Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

Problem with Tropical Hibiscus Leaves Turning Yellow

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Red hibiscus flowers

Hibiscus plants don't like changes to their environment.

Why are the leaves on my tropical hibiscus turning yellow? -Carol

If your tropical hibiscus has a few yellow leaves here and there, it’s nothing to worry about, as the plants regularly renew their leaves by yellowing and dropping the old ones. However, if most of the leaves are yellow, or the plant looks wilted or stunted, it’s a sign that something’s not right.

Tropical hibiscus plants are very vulnerable to environmental changes. Bringing them indoors or out, repotting, and changes in their care can cause the plant to become stressed. Even minor changes that you might not notice can cause problems.

Sometimes yellowing of hibiscus leaves is a sign of temporary distress, and the plant will recover. At other times, it can be a sign of a more serious problem that must be addressed to save the plant.

Red hibiscus flower

Causes of Yellow Leaves on Hibiscus

Unfortunately, figuring out the cause of the yellowing leaves requires a bit of detective work, because it can come from lots of different causes. Here are some things to check on your hibiscus:

  • Water: Too much or too little water is a primary cause of yellowing hibiscus leaves. Tropical hibiscus need lots of water, but they don’t like to be soggy. Water more often (even daily) during heat waves, and less when it’s cool or overcast. Make sure the plant doesn’t sit in water and that the soil isn’t constantly wet.
  • Soil: Soil compaction, poor drainage, or lack of soil (becoming rootbound) are other causes of leaf yellowing in hibiscus, often because they contribute to water issues. Check the soil pH, and keep it slightly on the acidic side. Gently probe the soil around your plant, or lift it out of the pot, to see if the roots are packed and circling. If your hibiscus needs repotting, use a light, well-draining potting mix or soilless medium. Don’t plant in too big a pot, as hibiscus like to be just a wee bit crowded.
  • Temperature Changes: Moving your hibiscus, bringing it indoors, and normal weather changes (including wind) can cause temporary stress. Hibiscus need temperatures in the upper 60s to low 80s F. Exposure to extreme temperatures or drafts can cause the leaves to drop. If you’re growing your hibiscus indoors, keep it away from heat and air vents and drafty windows.
  • Red hibiscus flower

  • Light: Hibiscus are full-sun plants. Lack of sunlight can cause overall yellowing of the leaves. On the other hand, if the plant is getting sunburned, the leaves can get yellow or white splotches.
  • Insect Infestation: Spider mites and aphids are two major pests of hibiscus that can cause leaf damage and discoloration. Look for spider mites on the underside of leaves, and aphids clustering near the tips.
  • Nutrition Problems: Overfertilizing is another common cause of leaf yellowing in hibiscus, because of the shock it causes to the plant. Feed plants lightly and regularly, rather than heavily. I found some sources recommending occasionally supplementing your hibiscus with a very weak vinegar solution to lower the pH. I’ve never tried this but it could be helpful if your water is alkaline. Extremely poor soil can also cause hibiscus leaf yellowing due to nutrient deficiency. If the leaves are turning yellow with green veins, a condition called chlorosis, it’s a sign of nutrient (usually mineral) deficiency.
  • Chemical Shock: Pesticides can also cause leaf yellowing in hibiscus, especially if applied too heavily or during the heat of the day. Use organic pest control products, such as insecticidal soaps, and follow package instructions exactly.
  • Dormancy: Tropical hibiscus often goes through a dormancy stage during the winter. When you bring your plant indoors in the fall, it will likely lose some leaves due to the seasonal and environmental changes.

How to Care for Hibiscus

Once you’ve sleuthed out the cause of the problem, here are some tips for getting your plant back on track:

    Red hibiscus flower blooms

  • Correct Problem: It probably goes without saying, but the first thing to do is change the conditions causing the problem! Water, repot, move, or protect your hibiscus plant to keep the growing conditions as stable as possible.
  • Pruning: Once you’ve corrected the problem, your hibiscus plant should begin to sprout new leaves, but you may want to trim back bare branches to reduce water and nutrient needs as your plant recovers.
  • Be Patient: Plant problems can be difficult to diagnose and often take trial and error to correct. Once you hit upon the right solution, your hibiscus plant should recover nicely.

Julie

Further Information



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15 Comments on “Problem with Tropical Hibiscus Leaves Turning Yellow”

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  1. chris Says:
    June 24th, 2012 at 7:16 am

    I do have a hibiscus that is losing leaves that are turning yellow. However the plant itself is getting new growth all around it including buds. should i still be worried

  2. Jackie Says:
    June 24th, 2012 at 9:43 am

    I am a newbie to the hibiscus plant world. I have 7 hibiscus potted plants and the leaves are turning yellow. I have been watering them daily as instructed on the flyer i too am noticing the increase of yellow leaves and yes the dirt is somewhat soggy. The plant itself has very beautiful blooms. should I pull back to once per week instead of daily as stated on the flyer attached to the flower? I have had them for 2 weeks.

