Why Is My Hibiscus Plant Losing Leaves? (Causes+Fix)


Hibiscus plants bear colorful flowers and dark green leaves. Leaf loss is heart-breaking but a common issue for these plants in autumn. But, it’s problematic when Hibiscus loses leaves in spring or midsummer.

Inadequate watering, low light, and pest infestations are the primary problems due to which your hibiscus is losing its leaves. Hibiscus enjoys consistently moist soil and 6-8 hours of sunlight, but they don’t like sudden changes as that can stress the plant leading to the shedding of leaves.

Over-fertilization, chemical shocks, dormancy, root-bound, and poor soil are a few more causes. This article will share the possible reasons behind Hibiscus losing leaves and the solutions. Let’s dive into it without delay.

Hibiscus dropping leaves

Lack of proper sunlight

Hibiscus requires ample sunlight to thrive.

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Without enough sunlight, the plant will become leggy and grow in the direction of sunlight for some light.

If the plant still doesn’t get enough sunlight, it will fail to use its potential energy to hold the leaves.

The plant also fails to receive the PAR light needed for photosynthesis.

As a result, the foliage loses its rigidity to stay in the plant and eventually falls off it.

It also affects blooming.

Sometimes, the plant will lose leaves despite standing under the sunlight. 

If your plant gets overcrowded with many leaves, some lower leaves will not receive the sunlight properly.

So, they may turn yellow and fall off.

How do I improve the light conditions?

  • If you have planted Hibiscus in the ground, you need to dig up and transplant the plant in a sunny location.
  • Make sure that the plant receives daily 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. If the sunlight is too intense, let the plant have 2-3 hours of direct sunlight and 6 to 8 hours of partial sunlight.
  • If the plant gets overcrowded with leaves, remove the yellow leaves and some congested leaves so that every part of the plant can receive enough sunlight.
  • If you ever fix shading nets during the summers to reduce sunburn risks, fix them partially and don’t block the sunlight. Partial sunlight will let the plant have the PAR light.
  • The light problem occurs mainly indoors. So, if your plant is indoors, keep them near a south or west-facing window. 

Also read: How Much Light Does A Hibiscus Plant Need? (What Kind, How Much & More)

Overwatering and poor drainage

Hibiscus moisture meter

Hibiscus enjoys consistently moist soil, and thus, they need to be watered regularly.

That is why they are easy to overwater.

Hibiscus plants require lots of water, but they don’t like to stand over a pool of water.

Too much moisture will suffocate the roots and won’t let them pass the moisture and nutrients to other plant parts.

Due to the long stay in the water, the roots will become soft and mushy and start rotting.

Similar things happen when the soil and the container have a poor drainage system. 

If the soil doesn’t drain well, it will hold the moisture, suffocate the roots, and rot.

The same happens when the container doesn’t drain the excess water. 

Hibiscus plants will grow slowly in winters.

So, they will absorb the water slowly too.

Hibiscus can’t absorb if you water them regularly as you used to in the growing seasons.

The water will stay in the soil and suffocate and rot the roots.

When the plant doesn’t get enough hydration, it loses the energy to hold so many leaves.

The leaves also lose their energy to stay strong.

Therefore, the plant starts losing them.

How to address the problem?

  • Check the soil and stop watering if it is wet.
  • Let the plant have some sunlight and airflow to help in the drying process.
  • Remove the remaining yellow leaves and those that fell. 
  • Add some drainage supporters like sandperlite, or gypsum to the soil.
  • Check the roots once. If there has been a root rot, dig the plant out, remove the damaged parts, and transplant it to a new location. 
  • If many roots have rotten, you might have to remove some leaves to balance with the roots.
  • Water the plant only when the top 1-2 inches have dried up.
  • If you are using a container, ensure drainage holes. Use terra cotta pots. They are porous containers and can aid in the draining process.
  • Water every 1-2 weeks in winter.
  • Use a moisture meter to detect the moisture level if you cannot understand it by poking a finger in the soil. If the result is more than 3, wait for some more days to water.
  • Avoid using clayey soil. You can use raised beds instead to prevent moisture build-up.

Also read: What Kind Of Soil Does A Hibiscus Plant Like? (+Best Soil Mix)


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Underwatering

Hibiscus plants and their leaves and flowers need lots of moisture to remain hydrated and fresh.

The leaves will become dry, brittle, and crispy without water.

