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

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Friday - April 24, 2009

From: Plainfield, IN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Transplants, Shrubs
Title: Twisted hibiscus tree in Plainfield, IN
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have just bought 4 twisted hibiscus trees and repotted them immediately then brought them into my screened in porch until I was certain the weather would be safe to keep them outside (I live in Central Indiana). I watered them adequately upon transplanting and then 2 days after that our weather turned really cold and ugly, rainy with temps in the low 40's. I have since noticed my trees to be drooping badly, losing leaves and the yellowing of the leaves. Is there anything I can do to help save them and/or will they turn around on there own once our weather bounces back (it is supposed to turn sunny and get into the high 70's beginning tomorrow). Should I set them outside when this warm spell begins, will this help revive them? Any advice is appreciated as I don't want to lose them, I have always had good luck with Hibiscus in pots around our home in the summer. Thanks

ANSWER:

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. The "twisted hibiscus" had us puzzled for a while, as we thought this was perhaps a new species name, but apparently is just a trade name for a hibiscus that has been rather radically altered by pruning.

Plainfield Indiana, in Central Indiana, appears to be in USDA Hardiness zone 5a, with average annual minimum temperatures of -20 to -15 deg F. Apparently, what happened is that you bought some plants that had been grown in greenhouses, shipped in protected conditions, and then moved into the showroom of the store, which is usually also a greenhouse. Suddenly, you introduced it to the real world in Indiana, with a fast-dropping temperature. You would probably lose leaves, too, if that happened to you.

Since the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is committed to the care and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown, the tropical non-natives are out of our range of expertise, and we have no information on them in our Native Plant Database.  We think your plant is partly suffering from transplant shock and partly from the cold conditions it experienced rather abruptly. We found a website from Hidden Valley Hibiscus that might help-Tropical Hibiscus Care.

 

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