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A person pruning a hibiscus bush
8 MIN 29 Sep
Last update: 28 Sep 2023

Pruning hibiscus: when, why, and how?

Pruning hibiscus is relatively straightforward, but there are some mistakes to avoid! Get the lowdown on pruning for healthy regrowth and abundant flowering.

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As a proud owner of hibiscus plants, you naturally want them to look their best. And while it might seem counterintuitive, the path to a large, abundantly flowering hibiscus plant is to cut it back yearly. 

Table of contents:
Show all
  • The ideal conditions for a hibiscus
  • Why prune hibiscus?
  • When to prune hibiscus
  • Which month to prune hibiscus: check the species
  • How often should I prune my hibiscus?
  • Pruning a young hibiscus
  • How to prune hibiscus: a step-by-step guide
  • The tools you’ll need for pruning hibiscus
  • Pruning hibiscus: aftercare
  • Pruning hibiscus — common mistakes
  • FAQs

These stunningly scented flowers brighten up every outdoor space. They favour sheltered spots away from direct, intense sunlight, so the hibiscus is ideal for bringing colour to a slightly shady corner. 

This article is about pruning hibiscus, exploring why we do it and when, and an all-important step-by-step guide showing you how to prune your plant. 

Ready? Let’s get pruning!

The ideal conditions for a hibiscus

A lovely yellow hibiscus flower on the bush
Beautiful yellow hibiscus flowers – Photo by Hartono Subadio via Pixabay

Treat your hibiscus plant well, with regular care and pruning, and you’ll enjoy a beautiful bush with a long flowering window. 

This stunning bush offers beautiful bell-shaped flowers that burst into a range of striking colours. 

And while this plant is relatively slow-growing, it blooms on new wood. In other words, the blooms appear on branches formed earlier in the same year.  

As mentioned, a bedding hibiscus enjoys moist, well-draining soil in a sunny, warm spot — ideally, it should be sheltered from the wind. These lovely plants also do well in pots as long as you give them plenty of peat-free, loam-based compost. 

And hibiscus also makes a lovely house plant — just grow it out of direct, strong sunlight. 

Why prune hibiscus?

As mentioned, hibiscus plants primarily bloom on new wood, so cutting off dead or diseased wood gives your plant more opportunity to flourish. Like all bushy plants, pruning promotes growth and health by allowing the plant to develop new branches. 

Pruning stimulates new branches, resulting in fuller and more lush growth and flowering. 

But while pruning is a once-a-year activity, I recommend dead-heading throughout the season to encourage more blooms. 

When to prune hibiscus

A hibiscus bud covered in frost
Frost can damage pruning wounds. So, always avoid frost when pruning. Photo by Kerstin Riemer via Pixabay

The optimal window for pruning hibiscus is at the end of winter or early spring. This gives the plant enough time to recover and grow new shoots and branches, ready for flowering later in the year. 

If early spring is particularly cold, wait a little longer, till later spring, once the chance of frost has passed. Frost can damage the pruning wounds, which can stunt new growth. 

It is also possible to prune once the plant has finished flowering in autumn. Do this no later than October to minimise the risk of frost. 

Which month to prune hibiscus: check the species

A red hibiscus flower in a vase
It’s always nice to have a hibiscus flower in a vase around the house! Photo by Hartono Subadio via Pixabay

Each hibiscus variant prefers pruning during different months, so follow this guide:

  • Hibiscus syriacus — early spring.
  • Hibiscus moscheutos — autumn, after flowering
  • Hibiscus rosasinensis — late winter/early spring

So, check your plant’s variety — if you’re unsure, try taking a photo with your smartphone and using a photo-recognition app; the iPhone has this baked into the Camera app. 

Remember, every plant and garden is different, so it’s better to read the plant rather than the instructions. For example, if you have a shady garden, your plant might blossom later and stay flowering longer. Always wait until flowering has ended before pruning — and avoid frost!

Garden doctor Louis says:
Avoid pruning hibiscus plants in the summer, although cutting the odd branch to put in a vase in the house is fine!

How often should I prune my hibiscus?

Prune your hibiscus plant once a year. 

Remember, hibiscus is slow-growing, so it won’t hurt to miss a year, although it’s better to be regular if possible. 

If the bush is getting too big, cut it back, but wait until flowering is over. If you see many crossing or dead branches, cut them back — it’ll help improve the airflow around the plant, helping avoid disease. 

Pruning a young hibiscus

The first time you prune a young hibiscus plant, cut it back by around a third, leaving two or three nodes on each branch, allowing new growth to emerge quickly.

Remove weak, leggy, or diseased growth and branches growing inwards towards the centre. 

Rejuvenation pruning

If your plant is growing more slowly than it used to and producing fewer flowers, it’s a good idea to cut it back to around 75cm from the ground. 

