Hibiscus is known for its big colorful blooms. Using the right kind of soil is essential to maintain their health and beauty. Today, I will share the best type of soil for Hibiscus plants.
Generally, Hibiscus enjoys consistently moist but well-drained soil amended with some organic matter. An ideal soil mix would be a blend of equal parts of potting soil, peat moss, and compost. Also, hibiscus plants prefer slightly acidic soils with pH levels between 6.5 and 6.8.
Many other things require consideration while choosing the perfect soil for Hibiscus. Read this article to learn everything about the soil requirements for Hibiscus.
What is the importance of using the right soil?
Using the correct soil for Hibiscus is vital for their healthy growth and profuse blooms.
Though they can adjust to any soil, you will have to amend it by adding extra ingredients to make it suitable for Hibiscus.
In their native land, Hibiscus will get everything from Mother Nature naturally.
But while growing them in your garden, you need to use the right one.
The right type of soil will encourage the plant to:
- Grow appropriately without any issue
- Drain the excess water
- Flower profoundly
- Save the plant from getting soggy
Signs that you are using the wrong type of soil
If your plant shows signs of watering or fertilizer issues despite following the right routine, it is because of the soil.
Maybe the soil is either draining too fast or not draining at all.
When you find problems related to watering or nutrition, consider checking the soil’s condition and try to recall the ingredients you used in the soil mix.
Signs you are using the wrong soil are:
- The soil remains soggy for a long time.
- Plant showing signs of overwatering and root rot like yellow leaves, dark brown roots, foul smell, etc.
- Soil is drying out very quickly
- Discolored flowers due to improper pH level.
- The leaves are crispy and dry due to dehydration.
- The plant suffers nutrient deficiency because the soil cannot hold it for long.
If you see these symptoms, it is clear that you are using the wrong soil.
Don’t worry because we will share some facts to consider while selecting the right soil for them.
What type of soil will be the best for Hibiscus?
Hibiscus has over 200 individual varieties, and their hardiness zones vary accordingly.
But, most of them will thrive in the same soil.
Below are some subjects you must check while selecting the correct soil for Hibiscus.
Texture and drainage
Hibiscus prefers moist soil but not soggy or waterlogged soil.
This is a hint that you must use well-drained soil for them.
Ordinary soil will be heavy for the plant, for which it will retain moisture for a long time and result in overwatering.
In worse conditions, the plant will suffer root rot and fungal diseases.
Try to avoid using soil that carries high clay content.
If the soil is very clayey, add sand or gypsum to improve the drainage.
You can also create raised beds to eliminate the build-up of excess moisture.
For good drainage, add ingredients like:
On the contrary, soil that doesn’t retain moisture is not ideal for Hibiscus.
Fast draining will make the soil dry frequently, and you have to provide them with water repeatedly.
This is an extra effort.
Besides, soil that is poor in retention will also not hold the nutrients.
The nutrients will also get drained even before the plant absorbs them within no time.
As a result, the plant will suffer nutrient deficiency despite proper fertilization.
You must use well-drained but moisture-retentive soil.
There must be a balance between the both.
If the soil is extremely sandy, add coco coir, mulch, or other organic matters to improve the retention.
Soil pH level
Hibiscus prefers soil with pH levels ranging between 6.5 and 6.8, i.e., slightly acidic to neutral.
When you plant Hibiscus in your selected soil, check the pH level before planting it.
Otherwise, the wrong pH level can raise issues in the plant.
If the acidity level of the Hibiscus plant is not up to the mark, the color of the flowers will get affected.
To increase the pH level, you can use lime, for example, Pennington Fast Acting Lime.
Common liming materials contain dolomite and ground agricultural limestone.
Use peat moss, sulfur, or a sulfur compound like aluminum sulfate to decrease the pH level.
The soil for Hibiscus needs to be rich in nutrients as they are heavy feeders.
Nutrition helps Hibiscus in abundant blooms.
You won’t have to fertilize the plant frequently if you use nutrient-rich soil.
Add compost or other organic matters to increase the fertility of the soil.
To feed the plant, use a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen and potassium but low in phosphorus.
A fertilizer with an NPK value of 6-4-6 or 10-4-12 will work.
Before planting, consider checking the fertility and pH level of the soil by using soil test kits.
The test results will tell you what amendments are needed.
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A compact soil restricts oxygen flow to the roots and prevents the soil from drying faster.
