I have a Dinner Plate hibiscus and it has brown spots on the leaves. I repotted it into a larger pot and put rocks in the bottom for better drainage, and now it is getting new leaves on the lower half of the stems, but only a few from about 4-6 inches from the bottom up. Can I cut back the stems to an inch or two above where the new leaves basically stop and have it bush out better, or do I need to leave it alone and let nature take its course? I have it potted as I live in an apartment and I want to be able to take it with me when we move.
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Michelle in Florida: Hibiscus moschueutos, commonly referred to as a hardy or Dinner Plate hibiscus, produce very large blooms that give even a northern garden a tropical feel. Here in Kentucky we have to prune these plants back later in the fall, and the following spring they put on new growth. Since you are gardening in Florida I would suspect that you only prune to maintain size. The best time to prune hibiscus in warmer zones is during the late spring/early summer. A general rule for pruning shrubs is to not take off more than one-third of the plant each year. If you need to prune more than that it should be done year after year. In your case it sounds like you may just need to remove the foliage that does not look good and let it put on new growth to replace the lost. As long as the overall health of the plant is good, removing the spotty foliage should be all you need to do at this point. If you have seen insect activity or anything unusual about your hibiscus, you can take a sample to your County Cooperative Extension Office for the horticulture agent to look at. Otherwise make sure that the container has a drainage hole and that it is not blocked. Hibiscus thrive in full sun (six hours or more each day) and consistently moist but well-drained, fertile soil. You can feed your plant with a well-balanced plant food such as 10-10-10 once a month.