How can I maintain a potted hibiscus indoors in winter?

Special to The Baltimore Sun

Question: Potted hibiscus thrive on my sunny deck in summer, then lose leaves and get infested with tiny white bugs when indoors for the winter - even in a sunny spot. They recover each summer, but how can I help them thrive through the winter?

Answer: Move your hibiscus indoors when the outdoor temperatures are the same as indoor ones. That minimizes the plant's shock from being moved. Before you bring it in, spray with a horticultural oil or soap to kill hitchhiking insects. Prune it a little if you must in order to get it inside, but real pruning should wait until early spring.

Once indoors, place hibiscus in bright light with some direct sunlight daily. It rests somewhat during the winter, and at that time it enjoys room temperatures lower that your normal ones - more like 55 degrees. Do not fertilize during the winter rest period. Water sparingly but do not allow the potting mix to dry out completely. Remember indoor heat dries the soil quickly.

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