The leaves will lose their energy and fall off.

The roots also will dry out and lose energy to hold the leaves.

Though some species can tolerate little drought, that is not for a very long time.

Eventually, without water, no plant will remain healthy.

First, they will lose leaves, and slowly, the plant will die back.

Defoliation will also happen if the soil you use is weak in holding the moisture.

If it is poor in retention, the soil will drain the moisture before the plant can absorb it.

So, despite proper watering, it will stay dehydrated.

Another situation is the lack of deep watering.

When you water, the water should reach the roots.

The Hibiscus roots are 6 inches deep.

If the water doesn’t reach the roots, it cannot pass the moisture to other plant parts.

Hence, the roots will remain dry; the leaves will not receive moisture and fall off.

How do I improve my watering habits?

  • Don’t let the soil dry out entirely. Always check the moisture level and water the plant when the top 1-2 inches have dried.
  • In the summer, the plant will require more watering. It will need watering 2-3 times if the summer is sweltering.
  • Use soil that has good retention along with drainage. Add a layer of compost to help the plant retain the moisture.
  • Make sure that the water reaches the roots. If your plant is in a container, water it until the water drains out of the drainage holes. If it is in the ground, create a shallow well around the plant base to see whether the water sips through the root ball.
  • Maintaining a high humidity level can maintain a high moisture level in the plant. If you ever forget to water the plant, the humidity level will preserve moisture. The compost you add will maintain high humidity, hold moisture, and increase soil fertility.

Also read: How To Water Hibiscus Plant? (How Much, How Often & More)

Over-fertilization

NPK fertilizer

Hibiscus plants are heavy feeders, but they will lose leaves due to excessive nutrition.

It mostly happens with the chemical fertilizers you use.

Chemical fertilizers contain lots of salt.

When you apply too much fertilizer, the salt content increases and the salts absorb the moisture.

It reduces the flow of water to the roots and limits the moisture levels in the leaves.

Due to the lack of moisture, the leaves begin to fall off.

The chemicals present in the fertilizers constrain biochemical reactions and destroy the plant’s enzymes, thus causing leaf drops.

Excessive use of fertilizers stresses the plant and makes it prone to illness.

Over time, the plant will become susceptible to pests and diseases.

How do I fix the problem?

  • Leach the soil to wash off the excess salt accumulation from the soil and below the root zone.
  • The outdoor plants are not easy to over-fertilize because they need a large amount of fertilizer to get affected.
  • If you use less than the recommended amount, your grounded plant will barely suffer from it.
  • The soil surface will have a white crust layer if you have container plants. Remove the white crust from the soil surface carefully. Then leach the soil. Use distilled water to water the plant deeply and wait for the soil to drain completely. Do this 3-4 times.

Also read: What Is A Good Fertilizer For Hibiscus Plants? (Ideal Ratio+Best Pick)

Environmental changes

Hibiscus low temperature

When stressed by environmental changes like transplantation, shifting, and weather, Hibiscus plants will drop leaves.

Suppose Hibiscus received warm temperatures throughout the day and suddenly cold climate at night.

This sudden change in the surrounding climate shocks the plant.

A few leaves shedding are a reaction to that shock.

When the temperature goes below 50°F, the outdoor plant is brought indoors.

The plant faces a change, from cold nights and outside air to dry.

A change occurs, from hot indoor air direct sunlight outdoors to a decrease in the sunlight indoors, even if you keep them near a south or west-facing window. 

This change shocks the plant and makes it lose leaves due to stress.

When you transplant or repot a plant, it faces a change in its growing medium.

This transplant shock stresses Hibiscus a little, for which they start dropping a few leaves.

But once it adjusts to it, the plant will have a lush of new green leaves and no more dropping. 

There is no typical solution because the change is essential to keep the plant healthy.

Due to this change shock, it turns yellow and drops some leaves in reaction.

In the meantime, you need to take care of the plant and not give it any further stress.

Also read: Hibiscus Temperature Tolerance: Ideal Range+USDA Zones

Root-bound

Yellow or wilted leaves and defoliation are some signs that your plant is root-bound.

When a plant gets root-bound, it doesn’t receive enough water and nutrients because the amount of roots has increased and the soil has decreased. 

As a result, the soil will not be able to hold or give the plant the nutrients and moisture it needs.

Besides, the roots will quickly exhaust all the moisture and nutrients from the soil and run out of them quickly. 

