Hibiscus Tree Care Guide: Problems and Pet Hibiscus Tree Dangers How To Identify

Image of a Hibiscus Tree centered in an oval frame with hibiscus tree care and how to identify hibiscus by flower.

The hibiscus tree is famous among different kinds of trees with its stunning flowers, which add a splash of color to your garden and attract insects and birds.1

However, it helps to know everything about it before you plant one, especially since most Hibiscus varieties are safe for cats and dogs, the Rose of Sharon plant is toxic if ingested.

This hibiscus tree guide tells you all you need to know about its favorable conditions, problems to look out for, and how to plant and care for hibiscus plants that beautify your surroundings.

Hibiscus Tree

(Hibiscus syriacus)

Photo of a Hibiscus Tree with white flower in an oval frame.
  • Common Name: Hibiscus, Rose of Sharon, Tropical Hibiscus, China Rose, Chinese Hibiscus
  • Tree Family: Malvaceae
  • Origin: Asia (China)
  • Growth Zone: 5-9
  • Plant Type: Shrub
  • Full Size: 4-10 ft. high, 3-6 ft. wide
  • Bloom Time: Summer, fall
  • Flower: 5-petaled, 3-4 inches wide
  • Leaves: Green, 4 inches long

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Ranking

Not Evaluated


How to Identify Hibiscus Tree: Shrub or Bush?

Technically, the hibiscus comes in two perennial types, hardy and tropical. It can be classified as a tree or a shrub because of it’s woody trunk and stems, but it remains on the small side.

Most varieties offered in areas where the temperature will drop are hardy, but tropical ones can also be grown in colder climates as potted plants.

Hibiscus tree identification chart showing hibiscus flowers, hibiscus bark, hibiscus leaves, and hibiscus seed pods in circle frames.

Before planting a hibiscus, you’ll need to brush up on some common care techniques.

This warm weather plant needs consideration before planting it outdoors in some areas.

How To Care for Hibiscus Tree

Like any tree you plant in your home, the hibiscus tree needs regular care and maintenance to keep it beautiful and healthy for as long as possible. Here are crucial factors to consider.

#1: Light

Hibiscus needs at least 6-8 hours a day in full sunlight when growing outdoors. If keeping it inside, you can find the perfect spot, like a sunny window, and remember frequently rotate it for equal sun absorption for the entire plant.

#2: Soil

Hibiscus trees are hardy and can survive most soil types as long as they are moist and well-drained. If the soil is slightly acidic, the plant can obtain all the nutrients it needs through the roots, and you can add compost for more moisture retention.2

#3: Temperature

This plant thrives with warm temperatures of 60-85 degrees, and you may have to bring your outdoor hibiscus inside if the levels drop below 55 degrees. While indoors, you can find the warmest and sunniest spot to place it.

#4: Water

It is crucial to frequently monitor your plant’s moisture levels and water it whenever the soil gets dry. This routine will change based on the weather and the season.

You will water more times a week in scorching summer and fewer times during winter but always water from the bottom, not the top, to avoid wetting the leaves.

#5: Fertilizer

You can add liquid fertilizer to your hibiscus tree every two weeks to promote blooming. The chemicals encourage healthy growth but ensure you go for a slow, safe option.3

The application instructions will vary based on the fertilizer type, and it is important to follow them to avoid harming your tree.

#6: Pruning

The hibiscus can reach 10 feet high, but you can keep it in check by occasionally pruning it. It is necessary for container plants because it promotes side shoot growth and limits the need for a massive root system.

Hibiscus tree growth chart showing full grown Hibiscus tree on a line graph with Hibiscus tree age on the x-axis and Hibiscus tree height on the y-axis.

You can also cut dead flowers and leaves when they wilt to keep the plant looking beautiful and prevent excessive seed formation.

Hibiscus Tree Care During Winter

If you want to keep your hibiscus tree safe all year round, it helps to be more careful when winter approaches.

