How to Trim a Hibiscus Tree


Trimming back hibiscus promotes new growth and prolific flowering. Clearing away dead or pest-damaged wood also improves plant health. Shaping done each spring maintains a beautiful, healthy hibiscus.

How to Trim a Hibiscus Tree
(Santy Gibson/Demand Media)

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Pruning saw
Step 1

Trimming a hibiscus properly requires shears that are sharp and sterilized. Dull shears strip off bark or smash the branch, leaving the tree exposed to pests and infections. Sterilized shears stop the spread of disease-causing organisms. Squeeze hand sanitizer onto a clean cloth and wipe across the blades. If cutting diseased wood, sterilize the blades before making each cut. Pruning shears are designed for cutting branches 1/2-inch thick. A pruning saw may be needed for larger branches–usually 2 inches or more in diameter.

Santy Gibson/Demand Media
Step 2

Two factors must be taken into account while trimming a hibiscus: timing and plant maturity. Timing depends on your weather zone. Frost damages new growth so pruning should begin no earlier than March. Pinching off new growth on young shrubs produces thicker shrubs and more flowers. Older wood produces few flowers so mature shrubs often require a one-third reduction of the entire plant.

Santy Gibson/Demand Media
Step 3

Begin with any branches that are out of proportion. Move about one-third of the way down the branch and find a leaf node. Be sure the leaf node faces the way you want the new branch to grow–usually facing out and up. Cut at a 45-degree slant, leaving 1/4 inch of wood above the node.

Santy Gibson/Demand Media
Step 4

Shape the remaining branches into the desired form–tree shape with no branches on the lower half or a bush style. Leaving some branches alone ensures blooms early in the growing season and later when the new growth emerges. Depending on the weather, new growth should begin in several weeks. Fertilize at half strength after two weeks. Watch new growth for any harmful insects.

Santy Gibson/Demand Media

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Tips & Warnings

  • Do not fertilize after heavy pruning. The plant has insufficient foliage to release the moisture and nutrients. Full recovery occurs in one growing season.


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