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How to Care for Hibiscus Plants in the Winter

By Cindy Hill ; Updated September 21, 2017

Hibiscus is a genus including over 200 species of showy, tropical flowering plants often grown as a landscaping accent in warm climates. In addition to the beauty of their flashy, exotic flowers, tropical hibiscus plants (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) are grown for flavorings, natural food dye, and for tea. A 2008 study by the American Heart Association, reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, indicates that hibiscus tea can lower blood pressure. Grow this valuable perennial in any location, but afford it winter protection in areas that experience a heavy winter freeze.

Keep hibiscus in a pot year-round if you live in a location where winters include a hard freeze. In early autumn, move your potted hibiscus to a partially shaded location. In mid-autumn, move your potted hibiscus to a fully shaded location.

Prune the hibiscus plant back by 1/3 to 1/2 its size in late autumn. Diminish your watering schedule to allow the plant to adapt to the dry indoor winter air.

Bring the hibiscus indoors before the first frost hits. Water the plant thoroughly then put a 1/2-inch layer of pebbles on the soil surface to help hold in moisture and deter indoor winter insect pests.

Water daily, or as needed. Hibiscus plants like water but they don't like to be soaked or sit in the water. Mist the hibiscus daily using a plant mister spray bottle. Turn the plant 1/4 turn weekly for even sunlight access.

Fertilize the hibiscus with a 1/2 strength dilution of liquid fish emulsion fertilizer about 10 weeks before the average last frost date. Fertilize in the same manner again at six weeks before the average last frost date, and then once a week until the danger of frost has passed.

Return hibiscus outdoors, starting in a full shade location for one week, then moving to a partial shade location for one week before moving to full sun.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Potted tropical hibiscus
  • Pruners
  • Plant mister
  • Sunny window
  • Pebbles (such as natural aquarium pebbles)
  • Liquid fish emulsion fertilizer

Tip

  • If you don't have a sunny space large enough to winter your hibiscus, you can bring the plant indoors and not water it, allowing all the leaves to drop and the plant to go dormant. Place the dormant plant in an area that is cold but does not freeze, such as a garage or basement. Moisten the soil slightly every two weeks, then begin watering daily and return the hibiscus to the outdoors the week of the average last frost.

About the Author

 

A freelance writer since 1978 and attorney since 1981, Cindy Hill has won awards for articles on organic agriculture and wild foods, and has published widely in the areas of law, public policy, local foods and gardening. She holds a B.A. in political science from State University of New York and a Master of Environmental Law and a J.D. from Vermont Law School.