Morrisey and the Smiths May have sung “girlfriend in a coma”, but can they say they have suffered the trauma of a Hibiscus in a coma for two years. Yup, that’s what we are talking about here, real drama, real life, gardening on the edge, the sort of thing that makes you wake up at night in a cold sweat thinking it’s all been a dream only for you to sink back realising the nightmare goes on. Oh I tried everything, I sat by the bed and played her favourite music, I talked to her as if everything was normal and she was still part of the garden community. I even had Alan Titchmarsh send her a recorded “get well” message. Well, no longer, the torture is over, today I turned off the machine and let her go peacefully.
8th October: Things I have been doing lately.
🚑 Saying goodbye to a Hibiscus. In the immortal words of Michael Caine, not a lot of people know this, but Hibiscus have a habit of falling into a coma. They just stop growing, shed all their leaves, and to all intent and purposes look dead. Now I have quite a few old Hibiscus bushes that form a hedge along the wall at the front of our garden. They must be 20/30 years old but most are in good health. However, three years ago one went into a coma, and after researching this – and the fact that they can just come out of it – I just left it alone. Sure enough after a year or so it started thriving and flowering again. This miracle I put down to fervent praying, but it seems that divine intervention isn’t always needed, it is just one of those things, when Hibiscus are old sometimes they just need a rest – a bit like me really.
When the latest one went into a coma I was calm about the whole thing, but after a year I started to panic and went into recovery mode, hence all the special coma care described above. But all to no avail. Now if your Hibiscus goes into a coma, and I hope it doesn’t – I wouldn’t like to wish that worry on to anyone. But let’s just say it does. If it is a young plant only a couple of years old and under50cm high, then let it go and start again. However, if like me your plant is big and will take you 20 years to get one the same size then try the following:
– feed it with a high Potash feed
– water thoroughly then mulch around the base
– after three months scrape the bark of the branch with your fingernail and check whether it is green underneath
As long as there is green under the bark then there is hope. You can leave it for up to 2 years to see if it recovers. But, sadly once you start to find brown consistently, then it is all over and you have to say goodbye. Now in my case with this particular plant we were doing well; although it was in a coma, it was really just “locked in syndrome”. When I explained that to my wife Cruella, her retort was “it’s only a plant you idiot get rid of it”, mind you she does drown kittens for fun. The picture below shows my poor dead Hibiscus.
Anyway the moral of this tale is that all is not lost, even with a dead Hibiscus life can go on. The strong branch framework of your late Hibiscus will provide you with a useful support framework for growing climbers up and thereby retaining the integrity of your hedge without the necessity of trying to dig out the substantial root ball of the Hibiscus. The picture below shows another old dead Hibiscus that I have used as a growing framework for Pink Trumpet Vine, Plumbago and even Pomegranates. Now that looks much better than a big gap with a small plant stuck in the middle waiting years for it to grow the same size as surrounding plants.
✂️ Taking Jasmine cuttings to grow up the Hibiscus. My plan is to take cuttings from some fast growing Jasmine and then to grow these up the Hibiscus. This will give me rapid evergreen cover that will close the gap in the hedge whilst at the same time giving me lovely flowers and scent – what’s not to like.
Anyway, I’ve said before, and I am sure you were listening, never take cuttings from tendril plants like Jasmine by using secateurs as you will only crush the stems. Use a sharp knife to cut a long stem that has no flowers or buds showing. Cut just below a leaf node and take a number of cuttings. As you cut each stem place it into a plastic bag to keep it moist and away from the wind. Once back at your potting bench (or wherever), cut the stem higher up to give a nice fresh cut, but leave enough stem to plant. Take off all the leaves up the stem apart from 2/4 at thetop. If you have it use hormone growth powder (but don’t worry if you don’t). Place the cuttings around the edge of a four inch pot – four to each pot. Keep it moist but not soaking. If it works, great if not just keep popping cuttings in there, they will take eventually. When this is ready I will plant the whole pot under the dead Hibiscus. The photos below show the cuttings being prepared and in their pot.