Happy New Year, Happy Hibiscus


My small hibiscus bloomed in time for the New Year.

Such a simple sentence to start this convoluted story of a shrub.

I first spotted the hibiscus last winter, after it appeared in the side yard between my in-law’s house and their new snowbird neighbors from Canada. The neighbors, it seemed, were avid gardeners in Quebec and they wanted to bring that same touch of color to their knew winter home in Florida.


Since my own arrival in south Florida, I’ve already found myself rummaging through my own neighbor’s bulk yard debris for discarded bromeliads, so planning a clipping foray didn’t seem to be that far of a leap.

The Canadians would be returning north as the weather warmed in zone 10, which meant their house would be vacant and their garden left untended. By the time of their departure, the hibiscus would be quite large and in need of some shaping.

In fact, I convinced myself, with my little pruning exercise, the Canadian neighbor’s hibiscus would be even fuller for their eventual return. In essence, by helping myself, I was helping them.


It was at that moment that two tiny gardeners appeared, one on each shoulder. The one with horns kept telling me to clip, while the one with the halo begged me to ask permission.

“You certainly wouldn’t want anyone to take clippings from your plants without your permission,” the good gardener reminded me, making a very good point.

“They’re French Canadian, you idiot,” countered the bad gardener. “How can you ask permission if you can’t speak French?”  Oui, a very good point.


Ultimately, I listened to the good gardener and asked permission by using international gardening sign language.  I pointed to the hibiscus and then made a scissors motion with two of my fingers. It also helped that the neighbor’s English was far, far better than my French.

Once they returned to Canada, I snipped a few tender branches, dipped them in water and powdered rooting hormone, and planted them in sandy soil — the same way I had rooted hydrangeas on Long Island.


The cuttings rooted and I continued to pot them up and pinch them back, until I found a permanent place for them as a small hedge between one of my own neighbors and me.

And that’s how my small hibiscus bloomed in time for the New Year.


34 thoughts on “Happy New Year, Happy Hibiscus

  1. I love you blog. I would like to her more about rooting hydrangers. How long does it take to begin to root and how soon after that do I plant them in this spot. I live on Long Island

    • Hi Linda. Here’s a link to my method: Hydrangea Propagation I like to use the tender green stems for rooting. It is a process. Once the clippings are rooted in small cell packs, I pot them up to a larger pot. I keep them in a filtered sun/shade location. Once the larger plants look healthy and strong, you can plant them — usually by August or September. If you wait too long, they won’t have a chance to settle in before winter cold arrives. It might also help to mulch them for the winter, just to keep them a bit more protected. Good luck!

  2. I love the color! I have two very pretty hibiscus and I never thought about taking cuttings and further propagation. you might find it interesting that our tortoise Darwin loves hibiscus, and not just the flowers, but the smaller woody stems. I need to grow some just for him, because I don’t like mutilating the more prominent plants. I hope that you and your beautiful garden enjoy a wonderful 2016, Kevin. And because you’ve so kindly lamented our lack of rain here in California, I can happily tell you that today it rained all day! And we have at least two more days of rain to anticipate. My year is starting out just right! 🙂

  3. Love it! I also have two tiny gardeners on my shoulders. It usually involves a conversation about coleus cuttings and most of the time the good gardener wins. Most of the time…
    Love the color of this hibiscus. Here’s wishing you a great 2016!

  4. I think plant propagation is the most magical part of gardening. What a treat to have your new hibiscus blooming for the new year. (And I’m glad you listened to your better gardener and asked permission. Most gardeners love sharing their plants, so why deprive them of the pleasure.)

    • Hi Jean. I have many gardeners to thank for their generosity in helping me create the zone 10 garden. And I agree with you — plant propagation is the most fun! Have a year full of blooms!

  5. Ha, cute story, and lovely hibiscus! My mother-in-law tells stories of how she and her sister used to steal clippings and seeds from various places like botanical gardens and hide them in their purses. Such scandalous gardening outlaws! I hope you have a wonderful New Year with lots of new blooms!

  6. Good choice, I think – good gardener. The Hibiscus would always have known! Have you read The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan (no, really), Fascinating and only slightly non-serious theory in there about plants invoking our passion for them in order to be propogated/move to other places.
    I’ve found that HIbiscus will grow roots if left in water, too.

  7. Love this story. Plants with a history are always so much more fun, and it’s great to see the bush welcoming you to the new year. Florida is doing you well 😉
    Happy 2016!

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