The Great Outdoors


 Doug Hackbarth - Broadview Florist & GreenhousesIt seems wrong to talk of Hibiscus during the month of January but the most asked questions right now revolve around the care of these blooming beauties that are being held for the next spring season. Apparently everyone has taken one into the house for the winter and now all kinds of problems have arisen. Let’s start with the most important issue…slow way down on the watering and probably no fertilizer until a sunny day in March.
During the summer months while your hibiscus is outside in the full sun, watering is done daily. But now, during the winter months, with short day lengths and many days with no sunshine at all, watering should only be done about once every 3 to 4 weeks. As always, when you water, water thoroughly and never allow your plants to sit in water. That means you must empty the saucer of any excess water within 30 minutes after watering or root rotting will occur.
It is never a good idea to re-pot plants during the terrible winter months, but yet, that is when most people want to do it. Re-potting plants is best done in early spring, March, April or early May. This is the time period when plants can easily make a comeback and get through the shock of the transplanting.
If you have houseplants, hibiscus, hanging baskets, geraniums or mandevilla vines that are showing signs of winter stress, feel free to trim or prune them and at the same time, dry them out by not watering so often. Fungicides can be applied monthly, instead of fertilizers, as fungicide is more like medicine for the roots. Another use for fungicide is to prevent leaf disease such as powdery mildew.
Lemon scented dishwashing soap is a great alternative to toxic liquid insecticides. Simply add the soap to room-temperature water, much the same way as you would when getting ready to clean pots and pans, and then spray the foliage when you see insects or pour the water through the soil. Watering with soapy water is a very safe way to chase away insects that live in the soil, and it smells good too.
Removing damaged leaves is the best way for your plants to recover from breakage or insect infestations. Do not try to repair a broken leaf or branch, rather, completely remove it. It takes a lot of energy for a plant to try and repair itself from these problems. Thinning out branches or eliminating excess foliage and cutting back on your watering makes the care of your plants much easier and is so much better than re-potting at the wrong time of the year.
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Doug Hackbarth

Doug's is the former owner of Broadview Florist & Greenhouses in Waynedale. He authors a garden & landscaping article in the newspaper. In his adolescence he attended Hillcrest, Kekionga and Elmhurst HS. His expertise has been shared in print, tv and radio. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer