Cold weather's on the way - time for a tropical hibiscus to headindoors

Resident Expert

By , Jean-Marc Mojon and Sara Steindorf

Q I've got a potted hibiscus that started as a shrub indoors and over the summer has grown into a small tree out on my deck. I need to bring it indoors for the winter but don't have space for all of its branches in my house. What's the best way (and when) to prune it so that it's more manageable this winter and yet will still flower as well next summer? Also, it's been in the same pot for two to three years. It grows and blooms just fine, yet I wonder if by now I should transplant it into a bigger pot. What's best? Thanks for any tips.

R.S., Alexandria, Va.

A According to Wendy Proud of Monrovia nursery in California, you can prune hibiscus at any time, so it's fine to do it now. When you prune, make sure you don't cut off more than two-thirds of the plant at any one time. She recommends that when you cut the hibiscus back, you repot it into a container that's no more than 25 percent larger than the old pot.

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A potted hibiscus can be grown indoors over winter near a sunny window that's not close to a heat source. If you care for it, there's no reason why the plant won't flower next year once you place it outdoors, Ms. Proud says. However, the foliage may not be as deep green when the plant is inside as it was when it was outdoors.

To ensure that the plant grows well, keep the soil evenly moist. Gardeners in areas of the country with relatively mild winters may take the plant outdoors during the day once every few weeks when daytime temperatures are above 45 degrees and water the plant copiously to leach out any fertilizer salts

These efforts will pay off next summer when you have beautiful tropical blooms to enjoy once again.

Readers: Pose your questions and we'll seek out experts on home repairs, gardens, food, and family legal issues. Send queries to the Homefront Editor, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail home@csps.com

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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