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How to Prune Hibiscus: 6 Useful Tips, When to Do It & More

pink hibiscus flower

If kept in good condition, hibiscus plants can produce bright and beautiful flowers that bring a pop of color and a tropical feeling to any home. But besides their decorative uses, the buds and blooms are also edible.

While hibiscus can grow and bloom vigorously without demanding much attention, it is essential to prune them the right way and at the right time. Pruning hibiscus leads to the production of more flowers. However, one significant challenge homeowners experience when pruning these plants is the best approach to carrying out routine maintenance practices. If that sounds like you, worry not because this article expounds on the tips to help you prune hibiscus timely and correctly.

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Why Do We Prune Hibiscus?

Pruning hibiscus is a critical practice that produces fantastic results, considering that hibiscus blooms grow off the branch ends. It would be best if you prune your hibiscus annually to help them in the following ways:

  • Grow Bushier Plants: Pruning creates room for more branches to establish. This way, more flowers will bloom on them to finally fill your home with more beauty and fragrance.
  • Push Their Growth Back: Pruning pushes the plant growth away from its ends, thus creating more symmetrical and compact branches.
  • Prevent Future Decays: It is advisable to prune damaged or dying plants. Removing damaged branches will prevent them from affecting the rest of the plant while promoting the growth of new healthier branches.

When to Prune Hibiscus

Timely pruning is another critical factor to consider when caring for hibiscus trees and should be carefully determined to align with their growing patterns. Generally, you should prune tropical hibiscus just before the weather warms and when they are vigorously growing, which is often early spring, but it could vary depending on your region. Minor pruning can sometimes continue up to the start of fall (typically around September).

If you are pruning a hardy hibiscus plant, the process should be more straightforward or sometimes unnecessary because hardy plants die back to zero height in the winter. Just ensure you prune them one foot above the ground level. While some people may keep their plants indoors during the winter to avoid growing back to the ground, it is advisable not to do any pruning until you move them out.

Remember, you can tell apart tropical and hardy hibiscus from the vibrancy of their foliage and blooms. While hardy hibiscus trees are dull and have blooms producing fewer color varieties, tropical hibiscus is well-known for its shiny dark green shoots and wide array of colors.

woman cutting and pruning hibiscus plant
Image Credit: VH-studio, Shutterstock

The 6 Useful Tips for Pruning Hibiscus Plants

1. Notice the Nodes

If you take a keen look at your hibiscus plants, you will notice small bumps growing off the stems. These bumps are called nodes and are found where the leaves and the stem meet. Sometimes, you may notice some minute leaves forming on them. Before pruning, it’s essential to understand that newer branches will form off these nodes.

2. The Direction of Nodes

Notice where the nodes face. If they are facing the outside, you’ll want to prune just above them because you don’t want new branches to grow away from the plant. If they are facing into the plant and there’s a space they can fill, then there’s no reason to prune them since the new branches will grow towards the plant.

3. The Distance Between Nodes

Notice the distance between internodes along the stem because they tell more about the plant’s growth pattern. If they are close-up, the new branches will make them more compact. Therefore, there is no need to prune. On the other hand, if they are far apart, you should know that the plant will grow taller, leggier, and uglier if not pruned.

pruning blueberry plant
Image Credit: vladdon, Shutterstock

4. Get Rid of Damaged Branches

Assess your plant carefully and get rid of damaged branches first. If there is any dead, diseased, or weak wood or branch, you must remove them by pruning them back on top of the inward-facing nodes.

5. Don’t Cut Too Much

Regardless of the pruning method, ensure you don’t exceed ⅔ of the plant’s size. You should also cut about ¼ inch above the leaf nodes to ensure you don’t damage them while keeping in mind that the new branch will grow in the same direction the leaf node faces.

6. Wait for Summer

After pruning, newer branches will grow and produce more vibrant flowers after 2 months, when summer approaches.

The 3 Types of Pruning

It’s vital to understand how much to prune your hibiscus plants. While there are other pruning methods available such as hard and complete pruning, it’s recommended that you take the following approaches to ensure you prune your plants correctly:

1. Pinching

pinching plant
Image Credit: johan kusuma, Shutterstock

Also known as “pinch pruning,” pinching is the mildest type of pruning whereby you cut off the branch ends near the top, just like nipping. It is a good choice for hibiscus plants because it stimulates new growth while maintaining the existing bulk of the plant. If you are a beginner, pinching will be the safest approach to caring for young plants as it only requires you to prune the tips at the topmost nodes.

