Hibiscus First Aid Kit... by Cindy and Charles Black

Hibiscus emergencies are one of the main reasons why people email us. Too frequently, we tell them how to treat the problem, but the hibiscus lovers don't have the products they need for the treatment. Many of these things are very hard, or impossible, to find locally, and ordering them from us can take up to a week. A sick hibiscus can go downhill badly in a week! We have our own hibiscus first aid kit on hand at all times at HVH, and we thought it might be helpful to share the items that we have found to be indispensible for basic hibiscus first aid.

  1. Bleach: Cheap and easy to keep around, bleach is the first line of defense for disease prevention. Use bleach water to clean pots before transplanting, to clean potting work surfaces, and to clean any tools you use with your hibiscus. In the dire emergency of Wilt Disease, you'll need to use bleach very quickly on your hibiscus, and you don't want to lose time going to get some from the grocery store.
  2. Hand Sanitizer: Use this to keep your pruners and cutters clean, to prevent spreading of microbes and pests from one plant to another, or from one branch to another. Use hand sanitizer on your pruners before every cut you make on your hibiscus. Dead, dying, or damaged branch tips should be cut off quickly before they become infected and the infection spreads. But you want to make sure you don't spread any disease in these branches with your pruners! So clean, clean, clean your pruners with hand sanitizer, and if a little is left on the cut branch it will help sanitize it too!
  3. Growth Enhancer: This is a must for almost every hibiscus woe. Spray your plants with Growth Enhancer mixed into water at the first sign of any kind of stress or disease in  any of your hibiscus. If your plants go through a pest attack, follow up the pest treatment with Growth Enhancer treatments. If they are exposed to too much cold, heat, wind, drought, salt water, anything the weather can throw at them, treat them immediately with Growth Enhancer. If your puppy chomps on a few branches, knocks over the pot, and tramples a plant into the ground, pick it up, brush it off, trim the broken branches, and use Growth Enhancer liberally to help it bounce back. If your plant looks wilty and you can't tell what's wrong with it, treat it immediately with Growth Enhancer while you try to figure out what could be wrong with it. It's an expensive up-front purchase, but you use it by the teaspoon, so one bottle will last a long time, and it can save you and your hibiscus a lot of heartache if you have it right at hand.
  4. Bayer Tree & Shrub: This one pest control product will take care of many different pests that can attack hibiscus. If you use Bayer Tree & Shrub 3-4 times per year, you will prevent aphids, white flies, and the larval stage of thrips. Or if you don't like to use pest control products preventively, having it on hand for an attack of one of these bugs is doubly important! You don't want the bugs to multiply while you search for it locally or order it and wait for it to ship.
  5. Spinosad: This is the other pest control product you'll need for hibiscus. Throughout the blooming season, when buds start dropping, use Spinosad to kill the minute flying insects that lay eggs in your flower buds and kill them before they can bloom: thrips. Bayer Tree & Shrub kills the larval stage of thrips, but it doesn't kill the adults who fly in from your neighbor's yard to lay eggs in your giant, lush hibiscus buds. So having Spinosad handy can save your buds and keep your hibiscus blooming beautifully.
  6. BugBlaster or a Way to Wash Your Hibiscus: Water blasting is one of the best preventative treatments for many hibiscus pests, and it's the only really effective treatment for spider mites. You can use a garden hose, but it's hard to make it get to every single square millimeter of your hibiscus plants. If your plants are in pots, a big bathtub, barrel, or drum can work for monthly immersion cleanings. Or bi-weekly spraying with a BugBlaster is an alternative that many of us find the easiest. Whatever water method you choose, be sure to do it regularly and thoroughly. Just like humans need regular baths to prevent all kinds of icky human bugs, hibiscus need regular baths to prevent garden bugs.
  7. Bamboo Sticks & Tape: Bamboo sticks are useful for all kinds of things, from propping up a heavily budded branch to splinting a broken branch. Splinting can work very well for hibiscus. Just use a couple of pieces of bamboo on a broken branch, or even a broken trunk. Then tape it really well with almost any kind of tape - masking tape, electrical tape, even duct tape. Leave the splint on for several weeks, or even longer if the plant is doing well.

This list is long and expensive if you try to buy all of these things at once. But if you just keep these items in mind and start collecting them one or two at a time, you will eventually collect a state-of-the art hibiscus first aid kit. We hope you never need it, but in case you do, this way you will be prepared!