Hibiscus stem turned brown/black


Hi, I transplanted a Summerific Hibiscus (Ballet Slippers) in early fall, but its leaves started falling off, and now most of the stem has turned into brown/black. My other hibiscus that I transplanted at the same time have also fallen most of the leaves but their stems still look green and healthy.

The stem is 1.5 feet high. The soils in the holes where all transplanted plants are mixed with potting mix, original clay soil and cow manure.
Those hibiscuses has 6 hours direct afternoon sun.

I’m wondering if the plant in the picture got infected by disease, transplant shock or if its normal colour changed due to dormancy.

Should I remove the plant from the ground if it is a diseased plant? Will the disease stay in the spot where the plant is transplanted for a long period of time? Should I transplant a new one at the same spot next year?

Thank you very much!



Thank you for your query about your hardy hibiscus, Hibiscus moscheutos ‘Ballet Slippers’, a lovely white variety. While early spring is the optimum time to transplant hardy hibiscus, fall is also suitable once the blossoms have fallen.

From your description of your soil preparation and the appearance of your other transplanted hibiscus shrubs, your conclusion that this plant’s failure to thrive is due to either transplant shock or disease is reasonable. In fact it could be both. Hardy hibiscus are relatively trouble free and from your described appearance and image, a fungal disease is most likely the cause. While it is not possible to identify the specific organism without lab testing, the discolouration of the stem would suggest a verticillium or fusarium fungal infection. Both fungii  affect a wide range of plants from vegetables, fruits, flowers to shrubs and trees. There are no effective treatments for either diseases. If you make a fresh cross-cut into the stem and there is black streaking/discolouration instead of white or cream coloured tissue, it is most likely verticillium. If so, the infection may have pre-existed transplanting or it may have infected the plant through root damage at the time of transplanting. This organism is found in the soil and is also transmitted via injury. It is recommended that all tools should be disinfected between cuts when pruning plants and root disturbance be minimized when transplanting to prevent transmission of this and other diseases.

A plant with a serious fungal disease should be removed. Since the organism cannot be accurately identified without lab testing and since verticillium does persist in the soil for several years, it is prudent to remove the plant and discard it in the garbage rather than in the yard waste. It would be wise to wait a couple of years before planting a hibiscus in the same spot or select a verticillium resistant plant to replace it.

Post-transplant care would include mulching your transplants with 7.5 cm of mulch. Please see: After Planting Care – scroll to this section at the bottom of the page.

For further information, please click on the following links:

Verticillium wilt

Hope this information is helpful in promoting the health of your hibiscus