How to Grow and Care for a Hibiscus Tree, a Flowering Plant That Can Live Forever

A genus of subtropical woody shrubs and small trees, hibiscus is an easy-to-care-for plant that produces stunning, brightly colored flowers.

Hibiscus is a genus of subtropical woody shrubs and small trees, covered with green, semi-glossy, toothed leaves. The plant is famous for its brightly colored trumpet-shaped flowers with five or more petals—and protruding from the center of the bloom is a showy filament that is often as vibrant as the flower itself.

At maturity, the plant grows to be about 8-to-16 feet tall and 5-to-10 feet wide, and, luckily, it doesn't take much to get it there: Hibiscus trees are easy to care for, so long as they're given proper growing conditions, including the right amount of water, type of soil, and adequate light.

Blooming Hibiscus syriacus tree in the garden

Growing Zones for a Hibiscus Tree

Tropical hibiscus will survive year round outdoors either in a pot or planted in the ground in USDA zones 9 to 11. You can still grow a hibiscus tree if you live in colder climates, but it should be brought inside during the winter.

How to Plant a Hibiscus Tree

Hibiscus trees are typically purchased from a nursery as a potted plant, rather than grown by seed. Look for one with plenty of developing flower buds. "Hibiscus plants should have healthy-looking green leaves without spots or marks," saysBeatriz Garces, the vice president of sales and marketing at Nature's Way Farms. Once you've found a healthy hibiscus tree from your local nursery, you can bring it home and plant it either in the ground or in a pot.

Planting in the Ground

Start by finding a location in your yard that gets full sun and has well-drained soil.

  1. Dig a hole slightly deeper and wider than the rootball of the hibiscus plant.
  2. Add some compost to the hole and dig it in to the soil.
  3. Place the tree in the hole, making sure the top of the pant's rootball is even with the ground.
  4. Back fill the soil around the rootball, burying the top slightly and pressing the soil in as you go.
  5. Water the ground, then add more soil to fill in the plant.

Planting in a Pot

There are two ways to plant a hibiscus tree in a pot. "You can simply pop the nursery pot containing the hibiscus into a decorative pot, or you can plant the hibiscus into the pot using a well-draining potting soil," says Garces. "Be sure to add an all-purpose fertilizer."

Close-Up Of Pink Hibiscus Flower Blooming

How to Care for a Hibiscus Tree

Like any plant, hibiscus trees require routine maintenance to ensure they thrive and live their longest life possible. "Hibiscus can live forever," says Adrienne R. Roethling, the director of curation and mission delivery at Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden. "They are tough-as-nails plants."


Hibiscus trees should be kept in an area with full sun. "If kept outside, a location with 6 to 8 hours of full sun is ideal for the best flower production," says Garces. "If kept indoors, find the sunniest window possible."


Due to their tough nature, hibiscus trees can tolerate most soil conditions but they prefer moist, well-drained dirt. "A liberal amount of compost will help retain moisture while also maintaining proper the soil aeration levels," says Garces. Look for a soil that is slightly acidic, which will help the plant meet its nutrient uptake needs.


Check the soil moisture of your hibiscus plant regularly—when the top inch of soil feels dry, it's time to water it. Your watering schedule will change regularly depending on the weather. "Some weeks you'll need to water four to five times a week, other weeks that are cloudier or in winter you will water less," says Garces.


Fertilizer helps encourage growth and ensures your tree's blooms put on a great show. "A slow release fertilizer is ideal," says Roethling. "Osmocote is great and only needs to be applied once every spring."


Hibiscus trees prefer warmer climates and typically thrive in temperatures between 60 and 85 degrees. When the temperature drops below around 55 degrees, it's time to bring your shrub inside for the cold weather season. Continue care as you normally would, making sure to place the plant in a bright, sunny spot.

Pink Hibiscus flowers peaking out between slats of a white picket fence.

How to Propagate a Hibiscus Tree

Luckily, hibiscus trees are very easy to propagate. "It may be best to take cuttings in early spring before flower buds appear," says Roethling. "This applies for all types of varieties, herbaceous or woody."

  1. Cut 6 inch stems that do not have a flower or a flower bud.
  2. Remove the lower set of leaves—one layer of leaves will be enough to absorb light.
  3. Place the stems in water and wait for roots to appear.

Common Problems With Hibiscus Trees

Despite being easy to care for, there are a few common problems gardeners run into when caring for hibiscus trees.

Mealybug Infestations

One of the most common pest issues hibiscus trees encounter is mealybugs. "These are identified as small white cottony masses on leaves, stems and buds," says Garces. To prevent mealybug infestations, allow airflow between groupings of plants and keep infected plants away from healthy plants.

If you have an infected hibiscus tree, start by removing any leaves, stems, or buds where mealybugs are present. Then spray the area with water and treat infected areas with horticultural oils or insecticidal soaps.

Yellowing Leaves

If you've noticed the leaves on your hibiscus tree have turned yellow in some areas, your plant may need additional micronutrients, such as magnesium or iron.

Powdery Mildew

A fungal disease that appears as a white powder on the leaves, mildew typically forms when the days are warm and the nights are cool. "Remove impacted leaves and don't water from above to prevent the disease from spreading," says Garces.


Yellow to orange raised dots under the leaves of your hibiscus plant can be a sign of rust disease. "Clean up fallen leaves to prevent spread of the disease," says Garces. "Fertilize your plant to encourage new uninfected leaves to grow once the infected leaves are mostly gone." Avoid watering your plant from overhead to keep the disease at bay.

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