En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - November 09, 2008

From: Delray beach, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Diseases and Disorders
Title: Problems with hibiscus in Florida
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Have a hibiscus in Florida. It has always done beautifully planted in the ground. This year, it has developed something where the branches are sort of white, and the buds (and ends of branches) look all shriveled up. Any ideas?


There are a number of hibiscus native to North America and to Florida, including Hibiscus aculeatus (comfortroot), Hibiscus grandiflorus (swamp rosemallow), Hibiscus laevis (halberdleaf rosemallow) and Hibiscus moscheutos (crimsoneyed rosemallow). There are many more hibiscus that are tropical in nature, and not native to North America. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we are dedicated to the care and propagation of plants native to North America and to the area in which they are being grown.

Since we have no idea which or what hibiscus you have, we can only give you some very general information on what we think may be causing your problem.

Aphids and ants (from the University of California Integrated Pest Management site) are frequent pests of hibiscus.  Ants farm the aphids for "honey", a  secretion from the aphids. This secretion, on the underside of leaves, may eventually develop a sooty mold and give a dark color to the underside of the leaves.

Spider mites (from Ohio State University Extension) are so tiny they are difficult to see with the naked eye, but if you tap a leaf over a white sheet of paper, you will see little red dots if the spider mites are present. 

Mealy bugs (from Minnesota Dept. of Horticulture) are small flattened oval insects covered with a white powdery wax.

Whiteflies (from University of Missouri Extension) are sometimes referred to as "plant dandruff" and might be the reason for the white effect on your plant's branches. Like most of the others above, they suck on the plants juices, and can produce shriveling and browning. 

The good news is that most, if not all, of these pests can be controlled by directing a hard spray of water onto the plant, especially on the undersides of the leaves. Once washed off, the insects have difficulty getting back up. You can also use a weak solution of Safer insecticidal soap. 

Pictures of Hibiscus grandiflorus (swamp rosemallow)

Hibiscus aculeatus

Hibiscus laevis

Hibiscus moscheutos



More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Oak root resistant hedge for Southern California
December 28, 2013 - I live in Southern California and my cypress hedge has oak root fungus. What kind of hedge can I plant that will grow fast and be resistant to the fungus?
view the full question and answer

Loss of blooms in potted plants in Hawaii
November 11, 2007 - My lanai is in strong afternoon sun and no matter what "full sun" plants I try to grow they quickly stop blooming. Plumeria, Hibiscus, Echinacea, even Bougainvillea...they continue to grow but lose...
view the full question and answer

Stressed live oaks from Lakeway TX
August 19, 2013 - I have some Live Oaks who appear to be stressed (Ball Moss is becoming very prevalent on some of them) during the drought in Central TX. How often and how long should I water them? Thank you very much...
view the full question and answer

Mountain Laurel suffering from Spring freeze
May 12, 2015 - I have a 4 1/2 ft Texas Mountain Laurel shrub in current location for several years. A hard freeze this spring killed every leaf on the tree, but the stems remained green. My other smaller Mt. Laure...
view the full question and answer

What is the sticky stuff coming out of the trees in Austin?
October 06, 2009 - Hello - I live in Austin TX, and in the past half month or so, have been noticing much sticky, sweet sap being exuded from trees. In a normal year I only notice the crepe myrtles doing this, but this...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center