Why Is My Hibiscus Plant Not Growing? (Causes+How To Fix)


Hibiscus plants are fast-growing plants and can flower profusely during every growing season. Hibiscus not showing any growth or flower development is a matter of concern. Today, we will discuss some reasons for Hibiscus not growing properly.

Poor lighting, nutrient deficiency, and root-bound plant are the primary reasons behind Hibiscus not growing. Let Hibiscus have enough sunlight, adequate fertilization, well-drained loamy soil, and sufficient water to keep it thriving. Also, Consider yearly repotting or soil rejuvenation.

There can be other reasons too behind the problem. In this guide, we will explore all the reasons and how to deal with them. Read this article till the end to know how to improve the plant’s growth.

Hibiscus leggy and not growing

Why do Hibiscus plants not grow properly?

Hibiscus plants are generally fast-growing plants.

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They grow by 24 inches every year and can reach 10-15 feet within a few years.

But if the plant has suddenly stopped growing or not growing properly, then the plant is stressed for some reason.

There are a lot of reasons behind Hibiscus not growing.

But, it is not the end of your plant.

Once you identify the problem, you can easily fix it and improve its growth.

Let’s have a quick look at the list of reasons:

  • Incorrect or inconsistent watering
  • Improper sunlight
  • Poor fertilization
  • Inferior soil quality
  • Root-bound plant
  • Temperature and dormancy
  • Wrong zone
  • Pests and diseases

Now, let’s learn about them in detail.

Incorrect or inconsistent watering

Hibiscus watering

Watering too much or too little intervenes in the plant’s development and stops it from growing properly.

Hibiscus enjoys consistently moist soil.

If you don’t water the plant properly, it won’t get the moisture they need for good growth.

Eventually, the leaves will become dry, crispy, and yellow, and the plant will stop growing.

Excessive watering suffocates the roots, for which they fail to pass on the water and nutrients to other parts of the plant.

As a result, the plant stops growing properly.

Inconsistent watering is where your plant goes through a period of proper moisture and then dryness for a long time, then moist and again dry.

The inconsistency disturbs the plant’s system, due to which it fails to grow properly.

Other signs include spongy leaves and wet soil in overwatering, dry soil, brittle and crispy leaves in underwatering, and bud drops.

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

Incorrect sunlight

Hibiscus likes 6 to 8 hours of sunlight.

If the plant fails to receive adequate sunlight, it cannot use the potential energy for adequate growth.

The leaves will also turn yellow, and there won’t be any flowers.

Similarly, excessive sunlight can cause sunburns and affect the plant’s growth and development.

Besides no growth, the plant will get yellow leaves with white dots.

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

Poor fertilization

Hibiscus plants are generous feeders.

Without fertilization, the plant will not receive the nutrients they need for good development and flowering.

As a result, they will neither grow well nor will they flower.

But it doesn’t mean you should feed them uncontrollably.

Besides, high phosphorus can prevent the plant from absorbing other nutrients.

Due to this, the plant suffers from nutrient deficiency and thus, stops growing and blooming.

Other signs of under fertilization are leaves turning yellow with green veins, a condition called chlorosis.

Other symptoms of over-fertilization are leaves turning brown due to burning and eventually falling off.

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

Inferior soil quality

Hibiscus likes to grow over well-drained loamy soil with good drainage, retention, and fertility.

If the soil doesn’t drain well, it will have overwatering issues.

Due to this, the roots will remain suffocated and fail to pass the nutrients to other parts of the plant, thus stopping growth.

If the soil has poor retention, it will drain both the moisture and nutrients before the plant absorbs them.

Due to this, the plant will stop growing due to underwatering and undernourishment.

Soil gets depleted, and the nutrients get leached down with every watering.

If you don’t replace the soil with the new one, the soil will become compact and barren over time.

This kind of soil doesn’t drain well, loses fertility, and affects the plant’s growth.

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


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Root-bound plant

Generally, slight root-bound conditions help Hibiscus plants in abundant flowering.

But extreme root-bound is not good.

When the plant becomes extremely root-bound, the roots grow in a circular motion and get entangled and compact.

Due to the tightness, the plant fails to properly absorb the moisture and nutrients.

The plant suffers from underwatering.

The water drains immediately out of the container because there is rarely any soil left to hold it. 

The plant requires more water than they receive in a small container with little soil.

The soil used for the plant contains organic matter, which gets broken and used by the plant.

