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Tuesday - November 25, 2008

From: Chardon, OH
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Non-Natives, Pests, Shrubs
Title: Small white bugs on indoor hibiscus in Ohio
Answered by: Barbara Medford


My Hibiscus has small white bugs on the leaves with small white residue. Looks like very small pieces of white rice. This white rice is also covering the UNOPENED buds and making them fall off. It is a potted plant in my home in NE Ohio in our Sun Room. Also how do I get it to flower all year long? Is there something I should be deadheading? How far down "stem" do you pick off? Haven't done that yet. Really need to know what to do about the white stuff.


While there is a hibiscus native to Ohio, Hibiscus moscheutos (crimsoneyed rosemallow), it is considered a perennial in the South, but an annual as far north as Ohio. We believe that probably what you have is a tropical plant not native to North American called Hibiscus-sinensis. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we are focused on plants native to North America and to the area in which they are being grown, because they will be adapted to conditions and will require less water, fertilizer and maintenance.

However, most indoor plants are non-native tropicals, and we can at least point you at some websites that can give you some help with your plant. In this Hibiscus-sinensis.com website Hibiscus Care, you will find that the most common pest on Hibiscus benefitting from the dry indoor environment is spider mites. If you tap a leaf over a white sheet of paper, and little red spots fall off, those are spider mites, and that doesn't sound like what you are asking about. This Geocities.com Identification of Insects, Pests and Diseases that Affect Hibiscus rosa-sinensis has a more comprehensive coverage of the pests of hibiscus and what to do about them. Go to the bottom of the first page of that site, and click on the green bar "Sucking", which refers to sucking insect pests of hibiscus. You will get several pages of description of bugs, what they look like, what damage they do to the plant, how to treat them, etc. On the second page of that set, you will find what is considered to be one of the greatest scourges of indoor and greenhouse plants, which is whiteflies. That sounds most nearly like the symptoms you have described.

As to your question about forcing your hibiscus to bloom year-round, again, as this is a non-native, we don't know much about that, but the Hibiscus Care website mentioned above has some suggestions on deadheading and promoting blooming. Ordinarily, plants will bloom for only one period of the year, and put a lot of energy into blooming because this is part of their reproduction cycle. Deep down, all living entities live for just one thing-to create more just like themselves. 

Hibiscus moscheutos



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