  3. Steve Says:
    August 19th, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    It’s a question. Why would my potted Hibiscus that looks healthy and green with loads of new growth, drop flower buds just as it looks like they are going to open? I feed and use a mild insect deterrent and see no evidence of bugs. I have another plant right next to it, though a different variety of Hibiscus, that flowers like crazy! What gives? Help?

  4. jamroz Says:
    October 18th, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    great it was informative.good job…

  5. Steve Says:
    October 20th, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    For all us who may be novices. I live in Southern California where the climate is rarely extreme. I’ve enjoyed great success with my potted beautiful flowering Hibiscus plants this year. Could you please give me a crash course on the proper pruning technique….and the right time to do this? My plants are starting to get big and some branches are stretching out and looking a bit unruly.

  6. judy M Says:
    November 7th, 2012 at 9:07 am

    My hibiscus has yellow leaves with brown spots that are dropping. What are the brown spots? I sprayed for insects a few weeks ago. The plant is also projecting new leaf growth.

  7. ReNae S Says:
    May 20th, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    2 of my 6 Hibiscus has new leaf buds on the tips of the stalks the the full body of the plants have not come back from a quick winter frost. The other4 bushes are lush and beginning to push bloom here in Souther California. They are all watered the same on my system, however I noticed the these 2 share an expesially strong water spray. Could this be over watering? If I turn that S Head off for a few weeks, because the ground in also geting some water from the lawn zone. Will these plant recover?

  8. Judy Says:
    May 21st, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    Thank you for answering my question; also thank you for the info. However, my Hibiscus has died.

  9. Lenore Puzzo Says:
    November 1st, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    my hibiscus is flowering beautifully..not as much as when it was outdoors…problem…half the plant leaves are yellow with brown edges.. we did have to spray it for aphids 3 weeks in a row when it was warmer, it hasnt been sprayed in over 3 weeks ….don’t see aphids anymore… It’s also more like a tree, not a plant…its 2yrs young & over 5ft and very wide…It lives in Martinsville, New Jersey..please help me to help my HIBISCUS.. thanking you in advance for your time and efforts in this matter…

  10. David Rozenker-Apted Says:
    January 27th, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    We have a ‘Cameo Queen’ Hibiscus which has only recently flowered after some years of no buds. I have noticed today that a fairly plump bud some 4cm long is not upright but lying along a leaf. Is it the heat that we have been experiencing here in Sydney or some other issue.
    Regards
    David

  11. Hope Cunningham Says:
    March 19th, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Thank you. I may have fertilized it a little too much so I will be patient. I have a lot of new shoots so its going to continue to grow.

  12. Gerri Says:
    May 27th, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    My hibiscus did not all survive the frost this year in Texas so I had to buy new plants. I purchased a double to replace one that I lost and to my surprise when it bloomed there were different color flowers. Some were peach and others a dark orange almost red. This plant is beautiful and I would love to have more of them. Is this an unusual phenomonen or can these plants be purchased this way?

  13. Colleen Says:
    June 6th, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    I have had my hibiscus for 5 years. I live in Wisconsin so I bring it in, in the winter. It does well and even bloomed a few times this winter. I felt the weather was good enough to move it outside but it got a little cold the second night but did not freeze. The next day all the leaves wilted and turned white and fell off. It is starting to sprout new growth but is there anything I should do.

  14. Aundrea McCullough Says:
    June 7th, 2014 at 11:44 am

    I recently re potted my hibiscus, and started to notice yellowing leaves at the bottom of my plant. It is currently blooming new pretty healthy green leaves and flower buds on top. I have miracle grow hibiscus food, I also put a fertilizer I got from the nursery. I’m thinking after reading up on it I may have over fertilized it. How long till it corrects it self? And does it need a well drained pot? If so, could I just drill a hole at the bottom of my current pot? I’m new at owning a hibiscus. I can typically grow and take care of anything…this plant is giving me troubles. Any advise is much appreciated! Thanks. Troubled hibiscus in Houston Texas!

  15. Sara Says:
    August 12th, 2014 at 6:56 am

    Professionally planted hibiscus TREE in central FL has lost 3/4 of it’s leaves. Will new leaves be produced on woody stems or will these stems closer to the trunk always be barren? I’m quite sure it’s transplant shock (10 days in ground), but I’m wondering how my $100 baby will look in a few months.
    Thanks in advance, Sara

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