The roots have exhausted all the nutrients of the soil.

The more roots the plant will have, the faster the soil will run out of nutrients. 

When the plant becomes root-bound, roots come out of the drainage holes and block them.

When you water the plant, it remains in the roots and eventually rots them. 

For these reasons, the plant’s efficient progress and development will get disturbed.

Ultimately, the plant will not grow well or stop growing. 

Grounded plants, too, will get root-bound if the soil is not rejuvenated for many years or the plant is growing in boundaries like pipes or walls. 

Old soil loses its flexibility over time.

Therefore, the roots cannot spread properly and becomes root-bound.

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

Temperature and dormancy

Hibiscus low temperature

For ideal growth, the Hibiscus plants will require temperatures ranging between 65 and 75°F.

Extremely high or low temperatures can affect the plant’s growth.

Hibiscus plants belong to tropical areas.

So, they won’t develop properly when the temperature drops below 55°F in winter.

It is their period of dormancy where they will stop growing and start resting. 

However, it would be best to care for the Hibiscus plants.

It includes bringing them indoors or mulching them outdoors and covering them with frost cloths.

Also read: Can Hibiscus Tolerate Cold Weather? (+Winter Care)

Improper growing zone

If you grow Tropical Hibiscus in the colder zones, you will not witness their proper growth.

Tropical Hibiscus plants are native to zones 10 to 12.

The plants grow seamlessly in warm, sunny, and humid climates. 

If you ought to grow them in the colder zones like 4 to 8, the plant might not grow properly.

Even if the summer arrives, it will be a cool summer and not a hot one.

So, the Tropical Hibiscus might not develop as per your expectation. 

Hardy Hibiscus can grow in any zones, but they shouldn’t be exposed to the full sun in the summer.

Some varieties like Rose of Sharon will not grow well under the full sun in areas like Florida.

Full sun will be quite hard on them. 

The plant can suffer overheating and sunburns.

It can affect the plant’s growth. 

Rose of Sharon grows slowly to moderate speed. 

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

Pests and diseases

Hibiscus bugs

Pest infestations weaken the plants by sucking their saps and hatching eggs.

Some sapsuckers are aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, whiteflies, and scales.

They suck all the plant’s juices, weaken it and result in yellow leaves and stunted growth.

Other insects like Japanese beetles, caterpillars, thrips, gall midges, etc., badly affect the plant.

The caterpillars and beetles eat the leaves and skeletonize them.

Thrips and gall midges lay eggs in the flower buds, scratch them, and force them to drop prematurely.

Hibiscus can become prone to several diseases like Root rot, Leaf spot, Botrytis, Dieback disease, Wilt disease, etc.

In most cases, prolonged dampness, high humidity levels, and lack of airflow are responsible.

A diseased plant will ultimately weaken the plant and stop growing.

Other signs of diseases are black spots, brown buds dropping, wilting on one particular branch, all leaves being wilted, necrotic tissues, etc.

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

How to encourage the plant to start growing?

To encourage Hibiscus to grow again like before at its normal pace, fix the problems first and then care for it to prevent it from any further stress.

Improve watering habits

The right way to water the plant is to check the soil’s moisture before watering.

If the top 1-2 inches are dry, the plant is ready to take water.

The frequency can differ depending on the environmental conditions.

You should always check the moisture level before watering.

Following this technique can also prevent inconsistent watering.

If you have overwatered your plant, stop watering and let the soil dry out. 

If underwatered, give the soil a good soak and ensure the water reaches the roots.

You can confirm deep watering in potted plants when the water drains out of the drainage holes. 

To ensure the soil permeability for the grounded plants, make a shallow well around the plant base.

Check the sunlight

Hibiscus direct sun

Hibiscus grows best when they get 6 to 8 hours of sunlight.

If the sunlight is at its peak, let the Hibiscus have at least 2-4 hours of direct sunlight (preferably the morning sun) and then partial sunlight for the rest of the day.

Filtered sunlight is also fine, but I wouldn’t recommend it to be the best. 

When you filter the light, it blocks the PAR, affecting photosynthesis and flowering.

If your plant gets too little sunlight, shift it to a sunny location.

Make sure there are a few trees that can provide a little shade.

Then, you don’t have to worry about sunburn.

Find the ideal place before planting because Hibiscus is sensitive to sudden changes.

Improve fertilization

If you haven’t fertilized your plant for a long time, start doing it, provided it is spring and summer.

If it is winter, wait for the temperature to warm up.