That is why the plant may have some yellow leaves, ultimately falling off.

How to fix root-bound plants?

  • Take the plant out of the container, detangle the roots and repot the plant with new soil in a new container.
  • If the plant grows in the ground with some barriers, take it out and shift it to a new location without boundaries.
  • If you don’t want your plant to grow bigger, remove some roots and leaves, around 1/3rd or 1/4th.

Also read: Should Hibiscus Be Root Bound? (+When To Repot)

Dormancy

If it is winter, and some leaves of your Hibiscus are turning yellow and falling off, it is natural.

Winter is the dormancy period for the Hibiscus plants, especially the Hardy Hibiscus. 

As they will enter a resting period, they will gradually stop growing.

Due to this, the leaves will turn yellow and fall off the plant. 

Sometimes, Tropical Hibiscus keeps growing if you bring them inside in the winters and maintain the ideal temperature and humidity for growing.

Also read: How Fast Do Hibiscus Plants Grow? (Hibiscus Growth Rate )

Pests 

Hibiscus bugs

Sap-sucking insects like aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies, scales, etc., will drink all the saps from the xylem and phloem of the plant.

They stick to the leaves to drink the sap.

As they continue sucking the saps out, they starve the plant.

As a result, the leaves will turn yellow and drop off.

These sap-suckers also release a sticky substance called honeydew. 

Later on, this sticky substance will give rise to a fungal disease called sooty mold.

How do I remove pests?

  • Remove the infected leaves from the plant.
  • Spray some Neem oil to the infected areas. Ensure this treatment in the evening because the sprayed leaves can burn if exposed to direct sunlight.
  • Use insecticidal soaps to kill them. Add 2½ to 5 teaspoons of the soap with one-gallon water. Coat them with it to take away the oxygen and kill them.
  • Use Imidacloprid. Apply them to the soil so that the plant can absorb them. When the pests suck the saps, they will absorb the chemical and die.

Also read: How Do I Get Rid Of Bugs On My Hibiscus? (Common Bugs+Fix)

Diseases

Overwatering causes a fungal disease called root rot, where the roots will begin to rot due to a long stay in the water.

Roots are the main part of the plant. Without healthy roots, the plant cannot hold the leaves and make them fall off.

Leaf Spot disease is a black spot disease.

The disease reduces the functioning of photosynthesis and weakens the plant.

The leaves will have black and brown spots all over the leaf surface, and the leaves ultimately fall off.

Hollyhock Rust is another fungal disease found in Hibiscus plants.

The leaves will have orange dots under the leaves and a rust color on the surface.

After a while, the disease will kill the foliage and make them fall off. 

Slowly the infection will spread and end up killing the plant.

How to treat diseases?

  • Sanitization is essential to prevent diseases. Remove the fallen leaves and prune the damaged parts of the plant. Keep your gardening tools clean and disinfected.
  • Water can spread diseases. Discard the removed parts and debris in the dustbin to prevent rain spread the spores. 
  • Avoid overhead watering. Always water close to the soil.
  • Spray some fungicide on the infected areas after removing the diseased parts.
  • Avoid conditions that can invite fungal diseases.
  • Let the soil dry out before watering. 
  • Along with high humidity, maintain good air circulation.
  • Don’t stress the plant further. The healthier the plant will be, the lesser the chances of disease development.

Final thoughts

The moment you notice that your Hibiscus plant is losing leaves, inspect the problem and act quickly to resolve it. Check with the reasons I have shared in this article and treat the issue as explained.

If the damage level is not that high, your plant will stop dropping leaves within a few weeks and start growing new leaves. While the plant is still recovering, don’t stress them further with droughts, overwatering, over-fertilization, etc. 

Avoid chemical fertilizers for some weeks until the plant has recovered. Instead, you can use organic fertilizers like compost to improve soil fertility. 

Revival can be difficult if the damage level crosses 50%. So, don’t delay solving the problem if you want your plant back.


Reference: WikipediaASPCALouisiana State University Agricultural CenterAmerican Society for Horticultural ScienceTropical Hibiscus by Texas A&M UniversitySciencedirect.

Richa

Hello everyone, My name is Richa and I am here to make you a better gardener by creating an in-depth and helpful resource for all the fellow gardeners out there. If I could help even a few people understand their plants better then I call it a success for my efforts.

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