If you’re looking at your hibiscus plant and thinking you wish it was bushier or had a few more flowers, you may want to prune it. In this guide, I will cover everything you need to know about hibiscus pruning and deadheading for optimal growth and plant care each season.
Do You Need to Prune Hibiscus?
There are two main types of hibiscus, and these plants have different growth habits.
Tropical hibiscus grows woody stems that remain from year to year, and hardy hibiscus plants lose all of their growth each year. That means that you should prune tropical hibiscus, but you do not need to prune hardy hibiscus.
However, you can clean up hardy hibiscus in the late winter or early spring. Use your hands or a pair of clippers to gently remove the dead stems at the base of the ground.
Pruning Tropical Hibiscus
Pruning tropical hibiscus plants can help maintain a favorable plant shape, encourage new growth, and increase the number of flowers. But improper pruning can damage your plant, so you must know the right way to prune hibiscus before you pick up your clippers.
There are multiple ways you can prune hibiscus. The method or methods you select depend on your desired plant shape, the health of the plant, and plant size.
Regardless of your method, you should start with sharp and sanitized tools. Clean cuts will speed healing and also prevent the spread of disease.
When to Prune Hibiscus
The best time to prune your hibiscus plant is the late winter or early spring, or right before warmer weather arrives. This applies to both indoor and outdoor plants as well as those grown in containers and those grown in the ground.
How to Prune Hibiscus
When you prune hibiscus plant stems, you should make a 45° cut just above a node. This is the raised portion of a stem where leaves emerge.
After you cut off the portion of the stem above the leaf node, it will put on rapid growth. Therefore, you should determine where you’d like more growth and prune accordingly.
For example, if there is a hole in foliage near the bottom left side of your plant, you may want to prune a stem just to the right of the hole. But pruning just above a node that points left, you will encourage the plant to send new growth into the hole.
Pinching Branches to Encourage Growth
Another way to prune your hibiscus involves removing a few inches from the top of each branch. This will encourage new growth to form and is an excellent choice if you’re concerned about over pruning.
Pinching can also help elongated and sparse-looking hibiscus plants become bushier.
How to Prune Hibiscus Into a Tree Shape
While tropical hibiscus naturally grow as branching shrubs, you may have seen hibiscus that seems to grow from a single main stem. The look of a long stem topped with foliage and flowers is the result of careful pruning.
If you’d like to achieve a tree-like shape with your hibiscus plant, follow these steps.
- Start with a plant that has a stem that is a few feet tall. This will be the main “trunk”, so if you want a straight trunk choose a plant with a straight stem.
- Cut off the top of the stem about four inches below where you’d like the top of the tree to be when you’re finished.
- Measure six inches down from the top of the stem then prune off all branches that appear below this line.
- Continue to prune off new branches as they grow out from the trunk.
- Trim off the top few inches of each branch that you’ve left on the top of the “trunk” to encourage a bushier appearance and more flowers.
Should You Deadhead Hibiscus Flowers?
Deadheading is the process of removing dead flowers from plants. Gardners complete this step to keep plants tidy and encourage them to produce new flowers.
While deadheading won’t hurt hibiscus plants, it isn’t necessary. Hibiscus flowers will naturally drop a few days after they stop blooming.
Hibiscus Pruning and Deading FAQs:
How Far Back Should I Prune Hibiscus?
It’s best to avoid removing more than 2/3 of a hibiscus branch when you prune. Be aware that new growth will emerge at the top of the pruned shoot, so prune back to an area where you would like more growth.
Do I Need to Deadhead My Hibiscus?
No, you do not need to deadhead hibiscus. However, removing dead flowers can keep up the plant’s appearance.
When is the best time to prune hibiscus?
The best time to prune hibiscus is in late winter or early spring before new growth emerges. This allows the plant to put all its energy into new growth and blooming during the growing season.
How much should I prune my hibiscus?
The amount you should prune depends on the size and shape of your hibiscus and your personal preference. Generally, it’s best to remove at most 1/3 of the plant’s total volume simultaneously.
Can I prune hibiscus during the growing season?
Yes, you can prune hibiscus during the growing season if needed. However, it’s important to avoid pruning too often, as this can reduce blooming and stress the plant.
What tools do I need to prune hibiscus?
You will need a pair of sharp pruning shears or loppers to prune the hibiscus. Make sure the blades are clean and sharp to avoid damaging the plant.
How do I deadhead my hibiscus?
To deadhead hibiscus, pinch or cut off spent blooms where they meet the stem. Remove the entire flower, including the seed pod, to encourage new buds to form.
Can I propagate hibiscus from cuttings?
Yes, hibiscus can be propagated from cuttings in water or soil taken during the growing season. Choose a healthy stem with several leaves, and make a clean cut just below a leaf node. Remove the lower leaves, dip the cut end in rooting hormone, and plant the cutting in a pot with moist potting soil. Keep the cutting in a warm, humid location and water regularly until it roots and starts to grow.
Pruning your hibiscus plant can help encourage new growth and alter plant shape. While you can deadhead hibiscus plants, this isn’t a necessary step.
For more, see our essential guide to hibiscus growing zones, amazing uses and benefits of hibiscus plants, and hibiscus flower meaning and symbolism.
Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.
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