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hib care

Hi folks

Ok, exfoliating Hibs!  *First revert to fake French accent*  Hibeescus are
like women.  Intensely beautiful but at zee zame time tempermental and
difficult to understand.

Ok, forget that.  Loosing leaves is a common problem that everybody
experiences.  The funny thing about Hibs is that they can be so damn
tempermental but at the same time they will suprise you with their tenacity to
live.  Usually, they lose leaves because of some type of stress.  That makes
sense but there is a surprising number of things that make them stressful.
The most common are overwatering, underwatering or changing their environment.
They don't like change.  That could be taking them in for the winter or
putting them out for the spring.  It could also mean just the changing
seasons.  One nice thing about them though is that the leaves will grow back
right from the bottom of the plant.  I will quite often use that time to prune
them.  Then you force the energy to the bottom of the plant and let them leaf
out.  Another thing that will cause exfoliation especially for indoor plants
is spider mites.  Mites like warm dry air and while you may have mites on
several indoor plants they don't show it like hibs.  Look for a mottled yellow
leaf.  In severe cases you can see webbing.  They are relatively easy to take
care of.  Blast them with water.  They live on the undersides of leaves.  You
can do it in the shower or outside with a hose.

All of this stuff is part of the learning curve of Hibiscus.  It takes a year
or two before you know what you are looking for.  I try and tell my customers
to ask questions before it's too late.  Most of the issues are ones that can
be corrected immediately.

Here's a word about watering:  Here in the west in summer it's almost
impossible to overwater them.  They will take just as much as you want to give
them.  During the winter when I've brought them in I almost wait until they
wilt before they get any.  I figure I'm just following the tropical pattern of
wet, hot summers and dry cooler winters.  In the east where you have a lot
more humidity than we do (as well as a lot more critters) water them often but
try and avoid getting the leaves wet in the evenings when they will stay wet
all night.  That invites fungus problems.  Same pattern for the winter though.
Allow them to stay fairly on the dry side.  One of the ways I know if my hibs
or any potted plants need water is to know how much your pot weighs wet or
dry.  A tip of the finger or for larger pots tip it with your toe to feel how
much the pot weighs.  When the pot is light...water.  If they are heavy with
water then let it dry.  Hibiscus like water running over their roots but they
don't like wet feet.  Use a well draining soil.  Avoid the dark super soil
type stuff.  It retains too much water.

One other thing:  They like to eat.  Use a balanced fertilizer like 10-10-10
with minors.  If you like to endulge your plants use a tablespoon of Epsom
salts to a gallon of water every month.  They like the magnesium and it will
green up your plants.

Here's something I know.  When you know what you are looking for and how to
deal with it you will find this to be much easier.  And if given enough light
throughout the winter they will bloom all year.  I know this too.  Virtually
all of you on this list...at least the ones who mentioned they were having
problems know 10 times more about plants than I do.  And if I can do this...
They only difference is that I have studied them and belong to a couple of
lists devoted strickly to them.  If you have them and need help ask.  Your
curve will straighten out real quick.  For two years I struggled but now I
don't worry about them.  They lose leaves I know they grow back.

Andrea if you are still with me at this point a languishing plant tells me you
have a root problem.  Either your soil is not draining or you just have a
bummer root system that has problems.  Take the plant out and give it a bath
in a 10% bleach solution and give it half doses of fert once a week.  See if
the roots are nice and white.  If that doesn't work toss it and I'll send you
out another.



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