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Whether as a houseplant or as a solitary plant in a Mediterranean garden, the hibiscus is a welcome guest in all its species. The characteristic flowers, supported by the lush green of the leaves, is a dreamlike sight to behold year after year. However, if the leaves fall off in large quantities all at once, there is reason to worry that the hibiscus is not doing well and something needs to be done about it.


Causes of leaf drop

Marshmallow is offered in Germany in a variety of species, the most well-known being the garden and rose marshmallow. While the garden marshmallow gets along in the garden without any problems and is actually very robust, the Chinese rose mallow is a sensitive plant that is often delivered in the wrong pots and substrates. This leads to numerous problems, which first appear in yellowing and then falling leaves. In general, hibiscus species that can be kept outdoors are more robust than the indoor varieties, but a heavy loss of leaves should always be treated with caution.

The following causes can be mentioned:

  • dryness
  • waterlogging
  • poor cutting care
  • relocation
  • Leaf and yellow spot disease
  • chlorosis
  • pests

Please note that the loss and a yellowish color are not always a cause for concern, because the plants lose their leaves from time to time, especially in winter. However, if the leaf loss happens quickly and unexpectedly, there is usually a problem that needs to be fixed.


Don't let it dry out

Drought is never recommended for marshmallow species as the plant quickly begins to suffer. This is due to the growth form, which requires a lot of moisture in order to absorb the nutrients from the substrate through the roots to the leaves and flowers. Dry periods that are too frequent are first reflected in the loss of flowers and buds, followed by yellowish hanging leaves that gradually fall off. It is important to keep all hibiscus species sufficiently moist to support growth. The following applies here: the faster the problem is identified, the less damage there is.

Proceed as follows:

  • check the moisture of the plant substrate for dryness
  • if only the upper layer has dried, it can be sufficiently poured with soft water
  • if leaf loss is severe and the soil is very dry, immediate pruning is required as the plant cannot recover
  • be sure to water sufficiently after pruning
  • Fertilize as usual

The plant should be watered at least every two days in summer, especially when it is warm and dry. In winter, the indoor hibiscus should only be watered slightly, but not the garden marshmallow. Pruning allows the tropical plant to recapture the energy lost from the dry period and convert it into fresh shoots for the coming season. The cut is really only necessary when the plant has almost dried up.


Avoid waterlogging

Like so many tropical plants, the marshmallow should not be kept too dry or too wet. Waterlogging is particularly harmful to the roots. When the leaves turn yellow and threaten to be shed, check the location in the garden or the pot's saucer for overwatering. The roots rot due to waterlogging and the plant dies because it is no longer possible to supply nutrients. If an indoor hibiscus is waterlogged, proceed as follows.

  • repot the hibiscus
  • remove the plant from the pot
  • remove the wet substrate around the roots as gently as possible
  • cut off dark and foul-smelling roots
  • be careful not to remove light-colored roots, the plant needs them to grow
  • prepare a pot with fresh substrate
  • this should have drainage holes
  • additionally arrange drainage of perlite or quartz sand at the bottom
  • now put the plant back and water regularly and not too much

Notice: If the location of the garden marshmallow is well chosen, the plant will not suffer from waterlogging, since Hibiscus creates a wide and dense root network. This absorbs a lot of moisture and thus avoids waterlogging.


Guarantee for falling leaves: incorrect change of location

Hibiscus species are known to get used to their location quickly and often frown upon a change by shedding their leaves. This applies above all to indoor plants, because the garden marshmallow is extremely rarely transplanted due to its size and root network. If you have to move the rose marshmallow, the location should either be the same as the previous location or have the following characteristics to support the growth of the tropical plant.

  • full sun
  • Avoid midday sun
  • avoid cool drafts through doors, air conditioners, or windows
  • normal room temperature
  • Room temperature should be cooler in winter

To cut

Wrong or undercut

Hibiscus species should be pruned regularly so that the numerous old shoots can be removed. These are mainly found close to the ground and should be thinned out after the first fresh shoots have sprout. This keeps the hibiscus from wasting too much energy on the old wood, resulting in a nutrient deficiency. Because of this, the leaves turn yellow and then fall off. When thinning out, make sure that you only remove the old wood from the previous year and not the fresh shoots. There are new flowers on these during the flowering period in late summer.


The leaf and yellow spot disease

Leaf blight and yellow spot are actually two different diseases that present with similar symptoms and both result in leaf loss. Leaf spot disease manifests itself as irregularly occurring spots with a brownish hue. The reason for this is a fungal infestation, which you contain as follows.

  • remove all affected leaves immediately
  • then dispose of them in the household waste
  • the compost for disposal is unsuitable because the fungus could multiply there

Disposal with household waste is necessary for both diseases, since they do not only affect mallow plants, but almost all flowers and plants. Yellow spot disease is manifested by intense yellow spots on the leaves. These come from a virus that could quickly spread to other plants, which is something to avoid at all costs. Proceed as with leaf spot disease, but also isolate the plant from other specimens. This is necessary because otherwise the virus could spread to other specimens and infect them.


Fight against chlorosis

Chlorosis is an iron deficiency in hibiscus. Often this is caused due to too little or the wrong fertilizer. Choose a suitable quality flower fertilizer for this, for example from Compo, and give the plant fertilizer weekly from March to October. Likewise, chlorosis can occur if indoor hibiscus is not warm enough. Then simply choose a warm location for the plant. Garden marshmallow can suffer from chlorosis due to a nutrient deficiency, which is counteracted with bark mulch. This provides the plant with nutrients and sufficient moisture.


Spider mites are dangerous in winter

If the leaves on your rose mallow appear translucent and faint, and you can see cobwebs under the leaves and shoots, your hibiscus is serving as a food source for spider mites. These pests feed on the nutrient-rich plant matter of the Hibiscus, sapping its vitality. Spider mites often appear in winter when the heating air causes a dry room climate. Regularly spray the plant with soft water and in case of a heavy infestation you should do the following.

  • Rinse the plant with water
  • Dab a cotton swab with alcohol and thoroughly remove the spider mites
  • then ensure cooler temperatures in the room and higher humidity
  • check the plant regularly for further infestation

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