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Author Topic: URGENT - Please Help!  (Read 3834 times)
JRobbins

Posts: 8


« on: September 01, 2009, 05:49:15 PM »

I REALLY need help, I made a huge mistake and my two beautiful Hibiscus trees are nearing death.

I have no experience with plants other than killing them. My husband and I just moved to Gainesville, Florida and we started a major landscaping project with our front yard that has not been maintained in over 10 years. I found that I really enjoyed working in the yard and I impulsively decided to get two Hibiscus trees (from Home Depot) to put in pots on either side of the entryway. They were beautiful 5' tall braided trees a little over a week ago.

Without having a clue with what I was doing, we purchased pots, the cheapest soil we could find ($2.00 a bag because we thought dirt was dirt) and I removed them from the plastic container, centered them in the pots with only spreading out the bottom few inches of the roots, and covered them up with our crap soil and gave them a lot of water. I watered them heavily for the next three days and the leaves began turning yellow and looking very wilted.

Once this started happening I jumped on the internet and have found everything from mixing bleach in the water to re-potting, and growth enhancers to fertilizers. I have not given them anymore water because everything to do with wilt said not to water. I am just watching them die a slow death and I have no clue what I should do. It has been about 10 days now and they are still blooming, but look primarily dead.

I am absolutely devastated that I may have destroyed these gorgeous (and expensive) plants. I will do or buy anything I need, please help. I need a straight answer of "hibiscus rehabilitation for dummies - the step-by-step guide".

Thank you in advance for your help, but please understand that if you send me something like:  "you could do this... or this... or maybe that" they will die for sure. I truly need to know exactly what to do. I am not competent enough to make a single desicion when it comes to plants. On the bright side though, I promise to never buy another plant without fully understanding how to care for it.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

J. Robbins

P.S. I will try to take photos and post them in the morning. Not sure if it will help.
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Charlie
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« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2009, 07:53:41 PM »

Welcome J Robbins,

The first thing we need to confirm is whether or not your new pots have drain holes and the holes are able to drain. If not, and you "watered heavily" then the hibiscus are drowning in the water trapped in the pot. Let me know about that and then we can take the next step.

Charlie
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JRobbins

Posts: 8


« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2009, 04:03:49 AM »

Yes, there is a hole in each pot, but I bought such terrible soil that it may not be draining properly.
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Charlie
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« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2009, 06:34:23 AM »

OK, here is what you do.

Go to a good garden center or nursery near where you live. Ask someone who works there for a high quality potting mix that drains well. Buy enough to repot both plants - 1 or 2 bags should be enough depending on how big the pots are.

When you get home open the bags and pour the potting mix out onto concrete, or on a tarp, or in a wheelbarrow. Use the hose to wet the new mix. Stir up the mix so it is evenly moist all the way through. You want it wet enough so that when you take a handful of it and squeeze it a few drops of water will drip out. It will be moist, but not sopping wet.

Next remove one of the hibiscus from the new pot. Wash the pot clean. While it is empty use the hose to put water in the pot so that you can watch it drain out of the hole. Does it drain easily? If so, proceed to the next step. If not, you can drill more holes in the pot or buy new pots because the excess water must be able to drain out.

Next, use the hose to wash any potting soil from the root ball of the hibiscus. I am talking about the mix you bought first that may be stuck to the root ball - not the soil that the roots are growing in that came with the hibiscus. We are not trying to wash all the soil off the roots, only the potting soil that you first added to the new pot.

At this point you are back to where things were when you first bought the plants, except of course that they are not doing as well (yet!). Take some of the brand new and now moist potting mix and place it in the bottom of the pot. Sit the hibiscus in the center of the pot. The top of the root ball should be 2 inches below the top rim of the pot. If it is higher or lower then add or remove potting mix so that it is the right height.

Now fill in along the sides of the root ball with the new, moist potting mix. Lightly pack down the mix so the plant is firmly held, but do not press it so tightly that all the air is driven out of the mix. Cover the top of the root ball with 1 inch of the new potting mix.

That should result in the potting mix being about 1 inch below the edge of the pot. You want this space so that when you water the pot the water does not flow over the edge of the pot and out of the pot. Instead it will collect in the top of the pot and then sink down into the root zone of the plant.

Repeat the above for the second plant.

Cut off all the yellow leaves and if any stems have turned black like they are rotting then cut them off below the rotting area.

You should now have hibiscus that look sort of funny on top since most leaves are gone. However, the leaves will most likely grow back quickly if the plant has not been injured too much. Tiny new sprouts of growth should be visible within 2 weeks if all goes well.