It can be harsh on the parts and cause irreversible damage to the tree. Winterizing should always start early.

If you are bringing in your plant, it helps to dig it up before the temperatures drop. If you wait too long, it may be too late to save the roots from the cold.

You will need a big pot to relocate it indoors away from the freezing levels.

You can add fertilizer to the soil to promote flowering and practice general care for a typical indoor pot plant. Note that the leaves may start yellowing which is common due to the transition from full to partial sun.4

How Often Should You Water Hibiscus in Winter?

The hibiscus loves water, which helps it stay healthy all year round, but the watering frequency usually changes depending on the weather and the season. For instance, the plant doesn’t need as much moisture during winter compared to summer, when the air is hotter and drier.

Therefore, your watering frequency should gradually reduce when the season changes. There is less evaporation during the months, meaning the plant doesn’t lose a lot of water to the atmosphere or needs to absorb more from the soil.

The common rule is to water only when the topsoil is dry, and you can use your finger to check. Otherwise, if you overwater it, the roots may rot, and you may harm the tree.

How To Re-Pot Your Hibiscus in Winter

First, wash your hibiscus tree before translocating it indoors to remove any latched pests; you can use a damp cloth to wipe the leaves or gently water it down with a hose. If you want to add fertilizer, it is safer to do it in spring, not when winter starts.

The tree goes dormant during the cold months and doesn’t need a growth boost.5 Also, ensure that you place the pot strategically where it can receive sufficient sunlight and occasionally water it, but not excessively.

What Is the Best Temperature for a Full Grown Hibiscus Tree?

This stunning flowering plant thrives under warm conditions but usually needs more care than other indoor plants. Given that it is a tropical plant, it must live under the perfect temperatures to bloom and stay healthy.

The best temperature for the hibiscus tree to grow is between 60-85 degrees, and it is best to maintain these levels throughout the year.6 Dropping too low, below 55 degrees, or going too high, above 90 degrees, can damage the tree and kill it in extreme cases.

What Happens When a Hibiscus Doesn’t Get the Right Temperature?

The hibiscus is quite sensitive and will suffer if you don’t meet its minimal requirements, especially the ideal temperature. If the levels are below 55 degrees, the tree will have stunted growth and fail to bloom as expected.

It will also show through the leaves, which will curl or drop, and the flowers will not display. The only exception is during winter when the tropical hibiscus can survive the minimal 55 degrees without damage.

However, freezing levels can be fatal for the plant, and extreme exposure to frost will likely be lethal. On the other hand, the plant doesn’t do well in temperatures above 90 degrees; the leaves will turn yellow and start dropping.

When Should the Hibiscus Tree Be Planted?

Besides knowing how best to care for your hibiscus tree, it is crucial to know when the right time is to plant it for maximum growth. You can buy one seedling from a nursery or root it from a cutting, but spring is the best time to grow.

You can also grow your tree from seed after sowing it indoors at least 12 weeks before the frost date. You can also soak them in warm water for an hour before sowing.

How To Propagate a Hibiscus Tree

One of the advantages of planting hibiscus trees is that they are easy to grow from cuttings or propagate.7 The process gives you the same parent plant, and you can take the cuttings in early summer or late spring when the tree has begun actively growing.8

First, cut a 4-6-inch stem without flowers or buds using a sterile cutting tool and remove all the leaves except the set at the top. Next, fill a pot with well-draining soil, add water, and create a hole to plant the stem after dipping it in water for the roots to grow.

The final step is to care for the cutting while monitoring its growth. Keep the pot under partial shade until you confirm its steady growth rate, after which you can plant it in a bigger container.

How To Plant a Hibiscus Tree

Planting trees is crucial to carbon sequestration, considering how much does a tree capture.

If you love this flowering shrub and want it in your yard, garden, or as an indoor plant, the first step is to know how to grow hibiscus tree. First, dig a hole twice the size of the tree’s width and the same length as the root system.

