The Hibiscus plant is a popular garden plant that’s often right up there, with roses, carnations, and gardenias as one of the most common choices. Even better, they’re often easier to grow indoors than the plants mentioned above.
Originally from China down into the Pacific Islands, the genus currently includes over 300 species, varieties, cultivars, and hybrids.
But growing hibiscus tree indoors is in some ways easier than outdoors and other ways much harder.
A good example of this is hydration.
Outdoors, you can usually let Mother Nature do her thing, while indoors, you can tweak the humidity as needed, you have to water the plant manually.
And this is where it gets complicated because you have to water on the plant’s schedule, not your own, and improper watering can cause problems.
How To Water Potted Hibiscus
Watering your hibiscus is easy once you know the rules, but those rules can often seem intimidating.
Fear not, as this guide will break them down so you can quickly master this important task.
The Right Type of Water
When you go to a decent restaurant, you tend to get filtered water or a choice of bottled water.
This is because tap water isn’t good for you – and can be terrible for your plants.
Tap water contains many chemicals and minerals that can harm your plant, such as chlorine, fluoride, or even lead.
Tap water should always be a last resort, and when you MUST use it, run it through a Brita or Zero Water filter to remove most of the chemicals.
Leaving the water out overnight can also help with removing dangerous chlorine gas.
Never give straight tap water, even if you’ve never seen symptoms of poisoning, as plants can pretend just as well as people and pets.
Distilled water (also sold as baby water) is by far the better choice and contains no harmful minerals or chemicals.
You can add a little hydrogen peroxide every few waterings, which will allow the distilled water to have similar qualities to natural rainwater.
Rainwater is, by far, the best type of water to give your plants, but a good drink of distilled water comes in at a close second.
When To Water Hibiscus Plants
People don’t usually drink based on an alarm clock or calendar, and neither should your plants.
Plants only actually process a small amount of the water they drink, with the rest being sweated out in a process known as transpiration.
The closer the ambient humidity is to what your plant needs, the less it will need to sweat, which means it will need to drink less.
Other environmental factors, such as soil drainage and temperature, can also affect how much water your plant needs at any given time.
As a result, watering on the clock can easily result in overwatering, which can cause disease or infestations.
Instead, you should use your finger to determine when the plant’s thirsty.
Stick your finger in the potting mix, and if the soil’s damp, your plant’s not thirsty.
However, when the soil has dried 1 to 2” inches down, it’s time to pour it a proverbial glassful.
Serving Up Drinks
You may have heard it suggested that cold water is bad for the body.
Cold liquids reduce your internal body temperature, which can be helpful in winter (it lowers your internal temperature, so you feel less cold), but bad in summer (for the same reason).
Plants aren’t much different, and a cold drink can shock their systems in the same way we humans can get brain freeze.
Simply put, always serve up room temperature water or something slightly warm.
If warming, test it on the back of your hand – parents will know the routine from experience with baby bottles.
That said, watering your plant with a bit of finesse can be good for both your plant and your mental health.
Hibiscus (like many other plants) prefers a watering technique known as soak-and-dry.
We’ve already discussed the “dry” part, but soaking isn’t as easy as simply dumping water into the pot.
You will want to water your plant slowly, working your way around the perimeter of the pot, so the soil is evenly moistened while trying not to splash the plant itself (if it splashes, you’re pouring too hard).
Continue to water until you see water beginning to seep out of the drainage holes.
Soaking has a couple of important benefits:
- It gives the water time to be absorbed into the soil, so you aren’t accidentally flooding the plant.
- This slow process flushes mineral salts and other waste from the soil (imagine flushing a toilet).
- This gives you time to talk to the plant, which gives it carbon dioxide and can have a soothing effect on your psyche (plus, you’ll be breathing in the fresh oxygen your plant gives off).
- Likewise, it’s a good excuse to do a cursory check over the plant to ensure it isn’t coming down with an infection or has bugs setting up home on it.
A Final Note On Watering Hibiscus
While we’ve been focusing on tropical hibiscus plants, this guide will apply to a large percentage of your houseplants, with the level of dryness to test for being the primary variable.
Remember, plants are much more like people than we give them credit for, and science is discovering new similarities all the time, so you should treat y9our plants like family members.
In return, your hibiscus will provide cleaner air, peace of mind, and the key ingredient for some tasty hibiscus water.