Hibiscus is an ornamental shrub that can be grown into a small tree. The common name of this cultivar is Rose-of-Sharon, which may grow as high as 12 feet with a spread of 5 to 10 feet. The tree is hardy in USDA planting zones 5b through 9a, but will need winter protection in the colder zones. Branches of the tree can be pruned to give a vase appearance or left without pruning to form a drooping habit. Flowers are showy and open in summer in various shades of blues, reds and white. Hibiscus does not require a lot of maintenance.
Choose a location in your landscape that has morning sun and afternoon shade. The area should drain well where no water pools after a hard rain. Wind can damage the plants especially when they are small, so try to find an area that has a wind break for the young plants. Planting is best in the fall however you can plant in the spring also.
Dig a hole that is one foot larger and the same depth of the root ball. Clean the removed soil of all weeds, lawn grass and stones. Amend the soil with one part compost to two parts original soil.
Remove the hibiscus from the container you purchased it in or remove the burlap from the root ball. Place the root ball in the planting hole and carefully spread out the roots. Fill the planting hole half way with amended soil and water to settle it around the roots. Continue to fill until the soil is level with the surrounding ground. Tamp the soil down firmly and add more soil to bring the level back up.
Water the plant, soaking the roots well. Hibiscus plants do not like to sit in pools of water, so drainage is essential. It is better to water heavily once a week than a little every day. The soil should be moistened to a depth of 12 to 18 inches with each watering. Give extra water during hot, dry weather.
Stake the plant with three wooden stakes if the plant is taller than it is wide. Use cotton string and tie loosely to the tree as the bark is thin and easily damaged. Remove the stakes as soon as you feel the tree is established and in no danger of being blown over.
Apply a 15-5-15 fertilizer with light applications in the early spring, during budding, mid-summer and early winter. An application of micronutrients should be applied in the spring and late summer also. Follow manufacturer’s directions on amounts to apply.
Pruning to shape the plant should be done in February or March; cut only the longest third of the branches at a time. Dead or diseased branches may be cut off whenever you notice them. Deadhead flowers to ensure new blooms throughout the growing season.