As a result, the plant will become prone to root rot and other fungal diseases.
The strategy is to maintain moist soil, not compact or soggy.
To improve air circulation, you can use:
If you are planting them directly in the garden, you need to check how well the water will soak the soil.
It is because Hibiscus has long roots, around 6 inches.
The water needs to reach the roots for good growth.
Dig a small well in the planting site, fill it with water 2-3 times and let it drain for half an hour.
Dig the soil and check how far the water has reached.
If 8 to 12 inches of the soil has soaked downwards, you can easily plant them at that location.
Otherwise, you will have to find some other location for good permeability.
Best soil mix recipes for Hibiscus
Hibiscus generally enjoys soil that is sandy loam.
It can drain well and retain moisture too.
Now that you got familiar with the soil requirements of Hibiscus, it is time to share with you some ideal soil mixes for them.
You can choose any of the following recipes you want for your Hibiscus:
- 2 parts soil
- 2 parts peat moss
- 1 part vermiculite or perlite
- 1/3 potting soil
- 1/3 compost or worm castings
- 1/3 peat moss or coco coir
Equal parts of:
- Composted bark
- Composted manure
- Coarse peat
- Mix these ingredients with little vermiculite.
- 50% peat
- 45% bark
- 5% perlite
- 30% soil
- 30% compost
- 20% sand
- 10% rice husk (optional) or coco peat
- 10% stone dust or bone meal
- A little neem cake for preventing fungal development
- 60% soil
- 30% vermicompost or cow manure
- 10% river sand
You can also add some fertilizer with this soil mix like:
- 30gm Mustard cake powder
- 10gm super phosphate for rooting (optional)
- 30gm bone dust
- 30gm neem cake powder
- 10gm potash
- 10gm NPK Suphala
This mix will help in abundant blooming year-round.
Hibiscus soil amendments
Perlite: It helps in aeration, moisture retention, and drainage
Sand: It increases drainage
Compost: It increases retention and also feeds the plants slowly
Gypsum: Helps in absorbing water and reducing erosion of the soil
Volcanic rock: It improves the soil quality by increasing moisture-retention, aeration, and porosity
Commercial soil mixes for Hibiscus
If you don’t want to put any extra effort into making the soil mix for Hibiscus, you can simply use some commercial soil mixes for them.
Below, I have shared some:
Pro-Mix Premium Organic Soil
It has a pH level ranging between 5.5 and 7.5.
It contains perlite, peat moss, and other organic fertilizers that can feed your plant slowly, nurture them with essential nutrients and reduce the chances of fungal development.
You can get Pro-Mix Premium Organic Soil here.
Espoma Organic Garden Soil
This soil is a good start for new gardeners.
It has the same pH levels as the other two above.
It has all the key nutrients Hibiscus needs for optimum growth and will last for several months.
You can get Espoma Organic Garden Soil here.
Fox Farm Ocean Organic Soil Mix
It is a well-aerated soil mix, and you can use them for seedlings and cuttings.
It has a pH level of 5.5 to 7.5. It contains all the macro and micronutrients that Hibiscus need.
It is ideal for both indoor and outdoor plants.
This soil mix can correct the soil’s pH level, turning it from acidic or alkaline to neutral.
It further encourages healthy Hibiscus growth.
You can get Fox Farm Ocean Organic Soil Mix here.
Sun-Gro Organic Soil
This organic, loamy soil mix is perfect for Hibiscus plants.
It also has perlite and pumice that ensures both drainage and retention.
The soil mix will improve the plant’s health as it has worm castings, peat moss, and nutrients in the mix.
It has the same pH levels as the other three before.
You can get Sun-Gro Organic Soil here.
Miracle-Gro Garden Soil
It also has the same pH levels as the previous mixes.
It is famous, cheap, and also has a fertilizer mix.
Miracle-Gro helps the plant control the soil’s moisture level, which means it can save your plant from overwatering.
The soil mix can give your plant enough nutrients for 3 months.
You might not have to feed them for 3 months.
You can get Miracle-Gro Garden Soil here.
Where should I plant my Hibiscus?
Choose a location that receives daily 6 to 8 hours of sunlight and some shade in the afternoon.
If you are planting Hibiscus directly in the ground of your garden, first check its quality and permeability.
If the soil has high clay content, add sand or gypsum or create raised beds to reduce water accumulation.
Add compost or other organic materials to it to amend the soil if it’s sandy.
Check how deep the water can reach.
