Propagating new plants from cuttings is an inexpensive method of obtaining new plants. Propagation through stem cuttings works well for most woody ornamental plants, including hibiscus shrubs. Although hibiscus cuttings can root in plain water, using soil or a soilless medium promotes a higher rooting success rate.
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Hibiscus plants grow as both annuals and perennials. These blossoming plants grow to different mature sizes depending on the variety. Most achieve maturity between 2 and 8 feet tall. The plants spread into rounded shapes as they age. Hibiscus produce blossoms in a range of colors including red, pink and yellow. Hibiscus plants generally reproduce through seed formation in their native environment. Propagation through vegetative means includes dividing the roots or removing portions of the stems and branches.
Spring is the best time to obtain softwood cuttings from hibiscus plants. Softwood cuttings contain portions of new growth that are still slightly soft but snap when folded in half. Select semihardwood cuttings that contain some older, harder growth, but these root slower than softwood cuttings. Softwood cuttings contain a graduation of leaves, having larger leaves near the lower stems and new, small leaves along the tips. Look for new shoots about as thick as a pencil and measure at least 5 or 6 inches long.
Vegetative cuttings require moist environments providing water to the stems and leaves while the new roots begin forming. Although placing cuttings in a glass of water works fine for some plants, such as coleus, mint, ivy and philodendrons, most plants require planting media that allow oxygen to reach the stems. Using a rooting medium promotes a healthier root system in hibiscus cuttings.
Loose and porous soil or soilless media that supports the cuttings and provides both moisture and air help encourage optimal growth. Mixing together one part peat with three parts sand forms a suitable medium. Strip the lower leaves from the hibiscus cuttings and insert them into the medium. Keeping the soil slightly moist for about five weeks helps prepare the cutting for transplanting into a permanent outdoor location or a large pot for indoor growth.