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PAL Questions: 3 - Garden Tools: - Recommended Websites: 1

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Keywords: Pruning shrubs, Hibiscus

PAL Question:

How do we prune a Hibiscus tree that is about 3 feet tall? The plants are located in a container outside of our senior center. They wintered inside and are now too bushy at the top. How do we prune so they are more compact? What is the correct way to care for these wonderful flowering trees?

View Answer:

It sounds like you have Hibiscus rosa-sinensis---the tropical evergreen shrub. Late spring is the time to prune. According to the American Horticultural Society Pruning & Training book: Prune established plants by cutting back main shoots by as much as one-third, and shorten laterals, leaving two or three buds. Dead wood attracts canker, so it should be removed promptly. To renovate completely, remove older branches entirely and cut the remainder back hard. The response is usually good, but if most stems have died back, it is best to replace the plant.
(Source: American Horticultural Society Pruning & Training, ed. by C. Brickell, 1996, p. 201).

Other pruning information is available from Hidden Valley Hibiscus or from the Queen of the Tropics website (click on Fertilizer, Insecticide, and Pruning).

Also, my personal experience with a 10-year-old Hibiscus is that pinching out tips of stems in spring and summer increases flower production.

Season Spring
Date 2008-01-24
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Keywords: Hibiscus, Topiary work

PAL Question:

I have a small hibiscus that I would like to train into a tree with the twisted trunk and I have no idea how to go about that. Please advise.

View Answer:

When you prune your hibiscus into a tree-like form with a single trunk, it is called a standard. There are even braided topiary forms. To achieve the twisted shape, you will probably need to create a support or frame.

The following general information on pruning comes from Tropical Hibiscus:

"While the tropical hibiscus can be pruned any time, probably the ideal is the earliest where the resulting tender new growth will be safe from cold damage*. For shaping purposes, some growers will prune the longest third of the branches and return in 4 to 6 weeks and prune the next longest third. Only sharp, clean shears should be used. A clean cut should be just above and angled down and away from an 'eye' or node. (A node is the junction of a leaf and the stem. There is a small bud in this junction that is activated after pruning.) Cutting above outward pointing "eyes" will encourage growth in that direction. The new growth resulting from pruning invigorates the plant and will provide a source for many new blooms."

Here are links to information on creating standards and braided topiary:

Bonsai, Topiary, Standards and Braiding

Special Cases: Pruning for Particular Purposes

The Miller Library has a good selection of books on pruning and training, and specifically on topiary. You can search the library's catalog by clicking this link.

Season All Season
Date 2007-06-06
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Keywords: Hibiscus, Plant cuttings, Propagation

PAL Question:

Can you tell me how to grow Hibiscus from cuttings?

View Answer:

According to the American Horticultural Society, most hibiscus root easily from cuttings. They suggest the following in Plant Propagation (1999, p. 131 and pp. 100-101):
"...cuttings should usually be 1.5 to 2 inches long, with two or three pairs of leaves retained at the top...remove the soft tip from each cutting, because it is vulnerable to both rotting and scorch...remove the lowest pair of leaves to make it easier to insert the cutting into the medium...make a hole in the medium with a pencil...[for]...minimal resistance...the cuttings will benefit from a warm, protected environment...when the cuttings root, knock them out of the container and gently pull them apart. Pot singly..."
The AHS suggests using rooting hormone and they also point out that due to timing, you may get 'greenwood' (slightly hardened) rather than 'softwood' cuttings; they are treated the same way.

The web page of Roz and Pat Merritt includes pictures and directions on how to take a cutting (scroll down to cuttings).

I also looked at GardenWeb, a gardening forum where experienced gardeners share their knowledge. Here is another link from this site which suggests layering, a process by which you bend a branch down to soil (usually in a pot), anchor it, and wait for it to take root.

Here is additional information about layering hibiscus, from Hibiscus World.

Season All Season
Date 2008-08-08
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June 24 2013 12:55:25