Cut the side branches back, leaving two to three nodes to help the plant recover with new growth. 

How to prune hibiscus: a step-by-step guide

Close up of a beautiful scarlet hibiscus flower
Hibiscus flower – Photo by Robert Thiemann on Unsplash

Luckily, pruning hibiscus is relatively straightforward. But it’s always helpful to know what you’re doing before making that first cut! 

Here’s a handy step-by-step guide.

  1. Inspect the plant — look for diseased, damaged, and dead branches; these will need removing.
  2. Prepare your tools — always prune with sharp, clean tools. I recommend sharpening blunt pruning shears and treating the blade with an alcohol wash. This helps keep the cut clean and disease-free. 
  3. Cut back all the dead and sick-looking branches — this helps the plant focus energy on new growth. Leave at least two or three nodes between the trunk and the cut, and cut just above the node (around 5mm from the node). 
  4. Remove intersecting branches — cut inwardly growing branches and any branches that rub together. This helps airflow and light penetration, keeping the plant healthy and flourishing. 
  5. Step back — take a step back from the bush regularly while pruning to review the new shape and size. And stop when you’re satisfied!

The tools you’ll need for pruning hibiscus

Here’s a list of the tools that will come in handy:

  • Pruning shears with sharp blades — a blunt edge will tear at the plant, leaving a more extensive surface wound that could get infected. Always sharpen and clean the blades before pruning. 
  • Garden gloves — protect your hands from sharp branches and edges. 
  • Disinfecting spray — use this to clean your tools before and after use. This helps prevent the spreading of disease around your garden. 
  • Fertiliser — use a good general-purpose fertiliser after pruning to help the plant bounce back. 

For more information, check out our article: How to Choose the Right Pruning Tools

Pruning hibiscus: aftercare

All plants need a little TLC after pruning. Follow these steps to help your hibiscus successfully bounce back:

  • Fertilise — feed your hibiscus with a good quality, slow-release fertiliser at least once a year and always after pruning. This provides nutrients for healthy growth and abundant flowering. 
  • Water — hibiscus plants need regular watering, especially during dry periods. Ensure the soil remains moist around the plant — but it should never be sopping wet: it’ll rot the roots. 
  • Frost — apply a good layer of mulch around the base of the plant during the winter to protect your hibiscus from frost. Use straw, fallen leaves, leaf mould, or well-rotted garden compost to help keep the roots warm and slowly release nutrients into the soil. 
  • Be patient — hibiscus plants are slow growers, so it may take a while to recover from pruning. Give it time, and don’t be tempted to over-fertilise. It will bounce back when it’s ready. 

Pruning hibiscus — common mistakes

While pruning your hibiscus plant is relatively straightforward, avoid these mistakes:

  • Cutting back too hard — over-cutting stresses the plant, hindering growth. Prune gradually, and avoid cutting more than one-third of the branch’s length. 
  • Cutting in the wrong place — always cut 5mm above a growing node. Trimming too far away from a node will stunt the growth and produce a leggy plant. 
  • Pruning at the wrong time — prune before the plant develops new growth and after flowering. Always avoid frost — give the plant at least three weeks after pruning before exposing it to frosty temperatures. 
  • Using dirty tools — this is the best way to infect your entire garden. Always keep your cutting tools sharp and clean to minimise the risk of infection. 


How often should I prune my hibiscus?

Prune your hibiscus once a year. These are relatively slow-growing plants, so it won’t hurt to skip a year. However, don’t leave it for longer than two years; otherwise, the plant’s growth and flowering will suffer.

How do you prune a hibiscus bush?

Remove dead and diseased branches and any inward or intersecting branches. Cut by up to a third of the existing size using clean pruning shears. Leave two or three nodes on the branch, cutting 5mm above the node.

Why is my hibiscus not flowering?

If your hibiscus plant has stopped flowering or isn’t blooming as much as it used to, it’s time for rejuvenation pruning. Cut the plant back to 75cm from the ground, and cut each branch, leaving two to three buds on each branch. Then, fertilise and water well. When the plant bounces back, it will burst back into flower

Any questions?

I hope you’ve got all the info you need for pruning hibiscus plants, but if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email us.

Alternatively, leave a comment in the Comments section below or check out our comprehensive Help & Advice section

Thanks for reading!  

Louis Hooft
Founder & Lawn expert
Introducing Louis Hooft, the founder of MOOWY and your reliable expert. With a profound love for stunning lawns and extensive experience in garden maintenance, Louis is here to assist garden enthusiasts in achieving a greener and livelier outdoors than ever before. Count on Louis for invaluable tips, clever tricks, and top-notch products to make your garden flourish!
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