Since Hibiscus has deep roots, the water must reach them.
Otherwise, the plant will experience dehydration.
If you are using a container, ensure its drainage system.
If not, the water will remain stagnant and overwatering and root rot.
If you follow the right watering routine, you can use any pot you want, such as plastics or glazed pots.
But, if you are a beginner and learning to water the plant correctly, use terracotta pots.
Since it is made of porous materials, it can wick away moisture quickly.
You must use a pot depending on the plant size. It should neither be too small nor too big.
Try to use a slightly deep (2-4″) container as Hibiscus has deep roots.
Should I divide Hibiscus plants?
Since Hibiscus plants are fast-growing, dividing them can promote healthy growth.
Besides, the plant will get more room to spread.
The roots of the plant are very deep and broad.
If you don’t divide them, the plant will have thin and scarce leaf growth, the center of the plant will be empty, and there will be small and very few flowers.
This means that the roots cannot nourish every part of the plant.
The best time to divide is during early fall.
It is the time when they will actively grow their roots.
Moreover, the cool weather will encourage the divided plants to establish without overheating or droughts.
You can also do it in the spring when new growth starts.
But the plant will heal slowly.
Don’t divide young plants, and don’t divide frequently.
Look for the 10-year-old plants for division.
- For dividing, take a clean, sharp, and disinfected knife to make a clear cut and prevent fungal diseases.
- Slice through the main root mass and divide it into 2 equal parts.
- Both the parts should have roots and actively growing top shoots.
- Remove bad roots, if any.
- Now, transplant them at the same depth in well-drained and well-permeable soil. Add a 2-inch layer of compost over the top 8 inches of the soil bed. The site must receive full sun for 6 to 8 hours daily.
- Water the soil bed after replanting.
The plant will experience transplant shock and may wilt and grow slowly.
But it will get better if you give them 1-2 inches of water weekly to keep the soil moist.
When to grow and repot Hibiscus plants?
The best time to plant new Hibiscus or repot an old plant is in spring or early summer.
Since it is their growing season, they will develop energetically.
Generally, Hibiscus requires repotting every year.
But, you must ensure that the plant is ready for repotting.
Hibiscus can tolerate small spaces to some extent and grow roots.
But, when the plant overgrows the container, it is time to repot them.
Signs that your Hibiscus needs repotting are:
- Roots coming out of the drainage holes
- The plant looks bigger than the container
- The number of roots is more than the soil
- Plant suffering frequent dehydration due to less amount of soil
How to repot Hibiscus?
Here are the simple steps for repotting Hibiscus:
- Take the plant out of the old container. Use spades to loosen the soil, but carefully.
- Check the roots, untangle them, and remove the old potting soil. Cut the dead, damaged, and broken roots, if any.
- If you don’t want your plant to grow very big, take a container with the same diameter and height as your plant. Also, trim off 1/3rd roots.
- But, if you want it to grow, use a container 1-2 inches taller and wider than the old one. Make sure that the container has drainage holes.
- Fill it with the ideal soil mixes. Choose any one from the suggested recipes I shared earlier.
- Place the plant in the new pot with new soil. Cover the roots properly.
- Don’t water immediately. Some roots will get hurt during the process. So, let them heal for some days.
- After 2-3 days, water the plant.
- Until recovery, don’t expose them to the direct sunlight for some days, until recovery.
- Fertilize them after 3-4 months, especially if your soil has fertilizer materials.
- Once established, shift them to a sunny location and start normal watering when the top 1-2 inches are dry.
Hibiscus enjoys sandy and sandy loam soil that drains well and retains enough to keep the soil moist.
When you choose a place in your garden for planting Hibiscus, make sure it can drain and retain properly in a balanced way. Also, ensure the penetrability because the water needs to reach the deep and extensive roots of the plant.
You can use any of the soil mixes I have shared above. They are all good in drainage, retention, pH levels, and fertility.
However, there are other soil mix recipes and commercial mixes available. You can use any of your choices. But, if you don’t want to put extra effort, try the recommended ones.
When the plant grows too big, the centers are empty, leaves are thin, and flowers are small and rare, it is time to divide the plant.
Generally, Hibiscus requires repotting every year due to their fast-growing feature, and you should check the condition of the soil and signs of repotting in the plant.
Reference: Wikipedia, ASPCA, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, American Society for Horticultural Science, Tropical Hibiscus by Texas A&M University, Sciencedirect.