2. Selective Pruning

Woman in garden with pruner caring for plant with flowering hibiscus bush
Image Credit: VH-studio, Shutterstock

Selective pruning is the ideal pruning method for hibiscus plants and other flowers. It involves cutting off the larger sections of your plant while maintaining its overall shape and size. The ultimate locations to prune should be above the nodes that are ⅓ away from the branches. If you cut away most or all the branches of your plant, you’ll achieve perfect pruning that gives rise to new, healthy, and vigorous shoots.

3. Corrective Pruning

corrective pruning
Image Credit: Natalia Lebedinskaia, Shutterstock

As the name indicates, corrective pruning is a type of pruning done to fix an issue on the select tree. In most cases, corrective pruning removes sickly, rotten, crooked, or wilted portions of a plant. You’ll need to cut down as far as possible to ensure the issue doesn’t spread to the rest of the plant. If you are unsure where to stop, you should continue cutting down until you notice the plant’s attractive color has returned.

More Tips for Pruning Hibiscus

1. Sterilize Your Pruning Equipment First

gardener cleans or sanitizes secateurs before pruning
Image Credit: Mariia Boiko, Shutterstock

While most homeowners and gardeners use a pair of secateurs, scissors, or pruning shears to prune their flower plants, only a few sterilize them before use. Sterilization is crucial as it prevents the spread of diseases from one plant or branch to another.

Fortunately, there are several cheaply available sterilizers that you can use to clean your tools, including hydrogen peroxide, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, bleach-and-water solutions, and alcohol. The sterilizing process is also simple; dip a cloth in the sanitizer and rub it on the pruning equipment. Wait for 15 minutes before using them while repeating the sterilization process between prunes.

2. Sharpen Your Pruning Equipment

cleaning secateurs
Image Credit: Evgenia Tuzinska, Shutterstock

Remember, blunt pruners will strip the wood bark and tear the branches of your hibiscus. But since you don’t want to stress them, ensure you sharpen your pruning tools first. If they are too old for the job, consider buying new ones.

3. Observe the Right Pruning Angle

cutting withered flowers of hibiscus
Image By: NagyG, Shutterstock

When pruning your hibiscus plants, it would be best if you cut them at a slanting angle of 45 degrees. The top cut should also face the bud’s direction to minimize the excess tissue subjected to rot. In addition, getting the pruning angle right helps the top branch shrug off the water while directing it away from the weak budding branch.

4. Prune Every 2 Weeks

violet hibiscus flower
Image By: _Alicja_, Pixabay

Instead of pruning the whole plant at once, you can consider pruning branches one by one after intervals of 2 weeks. Although it may take a considerable amount of time to achieve the shape you want, pruning a few branches every 2 weeks will ensure constant blooms when the blooming season comes about. Or do you want your hibiscus branches to bloom at once? Probably not.

5. Avoid Covering up Pruning Cuts

Hibiscus plant old stem
Image By: Surya Mahesh Karanam, Shutterstock

One major mistake beginner gardeners and homeowners make is to seal the pruning cuts of their plants. As much as you intend to care for your plant, doing so will only kill your plant. The plant should heal its cuts without the help of a sealant.

When you cover them up, you create a hospitable environment for fungi and bacteria to thrive. The cut area will soon dry up, putting the health of the entire plant at risk.

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In Summary

Proper pruning is one of the essential aspects of every garden and yard management. For hibiscus plants, pruning helps maintain their good health and puts them on the row to produce beautiful and bright blooms.

This article taught us that pinch, selective, and corrective pruning are the most ideal for hibiscus plants. To prune them, ensure that you cut off at ¼ inch above the nodes on the stems. The nodes will grow into newer branches, yielding the flowers when the blooming season comes.

Another vital factor to consider is the pruning season. While it may vary according to region, it’s best to prune your hibiscus in the early spring. Also, cutting back a few branches every 2 weeks will extend the blooming season.

Featured Image Credit: ignartonosbg, Pixabay


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