stems and branches at their connection point to the main trunk.

Step 4

Continue making cuts on all of the shorter branches in the same way.

Step 5

Keep your hibiscus moist after you prune it and give it a half-strength fertilizer every week to encourage new growth.

Tips and Warnings

  • When you make cuts with your clippers, try to make them clean so you don't tear any bark away from the branch. Time your pruning so new growth will not be emerging when your first fall frost arrives. If you're cutting off dead or diseased growth, be sure to sterilize your clippers after every cut.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning clippers or loppers
  • Water-free hand cleaner
  • Garden gloves
  • Balanced fertilizer


  • The Tropical Hibiscus
  • Climate zones for hibiscus
  • Hidden Valley Hibiscus
Keywords: tropical gardening, hibiscus pruning, flowering plants

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.