Dying hibiscus, massive feeder root loss


Advice please on how to keep alive a friend’s 20 yr old potted indoor hibiscus (great sentimental value) a cat has climbed, causing 95% feeder root loss.

Major wilt and leaf yellowing since the trauma on June 28th. I’ve been misting every 30 mins, fed some fertilizer for root growth (ha!) & am going to tent it under clear plastic to trap misting moisture.

And, is it possible to propogate from a cutting w woody plants? Desperate times..

Many thanks, ‘Felix’ is on his last legs!


Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners with your inquiry concerning your ailing Hibiscus.

From your photo your Hibiscus is definitely suffering from shock. As you noticed, shock is often the result of damaged roots during digging, replanting or the effect of a cat using the hibiscus as a climbing pole. Because the water intake system is reduced, the plant has trouble moving nutrients and water around to all parts.

The roots are the only part of the plant that can bring water to the leaves, so processes like photosynthesis that produce the green coloration in leaves may be slowed or stopped in areas that aren’t getting enough water. As you’ve already noticed the symptoms of transplant shock usually involve the leaves first. The leaves of affected plants may wilt, yellow or dry out completely, then drop. Since the root mass has been reduced it can no longer support the above ground mass, as a result you will need to reduce the above ground mass by 1/3.

Fertilizer will also help your hibiscus recover if given in the right amount. However, too much fertilizer can damage roots further. A balanced water-soluble fertilizer, such as a 13-13-13 or 20-20-20, will provide the hibiscus with the additional nutrients that it needs to rebuild damaged tissues. Providing additional light to an indoor hibiscus, as much as 14 hours a day, will also give the plant more fuel for the process it uses to produce food.

Here’s to a speedy recovery for ‘Felix’