Use a fertilizer consisting of average nitrogen, low phosphorus, and high potassium.

Don’t forget to fertilize Hibiscus in the growing months, i.e., spring and summer.

Suppose you have Tropical Hibiscus, and you have brought it inside in the winters.

You are also giving them their ideal growing conditions.

You can use a liquid fertilizer once a month.

But, if your plant is dormant, don’t fertilize them.

Since they are resting, they will not absorb any nutrition.

Amend and improve the soil

Hibiscus will not grow in any soil.

The best kind of soil for Hibiscus should have good drainage, retention, and organic matter for nutrition.

If you are using fast-draining soil, add compost to improve the retention. 

Add sandperlite, or gypsum to improve drainage using slow-draining soil.

Mulching the soil with compost every year can improve soil fertility.

Some ideal soil mixes are:

Repot or rejuvenate the soil

Repotting or rejuvenating the soil each year can reduce the chances of an extremely root-bound plant.

While repotting, use a container 1-2 inches bigger than the old one.

If you don’t want your plant to grow, use the same old container size. 

Also, trim the plant around 1/3rd or 1/4th.

In the case of grounded plants, take them out and plant them in a place without boundaries.

Change the soil every 1-2 years by tilling the top few inches and adding compostsandperlitepumice, etc., to improve drainage, retention, and fertility.

While transplanting the plant, carefully detangle the roots.

If any roots are too stubborn, slice through them but don’t pull them forcefully.

Temperature

If you want your plant to grow in the winters, grow Tropical Hibiscus because they are meant to grow and flower the whole year, provided they receive warm temperatures throughout.

You can take the plant inside in the winters and keep them in warm temperature and high humidity rooms.

The plant might not stop growing.

Otherwise, there is no solution to dormancy.

Reduce the watering frequency and don’t fertilize.

Cover the plant with a frost cloth if it is outside, and add a thick layer of mulch. 

If the plant is inside, keep it in a dark place and take it out in the warmer climates when new growth appears.

Plant the right variety in the right zone

If you want to grow Tropical Hibiscus, grow them in zones 10 to 12.

You can take them inside in the winters and give them their ideal temperature and humidity with a little fertilizer.

They will not stop growing.

If you belong to colder zones (4-8), grow Hardy Hibiscus.

They can tolerate temperatures around -30°F. However, the Hardy Hibiscus will stop growing in the winters.

Get rid of pests and diseases.

Hibiscus neem oil

To remove bugs:

  • Shower the plant to break the group of bugs.
  • To treat the pests that enjoy damp conditions, let the plant have partial or filtered light and don’t water it. The soil will dry faster, and the sunlight will force the bugs to leave the plant.
  • Spray Neem oil the moment you spot an infestation. You can even spray it normally once a month to prevent bugs.
  • Use products like Imidacloprid in the soil. When the sap-sucking insects suck the saps, they will absorb this chemical and die.
  • Use soapy water and coat the bugs. It will cut off their oxygen and kill them.
  • Dab rubbing alcohol with cotton on the infected area. It will weaken the shielded bugs like mealybugs and hard-shelled scales.
  • Avoid stressing the plant with improper watering, fertilization, and other things.

To get rid of diseases:

  • Isolate the plant and remove the diseased and fallen leaves to prevent spreading.
  • Avoid fertilizing the plant unless the plant has recovered.
  • Use fungicides to get rid of the diseases. But remember not to use it unless your plant has lost many leaves over several years.
  • While pruning, be careful and don’t hurt the other parts of the plant which you don’t wish to prune.
  • Maintaining proper air circulation and sunlight can force the spores to leave the plant.
  • Always throw the discarded parts of the plant in the dustbin, away from the plant. Please don’t use them for any other gardening purposes.
  • Some diseases are the results of prolonged dampness. In that case, let the soil dry out and then treat the plant with a fungicide.
  • While watering, avoid splashing water on the leaves and use raised beds to improve drainage.
  • Use Neem oil once a month to prevent fungal disease development and spreading.

Final thoughts

Hibiscus plants not growing is not the end of your plant unless the problems discussed above reach their final level of damage. 

Take care of your plant daily and provide them with the correct conditions. Observe your plant daily to know if they are facing any issues.

The moment you find something is wrong with the plant, find the right symptoms. Along with no growth, the plant will also show other signs.

Cross-check with the problems and the signs of damage I shared and fix them as soon as possible to help the plant grow back again.


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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