Ideally you have a location that is part sun and part shade to place the 2 plants during the next few days. All shade is OK, too. As soon as you see new growth starting place the hibiscus in the location that you want them to be in so that the new growth develops properly for the amount of sun in that location.

Watering is going to be the key to success here. Hibiscus like water and need a good amount of it when temperatures are hot. However, you don't want to overdo it either, particularly with plants that are stressed like these. The idea is that the potting mix should not dry out completely but stay more evenly moist. In practice that is not so easy to do but it is the goal. When you do water it should be a thorough watering, meaning that the entire root ball and all the potting mix is wet. Then the pot will start to dry from the top down. Usually the day after the surface of the potting mix become dry is a good time to water. I would guess, and this is only a guess, that right now twice a week will be good for watering, then when the new leaves are larger every other day would be better. Just keep in mind that you want to keep them evenly moist and try to do that.

Most of the time the problem is that the pots are not watered enough. Some water should come out of the drainage hole every time you water. If not, that means that part of the roots are not getting water. Somtimes it is necessary to water one pot, and then the other pot, and then add more to the first pot in order to water the entire root ball completely. Don't be scared to water. The new potting mix you get will drain and dry properly and this allows you to water the plants as much as they need.

If the hibiscus plants survive, do them a favor and order some HVH Specialblend hibiscus fertilizer from the online store. Mix it in a waterin can once every week or two and water the hibiscus with this mixture. They will grow and bloom much better if they receive proper nutrition.

If you can post photos of the before and after it would be interesting to see what happens.

Best of luck to you!

Charlie

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JRobbins

Posts: 8


« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2009, 09:45:27 AM »

Charlie,

Thank you so very much for taking the time to give me such a thorough reply. I was wondering... do you think my plants would be able to wait for your potting mix to arrive (not sure how long it would take) or should I get this accomplished today? I will place an order for the fertilizer today after I hear from you about the soil. Should I get the growth enhancer too? Or anything else? Again, I'm willing to get anything to help my poor plants!

Best Regards,

Jackie Robbins
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JRobbins

Posts: 8


« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2009, 10:58:21 AM »

Okay, here are the photos. I also got some close ups of buds and leaves that have white dots on them, please let me know if I need to do something about that too.


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* DSC_0043.jpg (38.15 KB, 600x450 - viewed 217 times.)

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* DSC_0053.jpg (34.37 KB, 600x450 - viewed 223 times.)
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Nievesgirl

Posts: 975


« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2009, 11:17:57 AM »

Jackie ,

The white stuff looks like the begining of aphids or white flies? I am not sure but I get them on my hibiscus also and I have been spraying them and I have not seen adult aphids or white flies in a while so I think that is what it might be.

As for the leaf with the holes looks like another pest maybe eating the leaves but I have no idea on what it is since I never experienced that before.
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~Kerry~
Charlie
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« Reply #7 on: September 02, 2009, 12:51:08 PM »

Hi Jackie,

Nice job with the photos. I can see why you liked these bushes for the front door area. When healthy they would be quite striking.

I won't lie to you - if the pots are wet, the wilted leaves are a bad sign. The best chance for these is to repot them immediately. They can't wait for soil to ship from California. Any good garden center in the area will have some good quality potting mix. I don't know Florida brands or I would offer some advice but the store should have a nursery professional on staff if you have doubts about which one looks good.

Now that I've seen the plants there are some changes to the prior advice. The plant clearly has wilt disease (I'm assuming the soil is wet and the wilt does not go away during the night). After repotting, these plants need to be in the shade until the leaves become crisp again and then they can be moved back to their intended location. After you repot them the best way you can help them is to treat them once with bleach. These are big pots so you will need a full gallon of water for each plant. Mix one pint (16 ounces) or regular household bleach into the gallon of water and then slowly pour this mixture into the pot so that the entire rootball is soaked. Do not water again for about a week, or until the pots seem to have dried out at least half way. You don't want to stress the plant by letting the soil totally dry out but let it dry out quite a lot. One easy way to tell is to lift the pot when it is freshly watered and then compare weight later. As pots dry they get lighter.

The bleach will kill the fungal organisms that are attacking the plant through the roots. It may be too late but maybe not and the best way to help is to repot and treat once with bleach. Then the plants will either get over the wilt disease or not, and all you can do is keep them lightly watered in the meantime.

