Keeping Hardy Hibiscus Over the Winter

hardy hibiscusWe just planted three Hardy Hibiscus that we purchaed from Garden Harvest Supply. The plants are thriving! We need a little help to know your recommendation for winterizing. Mulch…Burlap…Fertilizing? Thanks for helping with this.  Mark and Jacquie S.

Answer: Thank you for purchasing some of our wonderful Hardy Hibiscus plants. They are such a great way to create that tropical feel in our yards for those of us in the northern areas. Hibiscus need a dormancy period during the winter. As a broad category, these plants are hardy from Zones 4-9, but some varieties have lower tolerance for cold. Check the information for your specific variety and check your Zone.

For winter care, wait until there has been a killing frost, one that turns the leaves brown, and then trim the stems back. Hardy hibiscus are considered a perennial plant, not a shrub, so they will die down to the ground each winter. To help them survive the cold, cover the plants with a thick, 8- to 12-inch layer of mulch, chopped leaves or pine needles. This will help protect the root ball. 

Mark the placement of the plants since these are slow starters in the spring. It’s very easy to think you have lost them, so have patience. The soil temperatures need to reach the 70-degree range to bring them out of their winter sleep. Once you see their new sprouts emerge, give them a dose of a slow-release fertilizer, such as Neptune’s Harvest. Also watch, as some varieties like to self-sow, and you may have some new plants to share with your friends.

Happy Gardening,


23 Responses to “Keeping Hardy Hibiscus Over the Winter”

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  2. Mary says:

    I have a beautiful red hardy hibiscus and a white rose of sharon. They are potted in large pots and I can not bring them inside. I do not have a place to plant them in the ground. How do I protect them on porch or deck during the winter? Should I wrap them in burlap or bubble wrap, do they need to be watered in the winter, etc`? Any help you can give me would be appreciated. I do not want to lose them.

  3. Mary says:

    Can caladiums be brought inside in the winter and continue to grow or should I take the kernels out of the soil? If I have to take them out how do I keep them from rotting? Thanks

  4. jstutzman says:

    Mary: Caladiums are a tropical plant grown from tubers, and if you have them planted in a pot you can bring them inside when the nights start to drop into the upper 40s. Keep them in a sunny window until the leaves begin to die back. They need a dormancy period, so you can move the pot to a cooler, non-sunny area. Do not water them. You can also take them out of the pot and clean all the dirt and dead leaves off and store the tubers in a mesh bag. They need to stay in temps that are in the mid 50s and can survive this way for up to five months. At this point you can pot them up again and put them in a sunny location to get them ready to return to the outside after all signs of frost have passed. When you take the tubers out of storage they should be firm and fleshy and not shriveled or mushy.

    Happy Gardening, Karen

  5. Karen says:

    Mary: Protecting potted plants can be tricky, depending on your location. You want to attempt to simulate the natural situation they would have in their zone-specific winter. They would need to be cool but not allow the root ball to freeze and would need some occasional water; while the top of the plant is dormant, the roots are still busy taking in nutrients and water at a reduced rate. If you have a cool garage or basement you could store them there but they would need some light. A barn could work but you would still need to protect the root ball by setting the pot into a larger pot and adding more soil or sand to give another layer of insulation. In Zone 5 or 6 you can store them outside on the north side of the house if possible and pile leaves, or bags of leaves, around the pots. It’s best if they are outside to put the pot at an angle so that snow or ice does not remain on the top of the roots and freeze them. Burlap or bubble wrap would not be enough insulation for a cold winter. If you don't have bags of leaves, check with a neighbor or put out a call for some. Don't add the protection until mid- to late December, for Zone 6 and below; otherwise the plant might attempt to grow again and then be killed with a freeze.

    Good luck, and I hope they make it thru the winter.


