How to Prune Hibiscus Perennials

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The flowers of hibiscus plants make the plant an attraction in any landscaping.
The flowers of hibiscus plants make the plant an attraction in any landscaping. (Image: Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Hibiscus plants come in a variety of shapes, sizes, growth habits and hardiness levels. Before hibiscus perennials can be pruned, it's important to know what kind of hibiscus is growing, as plants that die back in the winter (herbaceous) are treated differently than plants that remain above ground but lose their leaves (tropical). Once you know how to prune your specific hibiscus variety, repeat the process every year for a well-maintained plant.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand pruners
  • Leaf mulch

Clip away in the fall any dead growth on a herbaceous hibiscus to only 8 to 12 inches tall, using clean hand pruners. Pile leaf mulch over and around the remaining portions of the plant for the winter. Pull back the mulch in the spring and clip the dead stems to the ground.

Prune tropical hibiscus plants, such as Rose of Sharon or Chinese hibiscus, in the spring after the last frost has passed. Look over the plant for dead limbs and cut them back to ground level or at a point where they branch from a healthy stem.

Inspect the tropical hibiscus’ healthy growth to note where the tallest and oldest stems are as well as the location of any branches that rub against one another. Cut back the rubbing branches to a point where they branch off from a healthy stem or at ground level if a branching area is unavailable.

Clip away the old, brittle tropical branches from the plant at a point where it extends from healthy growth or to a point of healthy growth along the same stem. If cutting along the length of the stem is possible, clip the branch just above two to three set of leaves.

Continue to trim tropical hibiscus until one-third of the plant has been removed, leaving only three or four strong, healthy branches. Ideally, the branches left behind should grow outward from the center of the plant.

Tips & Warnings

  • Hibiscus plants should not be trimmed straight across the top to maintain a certain height, as is done with other shrubs or bushes.
  • Clean your pruners with an alcohol-based sanitizer to avoid spreading diseases.

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