The bright red blooms of the swamp hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus), also called scarlet rose mallow or Texas star, attract attention in the garden. Individual blooms reach diameters of 6 to 8 inches and bear five-pointed petals that reflect the shape of the plant's palmate, lobed leaves. Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 11, swamp hibiscus needs regular pruning throughout the year to keep its 7-foot-tall stems from become leggy and unattractive.
1 Pour 1 part bleach and 9 parts water in a bowl. Submerge the blades of the pruning shears in the solution to sterilize their surfaces. Leave the blades to soak for five minutes.
2 Cut each stem at a 45-degree angle with the pruning shears, 2 inches above ground level. Position the cut 1/4 inch above a bud or outward-facing, living side shoot. Trim back any broken or cracked stems, cutting 1/4 inch above a lateral shoot or growth node at least 1 inch below the broken portion of stem. Do this in spring, when new growth starts.
3 Remove the tip from each of the swamp hibiscus' stems in late spring, once the new growth reaches 18 to 24 inches tall. Cut through each stem with pruning shears, 1/4 inch above the second set of leaves below its terminal end. This helps encourage branching.
4 Prune individual flowers off the plant once their color fades and the petals begin to drop. Slice through the flower stem, 1/4 inch above its base.
5 Cut the entire swamp hibiscus plant back after it finishes blooming to maintain a bushy, pleasing shape. Cut off the top 25 percent of each stem, making the cut 1/2 inch above an outward facing lateral branch, set of leaves or bud.
Items you will need
- Pruning shears
- Leave a few flowers on the plant after they finish blooming, if you wish, to allow them to produce seed.
- Pick up the cut limbs, fallen leaves, flowers and petals from the ground after each pruning to prevent diseases and pests. Discard the plant material into a trash bin or on a compost pile.
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