When you plant the tree, ensure that the stems align with the soil’s top layer. If your hibiscus species die back annually, you can space it 2-3 feet wide, and it helps to consider the height and width it will attain when mature before planting.

Afterward, water the tree and practice proper care and maintenance for it to grow perfectly. You can also add fertilizer to boost the growth and watch out for pests and diseases.

Common Problems With Hibiscus Trees

Hibiscus thrive under full sunlight and warm temperatures, but many love them for their beautiful flowers. They are excellent for your garden, but like any other plant, they need care and maintenance; otherwise, they suffer from certain conditions.

The following are the common problems that hibiscus plants have, their causes, and solutions.9

Yellow Leaves

Hibiscus may turn yellow due to insufficient sunlight; the tree doesn’t produce the chlorophyll needed for the leaves to turn green. Extreme humidity and temperature changes may also be to blame.

Nutrient deficiency and receiving little or excessive water may also cause chlorosis. Lastly, the yellow color may be an aftermath of pest infestation.

Close-up shot of a Hibiscus plant with a leaf turning yellow.

(Image: Forest & Kim Starr19)

A hibiscus tree needs full sunlight to grow but protection when it gets too hot. If you notice it turning yellow under a shade or extreme light, the best thing is to adjust it to allow perfect chlorophyll production.11

It also helps to check that it receives sufficient nutrients from the soil, and you can check that the pH level is between 6-7. Protection from pests also helps the hibiscus stay green and healthy.

Leaves Curling or Drooping

The tree’s leaves usually curl due to underwatering, nutrient deficiency, and poor drainage. For a plant that loves moisture, providing less makes it dry up, especially during winter and extremely dry summers.

In contrast, excessive watering deprives the roots of oxygen, making the process of absorbing nutrients from the ground tasking.

Close-up of a Hibiscus plant with curling leaves.

(Image: Forest & Kim Starr20)

Adjusting the water quantity provides the hibiscus tree with the moisture it needs and allows the roots to absorb more nutrients to keep the leaves straight. While at it, you can also ensure that the soil drains well.

You can check that the water doesn’t entirely drain out or stay too long at the top, and for better nutrient absorption, you can add fertilizer to the soil to provide the tree with sufficient minerals.

Common Hibiscus Tree Pests and Diseases

Planting trees is the first step in how to stop climate change, and you want to keep yours safe. Pest and diseases are the most common causes of plant death, and as an owner, you should know which ailments your hibiscus is vulnerable to and what you can do to prevent and heal it.

Rotting roots of a hibiscus plant.

(Image: Scot Nelson21)

Root Rot

This disease causes instant death since the plant can no longer absorb water and nutrients from the soil. It is paramount to check your soil’s drainage to avoid water logging, which causes root rot.

Close up photo of the scales on the stem of a hibiscus.

(Image: Scot Nelson22)


Scales appear like dots on the plant. The pet sucks the tree’s sap and when excessive, can cause severe damage.

While pesticides can control the infestation, you can start by removing small ones with your hands.

Canker Disease

The canker disease freely spreads through wind and water and manifests as wounds. It can kill your tree unless you remove the affected parts, meaning you should know when and where it has attacked.


These soft white pests grow as a cotton mass on the plant; they suck the sap and prevent the flowers from blooming. To eliminate them, you can use pesticides, rub alcohol on the affected part, or introduce predatory insects.

Close up photo of multiple mealybugs on a hibiscus leaf.

(Image: Mark Bonica23)


Like the spider mites, aphids also eat the plant’s leaves, giving them a mottled, yellow look. The most natural way to deal with the attack is to use predatory insects, but you can use pesticides or water them down with a hose.

Close up photo of aphids on hibiscus flowers.

(Image: Scot Nelson24)


These pests cause the hibiscus buds to drop. They enter the part and damage them before they can bloom. Removing any affected bud before it falls on the ground is vital to avoid giving the larvae a chance to dig into the soil.

Hibiscus leaves with spots resulting from bacteria infection.

