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Hibiscus Plant Care

Wilt Disease

My Hibiscus Leaves are all Green, but Wilting and Dying!
What Should I do?

Most hibiscus pests and diseases are not fatal and can be easily cured, but hibiscus wilt disease is one that can be scary, because it can kill an entire plant in an amazingly short time.

What Causes Hibiscus Wilt Disease?

Healthy Hibiscus Leaves
Healthy Hibiscus Leaves Stand Out Crisply
Hibiscus wilt disease is no different from wilts that affect many ornamental plants. It is caused by fungi with such intimidating names as Fusarium oxysporum and Verticillium. This disease is often referred to as "root rot" but that is a misunderstanding of the problem. What is actually happening is that pathogenic fungi are rapidly reproducing in the soil mix of the pot and entering the plant through the roots. The roots of infected plants do not show any "rot" except possibly in the late stages of the disease - if the plant survives that long. Once inside the hibiscus, the fungi disrupt the plant's capillary system, preventing water and nutrients from circulating normally.

How do I Know my Hibiscus has Wilt Disease?

Although the leaves slowly wilt and die in wilt disease, they usually do not turn yellow, which makes wilt disease an easy problem to spot. Almost all other hibiscus problems cause the leaves to turn yellow. But with wilt disease, the leaves will tend to stay the green they were to begin with, or they may slowly darken as they wilt to a dark green, brown, or blackish color. Wilt disease will also hit the entire plant, not just one tip or branch. If just one tip or branch is wilted, then your plant has dieback disease, which can be cured but pruning away the damaged branch, but not the dreaded wilt disease. For wilt disease, look for wilting green leaves all over your plant, or all over one entire side of your plant.

Hibiscus Wilt Disease
Wilted Green Leaves ~ Hibiscus Wilt Disease
As soon as you see wilted green leaves covering your hibiscus, feel the soil at the base of the plant. Is it wet or dry? If it is very dry, the wilt may just be caused by drought or underwatering. A quick dose of water will solve this problem! But if the soil is damp, and especially if it is wet, then wilted green leaves almost always spell wilt disease, and it is very important that you act quickly! Wilt disease can overcome and kill an entire large plant in a week or two - sometimes even more quickly than that.

Prevention ~ The Best Cure!

If none of your plants have wilt disease, then learn how to prevent it now! Prevention is by far the easiest and best cure for wilt disease, and it's an important part of keeping hibiscus healthy. Wilt disease is by far the most common cause of hibiscus loss - we get email several times a year from heartbroken hibiscus lovers whose plant is dying of wilt disease. Just the time it takes to send and receive an email can be long enough for the disease to kill the plant, so learning to prevent wilt disease in the first place is clearly the wisest course of action.

Follow these steps to help keep your hibiscus free of wilt disease:

Help! I Already Have Wilt Disease! What do I do?

Hibiscus Recovering from Wilt Disease
First Signs of Recovery ~ New Tiny Growing Tips
Act quickly! Do not wait to see if the plant gets better. Wilt disease kills quickly, and plants almost never recover on their own. Immediately try one or more of the following for an emergency save:

Healthy Hibiscus Bush
Full Recovery from Wilt Disease ~ Lots of Healthy New Growth
While the plant is recovering, keep it in the shade and do not water it any more than you absolutely have to. Use one or more of the following to help the plant recover, applying them with as little water as possible until the plant is fully leafed out again:

New tiny growing tips will appear within a week or two if the plant is recovering. If no new growing tips appear within about 3 weeks, try scratching the bark of the main stem to see if there is green underneath. If there is green underneath, continue treating the plant. If not, then the plant has died and should be disposed of off the property. Wrap it in a plastic bag and dispose of it in the trash. You do not want to spread this disease to other plants!

Wilt is a serious plant disease. Prevention is better than cure as many plants will perish once they have it no matter what type of "cure" is tried.