As an alternative you could repot them in their original pots and let them recover or die in those pots. It is going to take weeks for them to recover, if they do, so you might want to plant some new ones in the decorative pots. Or not, just a suggestion.

There is one other thing - if the plants were injured during transplanting, or when removing them from the original pots, that also could cause this wilting. That would be much better because they are more likely to recover from that. It is always advisable to be very careful when removing the plant from a pot it has been in for a long time. You do not want to break or tear the roots, particularly at the point where the roots join the main stem. These are such well established plants that I doubt you damaged them enough to cause this, and suspect that it is the poor soil that caused the wilt disease.

The small bugs are aphids. They are easy to get rid of. You can find in a local place or order from us Bayers Tree and Shrub. All you have to do is mix it with water and pour it into the pot. The plant absorbs it and when the aphids suck plant juice from the hibiscus they die. One treatment lasts for several months which makes this the easiest way to get rid of aphids. You won't want to do this until the plant recovers so the other way is to spray them with Bayers 3-in-1 which will also get rid of them although they may come back sooner than if you use the other product. To sum up, spray the leaves and buds with Bayer 3-in-1 as soon as you can get some, and then consider soaking the roots with Bayer Tree and Shrub later on after these recover.

Growth Enhancer would be good to use if the plants start to recover. It might even help them recover but I have to be frank - wilt disease is a hibiscus killer, and nothing may help once a hibiscus has it. Even so, the sooner you start working on the plants the better the chances are.

If any other questions come to mind, please just ask.

Best of luck!

Charlie
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JRobbins

Posts: 8


« Reply #8 on: September 02, 2009, 04:46:17 PM »

Charlie,

Thank you so much, I will get them in the shade right away, take a trip to the nursery first thing in the morning, and do everything you've recommended. I will keep you posted on their progress. I've found that I really love Hibiscus and I will be ordering your care CD and hopefully buy several from your farm in the future. This website and the information you've given me have been invaluable and although I may have destroyed these plants, the lesson learned will be remembered for any plants I have in the future. Thank you.
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JRobbins

Posts: 8


« Reply #9 on: September 02, 2009, 04:52:02 PM »

Thought of another question...

Should I still wet the potting mix as you suggested before seeing the photos, or since they need the bleach mixture should I pot them in dry potting mix and then immediately water them?
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Charlie
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« Reply #10 on: September 02, 2009, 06:55:52 PM »

No, wet the new mix before adding it to the pot. It should be wet enough so that when you squeeze a handful only a few drops of water drip out - but no more.

Charlie
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JRobbins

Posts: 8


« Reply #11 on: September 02, 2009, 07:20:49 PM »

Would they have a better chance if I brought them in the house where we keep the air about 70-73 degrees as apposed to the Florida temperatures in the 80's and 90's, or should I just move them to a shaded area outside? Sorry for taking up so much of your time, I truly appreciate every bit of the help you've given me.
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Charlie
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« Reply #12 on: September 03, 2009, 06:30:15 AM »

It's tempting to move them inside with the moderate temps but I've been told by people on the Gulf Coast that when they've tried to do that with healthy plants the hibiscus drop all their leaves due to the drastic change in humidity. Here in California our humidity is relatively low and a move indoors does not shock them.

Here's another thought. You got these at Home Depot, right? And the soil, too? Doesn't Home Depot have a guarantee for their plants? It hardly seems fair that when you transplanted Home Depot plants into Home Depot potting soil and get this reaction you should be responsible for it.

If you prefer to try to save these anyway, let's give it a shot! 

Charlie
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jpiper82

Posts: 179


« Reply #13 on: September 03, 2009, 09:37:14 AM »

How about using SuperNova?  It sure helped my distressed Hibs.
John
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JRobbins

Posts: 8


« Reply #14 on: September 07, 2009, 08:14:50 PM »

Charlie,

Here's the latest...

I did everything you told me to do first thing Thursday morning. By Thursday evening the plants looked much firmer and greener than they had since I bought them and new leaves were already starting to sprout. They continued to look better through Saturday. Sunday they began to get more yellow leaves again and today they are back to looking very wilted. I have not watered them since applying the gallon of bleach water on Thursday. One thing that I noticed when I repotted them in the new Fafard soil was that the root ball was completely dried out to the point that it almost looked dusty. They didn't bloom on Saturday, but yesterday and today they each had 5-6 flowers that were back to being the same large size that they were when we bought them. Should I continue to wait the full week to water them again or do you think that maybe they're not getting enough water?

Thanks a million!

Jackie
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