Growing Hibiscus tiliaceus ‘Tricolor’ Indoors

Today I’m going to rant and rave about one of my favorite uncommon houseplants, Hibiscus tiliaceus ‘Tricolor’ or variegated linden leaf hibiscus.  It’s the one in the middle with the heart shaped leaves.

Why do I love this plant?  It’s super easy to grow, it’s colorful and it’s not horribly common.  I got this plant at the University of Minnesota’s College of Biology’s annual plant sale for about $10 in a 5″ pot.  It didn’t look like much at the time, but I’d never seen it before so I knew I had to have it.  It’s proven a good investment, chugging along, putting out new growth and not trying to take over the world/kill me (unlike the passion vine growing in the window next to it)! Also, it pretty much never drops leaves.  I hate cleaning up dead leaves.  Such a pain in the butt!  It does get typical malvaceous blooms but mine has never done that for me so I don’t really have any experience with them (and thus won’t talk at length about them).  I believe they start yellow and fade to pink but it could be the other way around.

Yes I know the above picture is kind of crappy but it’s really dark out so I can’t really get a good picture.  Anyways, here’s how you care for it!

Light: It grows well in in an east exposure but the new growth doesn’t come out with the orange-red shades that it does in higher light.  It takes full sun outdoors so I’m sure it will handle a south or west facing window with no problems (as long as you acclimate it first!)

Water: It can handle some drying down (to the point if minor wilting) but I don’t recommend letting it get bone dry.  I’ve never let it get to that point but I imagine you’d have a lot of dead leaves if it did.

Fertilizer: Once again, it gets fed about once a month with whatever fertilizer I happen to have closest to me.

Pruning:  I have cut this guy back a few times.  It seems to sprout new growth from anywhere along the stem so I wouldn’t be too worried about making the “right” cut with these.

Propagation: The stems root really easily in a jar of water.  Mine took about 3 weeks but once they started growing roots they really took off.  I also tried air-layering this plant and that works well too.  I was going to do a post about that but then accidentally deleted all the pictures so I guess that won’t be in your future.

Repotting: I’ve got mine in an 8″ pot now..and I think that is where it shall stay.  I know they can get to be rather large shrubs/small trees (possibly even a medium sized tree) but right now I just don’t want/need that so I’m keeping it rootbound.  I’m not sure if that will actualy limit the growth or not but I sure hope so!  I have it potted in a pretty standard potting soil and it seems to have no objections.  I’m pretty sure I could have it planted in lava rock and it wouldn’t object as long as I watered it.  I’m actually not sure what this plant WOULD object to, it seems to keep on growing no matter what I do.


As always you can find this and any other care sheets I’ve made in the Cast Of Characters tab at the top of the page!


4 thoughts on “Growing Hibiscus tiliaceus ‘Tricolor’ Indoors

  1. Love your writing style– AND content (it’s hard to score 2 out of 2 these days). I wish you would talk about air layering, as I’m not sure what it is (have heard of it a half dozen times and never looked it up). Have you ever done grafting? I know you do not grow many woody plants, but I have a tiny bit of grafting experience and thought it was really fun.

    • I have a wee-bit of grafting experience, mostly on cacti though. If you’re ever bored try grafting cacti, they’re insanely easy and almost any cactus will graft onto any other. Perhaps at some point I’ll post about air-layering. It’s basically taking a cutting while the stem is still growing on the plant. You score the stem, add some rooting hormones, wrap that in moist moss and cover THAT with plastic wrap, wait about 2 months and it should be rooted! Then you cut it off and plant it.

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