With over 300 species and even more cultivars, hibiscus (hi-BIS-kus) is a wonderful and varied genus of flowering plants ranging from small herbaceous flowers to trees.
While these plants can often have different temperatures or care requirements, one crucial factor is a constant – plenty of flowers.
Hibiscus flowers are attractive and are used to make a delicious (and nutritious) tea.
But being a heavy bloomer invariably raises that age-old debate: Should you deadhead hibiscus plants?
Does Hibiscus Need Deadheading? How To Deadhead?
It should come as no surprise that the real answer is entirely subjective.
Here’s everything you need to know when deciding whether you wish to deadhead or not, as well as how to deadhead these plants more efficiently.
To Deadhead Or Not To Deadhead?
That is the question that ruins friendships among green thumbs.
In reality, whether or not you deadhead is more a matter of personal preference than necessity, and there are some good arguments both for and against deadheading.
When To Deadhead
The most common argument for deadheading is that it stimulates the plant to create more buds, but is that always the case?
Thankfully, there are other reasons to deadhead that have a more solid answer, such as:
- Deadheading dying or diseased blooms can improve the appearance of your hibiscus plant.
It may also help reduce the spread of the disease, as some fungal infections spread when the petals fall and come into contact with foliage on their way to the ground.
- Any hibiscus plants are known to become invasive, especially the beautiful Rose of Sharon.
By deadheading, you’re also removing the seed pods before they have a chance to spread.
It can go a long way to ensuring any more aggressive hibiscus plants don’t escape and start taking over the rest of your garden.
- A third reason is a space.
Many hibiscus plants can end up with so many blooms that they become overcrowded, preventing newer buds from opening.
When this happens, you might get some bud drops or flowers that begin wilting before they have a chance to open.
By deadheading some of the older blooms in more cluttered areas of the plant, you’re giving newer buds more space to bloom.
- Finally, sometimes your hibiscus plant didn’t get a lot of nutrition or shuddered some winter damage, and you find yourself with a leggy plant that is at risk of more blooms than leaves, figuratively speaking.
In such a case, sometimes it’s best to deadhead any new blooms while pruning the plant back and adjusting its fertilizer so the Hibiscus plant will focus more on new growth.
Nitrogen is essential for healthy foliage growth, while phosphorus is needed for hardy blooms.
You may thus use spring to feed it higher nitrogen lower phosphorus fertilizer along careful pruning to get the plant back on track and still get some later summer blooms.
When Not To Deadhead
Of course, there are also reasons to avoid deadheading.
The biggest argument is that it doesn’t guarantee new blooms and may even shock the plant into pausing the production of fresh flowers if you get too aggressive.
Hibiscus plants are usually self-cleaners, meaning they’ll drop spent flowers independently.
Another widespread argument is the time investment.
Deadheading a heavy bloomer such as hibiscus can eat up time during a single growing season.
As the plant is self-cleaning, many gardeners thus argue that the time spent deadheading could be used far more effectively elsewhere in the garden.
Proper Deadheading Techniques For Hibiscus
Now that you know the arguments for and against, it’s entirely up to you whether or not you wish to deadhead your hibiscus plants.
You may even choose to deadhead only certain species or under certain circumstances.
No matter your reasons, if you choose to deadhead hibiscus plants, there are a few things you need to know to get the most out of the experience.
Include The Seed Pods
This should go without saying, but if you’re deadheading a hibiscus plant and the spent flower has begun developing seed pods, you’ll want to remove those as well.
One of the biggest reasons your hibiscus might fail to produce new blooms after deadheading is that the whole point of flowers is to reproduce, and the seed pods are proof that that task is being fulfilled.
By removing the seed pods, the plant knows it hasn’t yet achieved its goal and will produce more buds to try and reproduce.
Always Dispose Of Diseased Buds Securely
This is another common-sense step that many gardeners forget.
Some diseases, such as botrytis blight, will infect the flowers of a plant.
As petals wilt and fall off, they spread the infection to any leaves they come in contact with and cause the disease to spread quickly
You may avoid putting your plant at further risk by doing the following:
- Securely bagging up any diseased blooms
- Keeping your hands and tools sterile
Don’t Just Deadhead, Prune!
This is one top that can do a lot of good when done right.
As you deadhead the first round of blooms, remember these steps:
- Consider shearing back those stems or branches by 25% to 30% percent.
- Make sure the cut is above a leaf or bud.
Tropical hibiscus responds incredibly well to being sheared back this much after the first round.
This shearing is best done in late winter to early spring for hardy hibiscus instead of after the first bloom.
Hardy hibiscus is often cut back to 1’ foot once it reaches 2’ feet around this time.
The result is that the plant will grow back fuller and bear more blooms because it will have more resources to dole out than if the plant had not been pruned back.
Just be warned that shearing back in mid to late summer (or after the second bloom phase) won’t benefit your plant and may hinder the first blooms for next year.