Hibiscus Plant Care

Hibiscus as Houseplants

For those of us from the northern regions of the planet, tropical plants are houseplants, hibiscus included. But hibiscus don't just make good houseplants in cold climates. They make beautiful houseplants in even the warmest climates. Like all flowering houseplants, there are some necessary tricks you need to learn to keep hibiscus growing, thriving, and blooming in the house. This article will give you all those tricks and make you an expert at growing hibiscus as houseplants.


Why Grow Hibiscus as Houseplants?

Exotic Hibiscus Houseplants
Exotic Hibiscus Blooming in a Picture Window
'Erin Rachel' (left) and 'Belle du Jour' (right)
We all know houseplants beautify our homes, and create an ambience that makes us feel good. But research on houseplants has found that there are actual health benefits in growing plants in our houses - some obvious, and others not so obvious:

Add to all this the joy of growing houseplants that reward you with large, vivid, multi-colored flowers, and hibiscus will quickly zoom to the top of the list. But beware! This joy can become quite addicting! You could easily end up like Charles and Cindy with hibiscus growing in every window, nook, and cranny.


How to Grow Hibiscus Successfully in the House


Tropical Hibiscus Houseplants
Tropical Hibiscus Houseplants in a Sunny Window
'El Capitolio' (left) and 'Blue Ballerina' (right) in 4" (10 cm) Pots
In the artificial home environment, hibiscus need a nutritional boost from us to help them make all the glucose and proteins they need to thrive and bloom. The basic nutrients we use to keep our house hibiscus healthy and happy are:

Hibiscus houseplants do best when they receive a weak solution of these nutrients with every watering. The easiest way to get all of these nutrients is to use our HVH Houseplant Formula. It contains everything you need to meet all the optimal nutritional needs of hibiscus in one bottle. You just mix it into the water each time you water your hibiscus.


Exotic Hibiscus Houseplants
Hibiscus Flowers in Late Winter
'Blue President' (left) and 'Erin Rachel' (right) in 4" (10 cm) Pots
Just as with indoor humans and pets, hygiene is important for house hibiscus. The dust that hibiscus filter out of the air collects on the leaves and in all the little nooks and crannies, becoming perfect breeding grounds for the one hibiscus pest that loves an indoor environment - spider mites. The easiest way to make sure your hibiscus never get spider mites is to keep them clean. Dusting doesn't work very well because it just stirs the dust up, fluffs it into the air, and it will end up right back on the plant in a day or two. Washing is best. You can literally just pop your hibiscus in a sink or bathtub and spray it all over with warm water. Spray the top and bottom of all the leaves, and make sure you get into the crooks between stems and branches. Spray right to the soil, give the soil a good spraying, and spray the outside of the pot too. Let it air dry, and you're done. Or, if you prefer, you can use a gentle product like horticultural oil to spray down your hibiscus. Horticultural oil is good because it doesn't have to be rinsed off, and it will leave your plants shiny and clean without causing them any stress. Just spray it on and let the plants air dry. Washing once a week is optimum. At a minimum try to wash them twice a month. If you get a spider mite infestation, wash them twice a week for 3 weeks to get rid of the spider mites, then resume washing once a week.


Hibiscus will grow amazingly well with no direct sunlight, but they won't bloom. They will have glossy dark green leaves, produce beautiful foliage, and stay strong and healthy if they are clear across the room from a sunny window. But if you want to see flowers, they will need to get at least a little bit of direct sunlight every day. A good nutrition program minimizes the amount of sun they will require to bloom, so even just an hour or two of sun will work just fine if you use our suggested nutrition program. If you have a very sunny window with several hours of daily sun, you'll get even more blooms. No amount of sun is too much, but in a very sunny window try to give the plant an inch or so of space between its leaves and the window because the heat that builds up right next to the glass can be hard on the leaves that touch the glass.

Tropical Hibiscus Houseplants
Many Hibiscus Plants Growing in a Large Living Room Picture Window


Indoor hibiscus, like outdoor hibiscus, will need a lot of water in hot weather and much less water in cold weather. When you water your hibiscus, water until you see water come out the bottom of the pot into the plant tray, but after 12 hours the water in the plant tray should be gone. If there is still water standing in the tray, pour it away. Hibiscus can drown in standing water. Their roots need air, and water prevents them from getting any air. Fungal root diseases also thrive in soggy soil, and standing water definitely makes the soil soggy if it stays too long.

Pinch and Prune

Just as with outdoor hibiscus, if you want to see lots of blooms, you have to pinch and prune your indoor hibiscus plants to make them grow more branches for flowers to bloom on. It's hard to do, but if you can make yourself pinch your plants while they're small, you'll reap the rewards in many more blooms within a very few months. Even small plants in 4" (10 cm) pots will bloom if you pinch them, feed them well, give them lots of sun, and wait patiently for them to branch. Larger plants will reward you even more. The hardest thing of all is to cut off the single blooming tip you have. But one blooming tip will turn into several if you cut it off, so just close your eyes, take a breath, and snip!

Which Hibiscus Varieties?

Hibiscus Houseplants
Hibiscus Flowers Indoors in Winter in a Sunny South Window
We used to make recommendations for varieties of hibiscus that grow well indoors, but we have discovered that they all do! Every hibiscus we have brought in the house and used this program with has grown and flowered, with good color in both foliage and blooms. Flowers will often be smaller indoors, but we never mind that as long as the colors are true, which they seem to be as long as the plants are given a good nutritional program. So choose any variety you like! Then let us know how well it does. As we try more and more varieties ourselves, we will provide information about how well they perform on our website, along with any feedback we get from other indoor hibiscus lovers.

Tropical hibiscus are not just for warm, sunny, southern souls! Northerners and people in colder climates grow them indoors with different, but equally spectacular results. Canadians and Northern Europeans have been growing hibiscus indoors for decades. So all of you in cold northern places, or those of you in warm southern places who love houseplants, jump in and try your favorite hibiscus in your house. Who needs a hot sunny climate? Who needs a greenhouse? A living room window will do, and we have the flowers to prove it!