Low light causes hibiscus leaf drop

The beautiful blooms of tropical hibiscus tempt gardeners to overwinter the plants indoors. (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
The beautiful blooms of tropical hibiscus tempt gardeners to overwinter the plants indoors. (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Walter Reeves

Credit: Walter Reeves

Q: I am trying to hold on to a tree hibiscus that bloomed beautifully all summer. I moved it inside when cold weather approached. It is in front of a window but the leaves are slowly turning yellow. Patti Owen-Smith, Brookhaven

A: I think low light is responsible for the leaf drop, even though your plant is in front of a window. Like a lot of plants, hibiscus aborts leaves when light changes from high intensity to low. Light levels indoors are hundreds of times less than outdoors. The best you can do is to consider adding a fluorescent or LED plant light. Make sure the hibiscus is not in a draft caused by cold window currents or furnace vents. You can take it back outdoors when night temperatures are reliably above 50 degrees. Even if it has few leaves left, it will get a burst of growth when you place it in bright shade outdoors.

Q: Our huge camphor tree in Florida drops thousands of berries on our wooden boardwalk. Is there an inhibitor to prevent the formation of berries? Anne Herman, Forsyth County

A: When I moved into my house 30 years ago, a small sweetgum tree was growing next to my driveway. As the years passed, it grew bigger and bigger and made nice shade for my parking area. But every year, I had to rake more leaves, and more sweetgum balls fell from the tree. I tried injecting it with a deblooming hormone twice ($225 each time). Three years ago, I had had enough. I called a tree company to take it down. I have not regretted that decision for a second. I miss the shade but I don’t miss the leaves or the stickery balls at all.

You have a similar decision. There’s no way to prevent the camphor tree berries. When they become a big enough nuisance, you may decide, like me, that the only solution is to take down the tree. I doubt you will regret it.

Q: Last spring, I planted 60 small boxwoods. The soil is wet most of the time and they appear to have died over the winter. Can you recommend some shrubs that do well in that type of soil? Randy Wright, Liberty County

A: Dwarf yaupon holly might survive there, depending on how wet it is. Look for Ilex vomitoria ‘Nana’ and Ilex vomitoria ‘Schillings Dwarf.’ If you plan to plant again, consider adding more soil to raise the planting area above its surroundings.

Walter’s email address is georgiagardener@yahoo.com. Listen to his comments at 6:35 a.m. on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, follow him on Twitter @walterreeves, on Pinterest, or join his Facebook Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener.

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