Whether you’re a seasoned horticulturist or just starting your gardening journey, pruning is an essential skill for any gardener looking to cultivate vibrant and healthy hibiscus plants.
If done properly, this simple practice can make a significant difference in the appearance and productivity of your hibiscus by elevating both the aesthetic charm of your garden and the overall vitality of your hibiscus plants.
In this guide, I will walk you through the straightforward process of pruning your hibiscus, promising a more abundant display of stunning blooms, vigorous growth, and overall, a more aesthetically pleasing plant.
When should hibiscus be pruned?
Hibiscus can be pruned any time of the year except late fall and winter. New growth is more susceptible to freeze damage. The best time to do it, however, is in the spring before the plant has started to come out of its winter dormant state.
This is because during spring, the daylight hours increase, temperatures rise, and sap flow resumes. This triggers the roots to draw more nourishment from the soil, encouraging new shoots to appear on the mostly bare branches seen during winter.
While you might be able to start more of a trimming job later in the season, spring is the time to prune if you intend to cut the plant back dramatically.
If you live in frost-prone areas, wait until the danger of frost has passed to avoid damage to tender new shoots.
Why prune hibiscus?
We prune our plants for a variety of reasons, but the most important reason is that It will encourage stronger growth and help the bush to promote larger and better blooms. Shortening the branches when you prune them will cause the plant to send out more branches, increasing the chance of obtaining more flowers.
Additionally, pruning helps not only to train the hibiscus to a desired shape but also to maintain the bush at a manageable size and open it up to the sun. This involves getting rid of the weak, cluttered middle branches that have likely grown out of shape, possibly in a crisscross fashion, blocking out the air and light and also preventing visibility of potential pest and disease attacks.
Hibiscus thrives on being pruned in the spring, and you do not have to get a step ladder to see the flowers when the branches get too long. When you prune the tops of the branches, it causes the plant to start shooting down lower and instead of bare sticks you will see a plant covered in nice green leaves, and more branches, and as I said above more branches more flowers. This happens because when you prune the tops off, it stops the growing cycle from the tip.
Tools for Pruning:
To effectively prune your hibiscus, you’ll need the following tools: The first thing you need to do is get a good pair of pruning shears. You can find these at your local gardening store or even buy them online.
For trimming thinner branches, I recommend using a pair of secateurs. They are ideal for precise cuts. When dealing with thicker branches, employ a pair of large loppers. These are designed to handle more substantial growth.
For the thickest trunks or branches that you cannot cut with either the secateurs or loppers, a pruning saw is essential. It provides the necessary cutting power for such situations.
In addition to the cutting tools, you will need some rubbing alcohol, methylated spirit, or bleach with which to clean the shears while you are pruning. This is necessary so that if you cut off wood that is dying, you won’t transfer any disease or infection to another branch.
Whenever you start pruning your hibiscus, it’s essential to consider the plant’s age and growth pattern. Tailor your pruning approach to match how the bush naturally grows. If your hibiscus is an average grower, aim to prune around one-third of the bush.
However, for fast-growing, tall hibiscus plants, consider pruning off approximately half of the growth. In the case of slow, low growers and young plants, a simple tip pruning should suffice.
Before you begin, make sure your tools are clean and sharp, so they will give a clean cut. You can dip them in the alcohol or methylated spirits before pruning. You will also have to disinfect between bushes to prevent spreading any disease.
To effectively prune hibiscus, it’s not just about snipping off branch ends. You should cut back the branches by at least one-third of their total growth. Begin with one of the longer branches and inspect it about a third of the way down. Look for a small bump or node where new growth will emerge. Make a clean cut roughly a quarter of an inch above this point.
Avoid giving your hibiscus severe pruning, as it takes a considerable amount of time to recover, and you’ll miss out on flowers for the current season, having to wait until the following year for blooms.
Trim away the lower branches, leaving approximately a 12-inch gap beneath the bush. This clearance helps maintain a clean area under the bush, preventing flowers on these branches from touching the ground and reducing the risk of snail damage to the petals.
When making cuts, prune just above an outward-pointing eye, creating a slanted cut away from the eye. This prevents water from entering the eye and encourages new shoots to grow outward, maintaining the bush’s vase-like shape.
You also want to make sure that you have indeed cut off enough of a diseased branch so that it will not continue to re-infect the plant. Make sure that the place where you cut has nice healthy live green tissue growing inside it and is not brown or rotting on the inside.
Some gardeners opt not to prune all the branches simultaneously, allowing them to enjoy blooms while waiting for new growth to flower. These remaining branches can be pruned once the new growth begins to flower.
If you’re growing hibiscus in pots, consider performing root prune simultaneously with top pruning. Repot the plant into fresh potting mix, including some slow-release fertilizer. You can use the same-sized pot if it suits your needs or a larger one if necessary.
By following these instructions, you’ll promote a healthy hibiscus bush with abundant blooms.
People use several different ways to decide which branches to cut. Sometimes only the branches that are much longer than all the others are pruned. Others will only prune branches that make the hibiscus plant look lopsided. The last method, which is really the one that will produce the healthiest plant, is to trim all the branches back so that they will all have new growth.
Don’t worry about hurting the hibiscus plant as it is a very tough plant that will grow new foliage again very quickly. Nothing will be lost in pruning as the hibiscus plant is going to grow new branches below every cut that you make.
In fact, by midsummer, the plant will be so prolific that no one would ever realize you had been pruning hibiscus earlier in the season.
When your bush is putting out a lot of new growth, this is the time for you to apply fertilizer high in Nitrogen to encourage that fresh growth. Keep applying it until you start noticing new buds forming. Once you see those buds, it’s time to switch to a fertilizer that has more Potash than Nitrogen. This shift will help promote beautiful flowers instead of just lush green leaves.
The fertilizer mix you should use after pruning, especially for the plants you have in the ground, is one that you can easily prepare yourself. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Take 2 ice cream cans (2 liters each) of Blood & Bone.
- Add 2 cans of Super Phosphate.
- Include 1 can of Sulphate of Potash.
- Also, use half a can of Magnesium Sulphate (Epsom Salts).
- Don’t forget to add a quarter can of Sulphate of Iron.
Mix all these ingredients together thoroughly, and then generously sprinkle a handful of this mixture around each of your bushes. Afterward, make sure to cover it with a suitable mulch layer, about 2 to 3 inches thick. This mulch will help keep the roots cool, especially during the upcoming hot weather. It’s a great way to nourish and protect your hibiscus plants effectively.
By pruning hibiscus this way you can be assured of every limb getting a fresh, healthy start. You will also be impressed later on in the season when you see all of the new growth and new flowers. Everyone will be telling you that your hibiscus plant never looked better.