Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Hearty Hibiscus

Today's blossom on my balcony
Once again, I have a hibiscus that is thriving and blooming like crazy.  I do not know if most gardeners consider a hibiscus to be a hearty plant or not, but I've had great experiences with hibiscus plants on the balcony. Since I typically have a terrible time keeping plants alive, I have come to believe that hibiscus is a hearty plant. And an excellent choice for a well-lit balcony or patio container garden. If you are wondering what plant to get for your balcony, you might want to consider a hibiscus too.


I had previously thought hibiscus plants only grown in warm and exotic locations. On islands and beaches.  But I began to notice them growing on beaches and near marshes locally.  I love the blooms so much that I picked one up at a box store, for just a couple of dollars, and hoped for the best but expected the worst.

My balcony is located in Maryland (zone 7). It gets cold here in the winter.  Last year, I made the mistake of not bringing my hibiscus in during the winter and it froze to death. But the winter before that, I brought it in and placed it in a sunny, east window. That plant bloomed through the winter.

The plant that bloomed for me indoors

Wherever you live, I suggest placing a hibiscus in a very sunny location.  Mine loves my southwest facing balcony.  I have also noticed that if they seem to do okay when I change their locations, and fairly quickly respond to a location they prefer.  However, when I bring them inside, they look sickly for a short amount of time - before bouncing back.

Such a pretty and interesting flower


Apparently, hibiscus do not prefer to be kept moist.  I'm a neglectful plant owner and often let plants become far too dry.  I notice that I've forgotten to water my plants when they start to droop.  Then I give them a good soaking.  The hibiscus bounces back and produces a ton of blooms.


Even though my hibiscus plants clearly do okay without daily watering, I do think they seem to do better in a self-watering planter.  With these planters, I don't manage to let my plants die of thirst, and yet they aren't kept too moist. I think these planters are great choices for hibiscus plants.

I did read somewhere that if you give a hibiscus an extremely large container, it will spend it's energy growing roots as opposed to flowers.  And because I'm slow to move planters to larger containers as they grow, I think I've proven this theory to be correct - smaller pots equals lots of blooms.

Self-Watering Planter

Related Links from Experienced Hibiscus Experienced Growers:

I do not expect you to take my word for it. In fact, if you bought a plant based only on what I say, I'd be a bit worried.  So I highly suggest that you do some research and check out some of the following information. Or, do you own research.

But, I can assure you, the photographs in this article are of my hibiscus plants. I am confident that if I can grow healthy hibiscus plants, you will be able to also.

Hibiscus Care

Hibiscus in Pots: Container Growing

Tropical Hibiscus Year Round by the University of Illinois Extension

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Budget Balcony Bug Control - Aphids

I have a small garden on my balcony.  The occasional wasp, bee, and mosquito have been my only insect pests over the years. Until today. Today, I discovered an aphid infestation on my container rose!  I did not initially know what they were. I had to do some research. And then do research on rescuing my rose bush from their destructive grasp.  I will share what I learned so you will be prepared if you ever notice aphids on your balcony!

Insects In Your Container Garden

I have a young rose bush that I took up to my acreage to plant. Unfortunately, I ran into some obstacles and was not able to plant it there.  I brought it back to the apartment with me and planned to let it live happily on my sunny balcony until I could take it up and plant it.

Today, I noticed that it was looking a little ragged and sickly.  At first I thought it was from all of the traveling we did last weekend.  I touched a leaf and realized it was very sticky.  Upon closer examination, the plant appeared to be covered in BUGS! I stifled a scream and ran inside to research what kind of bugs they were; friend or foe. And what to do about it.


I discovered I had a large family of Aphids on my rose plant.

"Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects with long slender mouthparts that they use to pierce stems, leaves, and other tender plant parts and suck out fluids." 
"Low to moderate numbers of leaf-feeding aphids aren't usually damaging in gardens or on trees. However, large populations can turn leaves yellow and stunt shoots; aphids can also produce large quantities of a sticky exudate known as honeydew, which often turns black with the growth of a sooty mold fungus. Some aphid species inject a toxin into plants, which causes leaves to curl and further distorts growth"
                                 -- both quotes from Aphids Management Guide by UC IPM

So I found my answer. These little bugs, exuding sticky nastiness all over my rose bush were definitely foe. And had to go.  But how to get rid of Aphids feasting on a plant, in a container, on a balcony, was the next question.

Ways to Control Aphids

I found many different suggestions for ridding my plant of these destructive pests. The suggestions ranged from pesticide sprays, to homemade natural sprays, natural enemies, to physically evicting them from the plant.

A partial list of aphid pest control approaches:
  • Chemical Pesticides
  • Organic Neem Spray
  • Soap & Water Spray
  • Essential Oils Spray
  • Release Lady Bugs 
  • Bug eating birds
  • Literally Pick the bugs from the plants
  • Spray the bugs from the plants with the garden hose
In addition to those items, I read about sprinkling flour on the plant/bugs, using a garlic/onion concoction that required a food processor, and other home remedies.

I am not generally against pesticides. But I do prefer to go natural when I can.  There was No-Way-In-Heck I was going to pick those nasty little things from my plant with my fingers! While the birds and the lady bug solutions would be my choices on the acreage, I don't imagine my neighbors would like a flock of guineas on my balcony. Nor would the lady bugs like to be confined to my balcony - even if I could.

So I made a soap spray.  

After doing more research, and halving other recipes, I mixed a cup of water and slightly less than a teaspoon of dish soap. I sprayed the plant liberally. And waited.  The soapy water appeared to be effective as many of the bugs keeled over - feet in the air.  Other bugs tried to skeedaddle but didn't get farther than the edge of the pot.

I then took the rose bush and container into the tub. Tilting it at an angle, I gave it a gentle shower to rinse the bugs and soapy water from the plant.

Only time will tell if the soapy water damaged my plant. Or if the aphid infestation caused the leaves to curl up enough to create permanent damage to my pretty new rose bush. But so far, the soapy water followed by the shower seems to have been effective.