(Image: Scot Nelson25)

Leaf Spot

This disease is easy to detect because the leaves acquire dark spots on the upper part. It is not fatal, but it makes the leaves look unattractive. You can only use a fertilizer for the hibiscus tree to grow new healthy leaves, but you cannot treat the spots, only remove the affected parts.


Rust makes the undersides of the leaves turn yellow, and the top forms rusted spots, especially when the leaves have been wet for long. You can remove the affected parts and avoid watering from the top to control them.

Close up photo of a hibiscus leaf affected by rust.

(Image: Scot Nelson26)

Spider Mites

These pests are usually easy to treat and are not fatal to the plant; however, they will feed on it and change the leaf appearance. You can use a pesticide to manage them or blast them off with a hose.

Powdery mildew on a Hibiscus leaf.

(Image: Scot Nelson27)

Powdery Mildew

This disease forms a white coat on the tree’s leaves, and though it doesn’t cause severe damage, it ruins the plant’s aesthetics. You can use a fungicide before the symptoms start showing in early fall or late summer.

Tips for Growing Hibiscus in Containers

A hibiscus tree can grow outdoors throughout the year under favorable conditions. If you live in a region experiencing extreme winters, the best idea is to plant it in a pot because it will be easier to move it inside to keep it safe.

While living in a planter can be restrictive, your tree will still bloom and thrive under your care. The perfect time to plant is in spring, and if you fear the winter damaging it, your best bet is to keep it in a pot all year long.

The plant will work for most planters, but plastic is preferable since it is more portable. Alternatively, for esthetics, you can go for ceramic pots, provided they have proper drainage and are larger than the root system’s size.

Caring for a hibiscus tree in a pot is the same as looking after one in the ground. The planter should be in a spot that receives sufficient sunlight, and you should occasionally rotate it for even light reception by the entire tree.

What Is a Braided Hibiscus Tree and How Do You Make It?

A braided hibiscus is a special tree form that consists of several young plants with intertwined stems that have adapted to growing in a particular pattern since their early growth stages. You train the trees to grow like this over several years in a very simple process.

To create your braided hibiscus, you first find about four young trees with stems as thick as a pencil or thinner. Such plants are typically about 2 feet tall, but the roots are already perfectly formed.

Next, you plant all of them closely in one deep pot and take the stems and lay each over another, beginning with the two outside and intertwining them together. Add the third, then twist and do the same with the fourth, repeating the procedure until all the stems are joined in one loop to the top, then lightly tie them together.

Is My Hibiscus Dormant or Dead?

Most perennial types of trees enter dormancy towards the end of fall, and the stage lasts the entire winter.

Unlike the different types of evergreen trees, the leaves start losing color, the flowers drop, and the overall growth stops for a while.

These are clear signs of dormancy; you can help your plant overcome it and return to activity when it is over. This season can be stressful for the plant, but the flowers will bloom again afterward.

If your tree is dead, the top layer will be brown and dry, and there won’t be any sign of activity, even after the temperatures return to normal. However, if dormant, it will be green and moist and resume being active when the season is over.

The hibiscus is a suitable tree for you if you love flowering shrubs thanks to its striking blooms, perfect for landscaping and indoor décor. It thrives under full sunlight and sufficient water and loves growing in warm climates.

Providing this ensures that your plant grows healthy and beautiful all year round. However, you must check the water and sunlight to avoid excessive amounts because the tree is quite sensitive and can get damaged.

It is susceptible to pets and diseases that can be fatal. You can watch for signs of leaf discoloration, spots, and insects and deal with them before they escalate.

Thankfully, the hibiscus tree is quite hardy and stays beautiful all year round under the right care and maintenance.

Frequently Asked Questions About Hibiscus Tree

What Are the Growing Zones for a Hibiscus Tree?

The hibiscus does well under full sunlight and in warm climates and thrives best under the USDA hardiness zones 5-9 based on the particular species. Some can grow outdoors in zones 10-12, while most perennial species can live in zones 5-9.

