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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.

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Friday - June 26, 2009

From: Buckeye, AZ
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Problems with non-native hibiscus in Buckeye, AZ
Answered by: Barbara Medford


We have been having problems with our hibiscus plants. They are planted near 3 queen palms behind our pool. All were planted new three years ago. Early in the spring we had two just suddenly start drying up and within two weeks were totally gone. When we pulled them up there was just a root ball. We had done nothing different. They were getting water. We fertilize the palms, but it says it's OK for hibiscus too. Now we have three more that started drying up, with one of them being a new one that we replaced. How can they be good for two summers and then start dying off when we are doing nothing different? Please help.


Due to the large volume of questions, we ask that you please limit your questions to topics related to North American native plants.

There are about 300 species of the genus Hibiscus, a few of them native to North America. However, the natives are all found in the South and Southwest portions of the United States. The hibiscus is considered a tropical plant, hardy in Zones 8 to 10. We suspect that what you have is Hibiscus rosa-sinensis with a probable origin of tropical Asia, and therefore out of our range of expertise at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. We are focused on the care, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which the plant is being grown. Plants native to an area will be accustomed to the environment, including the climate, rainfall and soils, and require less water, fertilizer and maintenance.

When any plant that has been performing well suddenly begins to fail, you have to ask what in the environment has changed.  These plants are ordinarily grown in greenhouses, shipped in protected, usually refrigerated, trucks, and then sold from greenhouse showrooms. At some point your plants discovered the real world, and it was not satisfactory to them. It could be the soil, alkaline or acidic, maybe the fertilizer, perhaps sudden changes in temperature. 

For some leads to the answer you need, go to Hidden Valley Hibiscus Tropical Hibiscus Care




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