  6. Jim Patrick says:

    I purchased my first hardy hibiscus, what will happen if I pruned the plant before first hard frost,I am afraid I might have killed it there our no signs of new growth yet. It is April 23 is it to early to see new growth
    Thank you
    Jim Patrick

  7. jstutzman says:

    Jim, hardy hibiscus plants are very slow in coming out of dormancy. It could be as late a mid-late May before you see growth. Good luck. GHS

  8. chris says:

    I have a root for a herty hebiscus plant and dont know what to do with it the ground may be to cold at this pt should I put it in an indoor planter for the winter confused email me with info please

  9. jstutzman says:

    Chris, if the ground is still workable, go ahead and plant the root. Good luck. GHS

  10. Barbara Milligan says:

    I live in North Alabama, Zone 7. I have two yellow hibiscus that are potted on my front porch. It is November 15th and they are still blooming! I have had them since late spring and they have been potted ever since. Next week, we will get a freeze at night, so far we have only been down in the low 40’s at night, 60’s during the day. I am assuming these are hardy hibiscus, bought from Lowes, but there was not a tag marker in them. If they were tropical, they would be dead, right? So now, for winter, do I plant them in the ground now, wait for the first killing freeze and the leaves turn brown, then cut them down to the ground and cover with mulch? Or do I leave them in the pots, move them to the garage, or into the house? Please advise…need to do something in the next couple of days.

  11. jstutzman says:

    Barbara, without knowing the variety of hibiscus you have growing, there is no way to know for sure if it is hardy or not. Since it is this late in the year, we would recommend leaving them in the pots they are currently growing in. If you have an unheated garage or outbuilding, move them into that for the winter. Cut them back once they go dormant. Give them a little water a few different times during the winter season. Next spring, move them back outside and wait for signs of growth before deciding if you want to keep them in the containers or put them into the ground. Good luck. GHS

  12. John Cain says:

    Can I wait till early spring to cut back my Hardy Hibiscus. I live in northern Ohio?

  13. jstutzman says:

    John, hardy hibiscus is best when cut back after it goes dormant in early winter.

  14. Chuck says:

    Can I leave it in the ground in Indiana overthe winter months

  15. Gracie says:

    I was recently given a hardy hibiscus and I live in Zone 6, it is now Oct 6, and we have not planted it in the ground. Should we do this now? Also, we just moved to this house, and the well water has a lot of sulfur and who knows what else. The plant did not thrive once we got it home (it was beautiful); it only bloomed a couple weeks, and now the leaves are turning yellow. I was wondering if something bad was in the water (tasted terrible), and I ended up turning of the old filters (not sure what they were doing to the water) that were hooked up in the basement, and this may have improved the water slightly, but I had already watered the plant(the water isn’t very good to drink here in general). Any advice on water too? Not sure what to do. Thanks.

  16. jstutzman says:

    Gracie, congrats on your new plant! It sounds like it might not be getting enough nutrients. But without knowing the size of container, it will be hard to say. Yes you should get it planted immediately. Good luck.

  17. jstutzman says:

    Chuck, yes you can keep your hardy hibiscus in the ground in your area.

  18. Melissa L says:

    Can some1 help please! I live in Zone 6A Boston, MA & I bought a hardy hibiscus that I left in a pot thinking I would just bring it in my house for the winter but I’m not sure that’s what I should do, its suppose to lay dormant and I’m not sure what to do! how do I winterize it?

  19. jstutzman says:

    Melissa, They must have a time of dormancy. It will need to be left in an area that gets at least 32 degrees. Good luck. Joe

  20. Katie says:

    I’m in the same state as Melissa, but more western. The nights are starting to hurt in the low 30’s sometimes high 20’s. My red hibiscus is in a big pot outside. The leaves have Wilton. How far should I cut the stems back? And for the winter I can store it in a covered garage. Should I cover it or just put some leaves at the base? TIA!

  21. jstutzman says:

    Katie, once it has gone dormant you can cut it back to 4-6 inches from the soil. And yes you can keep it in a covered garage as long as the temps do not consistently stay above 42 degrees. Good luck! Joe

  22. Christine says:

    I recently moved into an apt complex in Central Kentucky. I love my giant hardy hibiscus so much I dug them up from my yard when I moved here. They are now in large pots in the small yard I am allotted but when it gets cold I will bring them in my breezeway which is covered. What else should I do to prepare for the coming winter. They survived 8 years in the ground here but pot containers is a new thing for me. I also added to my pot garden Brugmansia plants those are a whole new ball game for me. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  23. jstutzman says:

    Christine, you can leave them in the pots; however, they may not overwinter the best in pots. Whatever you do, don’t bring them inside in the heat as they need to go dormant each year. One thing you can do once it get cold is wrap the pot with some type of insulation. Good luck at your new place. Joe

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