How Far Apart Do You Plant the Hibiscus Tree?

People usually plant hibiscus trees 2-3 feet away from each other to leave enough room for growth. However, it is crucial to consider your species and how wide and high it will grow when mature before planting it to avoid excessive cramping and competition for resources.

What Are the Common Hibiscus Tree Problems?

The hibiscus tree is vulnerable to yellowing, curling, and drooping leaves, which ruin its aesthetic appeal. They usually indicate insufficient or excessive sunlight and poor or too much watering.

Lack of nutrients also causes such problems. However, the above is not as fatal as insect or disease infestation.

The pests suck the sap and damage the tree, while some diseases like root rot prevent nutrient and water uptake by the plant, instantly killing it.

Does the Hibiscus Tree Spread Quickly?

The hibiscus shrub is typically a fast-growing tree, adding around 24 inches annually and reaching more than ten feet high under favorable conditions. It spreads equally fast but not as wide as other shrubs, reaching only 3-6 feet wide.

Does the Hibiscus Tree Come Back Every Year? Is It Annual or Perennial?

There are two types of hibiscus trees, the tropical and hardy species, which are both perennial. However, the tropical hibiscus species usually grows as an annual tree under certain circumstances.

Is the Hibiscus Tree Toxic to Dogs?

There are hundreds of species of the hibiscus tree, but most of them are safe for your pet. Only the Rose of Sharon or Hibiscus syriacus is a proven toxic species that can harm dogs; if your pet ingests it, it may experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.


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19Hibiscus tiliaceus (leaves). Location: Midway Atoll, West Beach Sand Island Photo by Forest & Kim Starr / Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0). Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Wikimedia Commons <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Starr_080608-7644_Hibiscus_tiliaceus.jpg>

20Bit of leaf curl at West Beach Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii Photo by Forest & Kim Starr / Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0). Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Wikimedia Commons <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Starr-170619-0007-Hibiscus_tiliaceus-bit_of_leaf_curl-West_Beach_Sand_Island-Midway_Atoll_%2835553251773%29.jpg>

21Hibiscus: Root rot Photo by Scot Nelson / CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication. Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Flickr <https://www.flickr.com/photos/scotnelson/37447253382>

22Hibiscus: Lobate lac scale (Paratachardina pseudolobata) Photo by Scot Nelson / CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication. Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Flickr <https://www.flickr.com/photos/scotnelson/27519480183>

23Occupy Hibiscus Photo by Mark Bonica / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) . Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Flickr <https://www.flickr.com/photos/23119666@N03/7713882338>

24Hibiscus: Aphids on flowers Photo by Scot Nelson / CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication. Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Flickr <https://www.flickr.com/photos/scotnelson/35364342572>

25Hibiscus: Bacterial leaf spot caused by Pseudomonas cichorii Photo by Scot Nelson / CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication. Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Flickr <https://www.flickr.com/photos/scotnelson/5684582268>

26Hibiscus rust caused by Kuehneola malvicola Photo by Scot Nelson / CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication. Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Flickr <https://www.flickr.com/photos/scotnelson/15194849985>

27Hibiscus sp.: Powdery mildew Photo by Scot Nelson / CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication. Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Flickr <https://www.flickr.com/photos/scotnelson/32796949363>

28Featured Image: Greece, crete, hibiscus, and film photography in Greece Photo by Soff Garavano Puw. (2021, August 16) / Unsplash License. Cropped and remixed with text, shape, and background elements. Retrieved February 7, 2024, from <https://unsplash.com/photos/red-flower-with-green-leaves-uAP1J4-R7_Q>

29Species Information Image: Flower, blossom, bloom, and wallpaper Photo by Kelly Sikkema. (2021, May 30) / Unsplash License. Cropped and remixed with text, shape, and background elements. Unsplash. Retrieved January 18, 2024, from <https://unsplash.com/photos/white-flower-with-green-leaves-XlYXO6sOYeI>