Tips for the indoor tropical hibiscus

Last tomatoes

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I bought a hibiscus this past spring, and it was really beautiful with all the blooms this summer. It is growing in a pot on my back porch.

Do I need to take it inside for the winter, and if I do, should I cut it back? – Dave

I am going to assume this is a tropical hibiscus, and if it is, you cannot leave it outside because a frost will kill it. You will need to either take it inside your house or, if you have it, a greenhouse for the winter.

As far as whether to cut it back, that is up to you. The main reason most are cut back is because they may simply be too large for a spot in the house. You can cut it back as far as you wish.

If you take it into your house, you should put it in front of a window to maximize available light.

Before you take it in, however, be sure to check the foliage well for insects, especially looking on the underside of the leaves.

The main insects you may find are aphids. If you see any, spray with a labeled insecticide or an insecticidal soap while it is still outside.

There are downsides to saving tropical hibiscus, however.

Most of them don’t bloom as well the second year. Then it will be even less the third year and so forth.

Some varieties do bloom longer than others, though. Sometimes a plant will give years of enjoyment while others only last one good year. Some of the newer hybrids might bloom well for four or five years. I had one that bloomed well for two years.

The third year it had very few blooms, and by the fourth summer, it had none, so I threw it away at the end of the growing season.

Last tomatoes

For those of you who still have tomatoes in your garden, you all know that a frost might already have hit.

If it’s not too late, pick the remaining tomatoes on your vines. If they are already turning slightly red, you can set them in your kitchen like you normally would during the summer and they should ripen up just fine.

For green tomatoes, you can store them at 50 degrees with very little ventilation and they will keep for several weeks. Move them to a 70-75 degree temperature to ripen as you need them.

You can also place a ripe apple in a closed container with green tomatoes to encourage the tomatoes to turn red. Ripe apples give off ethylene gas, which causes tomatoes to ripen.

Soil test

Fall is a great time to take a soil test. Our lab at the University of Georgia isn’t as busy in the fall as in the spring.

And if your soil needs lime, and most of our soils do, fall and winter are the best times to apply it.

Basic soil test results indicate the pH, phosphorus, potassium and other nutrient levels in the soil. We also recommend fertilizers to add, based on what you are growing.

Take six to eight samples from six to eight inches deep throughout the garden, flower or shrub bed, or lawn. Mix them together in a clean container and put them in a clean jar or zip-top sandwich bag. We need between a half-pint and a pint of soil for the test.

Other tips

Take a walk through your garden as fall winds down. Take time to reflect on the successes and failures this year. Make notes for new things to try and things to fix next spring.

When placing houseplants around the home, remember as a general rule, plants with thick and/or large leaves can take lower light levels than those with small/thin leaves. Try to avoid drafty places and heater vents.

If there is any evidence of scale on trees and shrubs, spray with dormant oil or a systemic insecticide this fall and again next spring.

After several killing frosts have occurred this fall, cut back dormant perennials to about an inch or two above ground. Then mulch the plants well.

REACH SID MULLIS, THE DIRECTOR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA EXTENSION SERVICE OFFICE FOR RICHMOND COUNTY, AT (706) 821-2349 OR SMULLIS@UGA.EDU.


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