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Propagating Hibiscus: A Tropical Guide for Vibrant Blooms

Is there a more beautiful tropical flower than hibiscus? These show-stopping blooms are big, bold, and full of vibrancy. They bring a splash of color wherever they’re planted.

If you want to get more of these stunning flowers in your life, then you definitely want to start propagating hibiscus.

This step-by-step guide will show you how to propagate hibiscus from start to finish. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gardener, propagating hibiscus is simple and only requires a few basic garden supplies. Let’s get started!

propagating hibiscus

What Kind of Hibiscus can be Propagated?

Hibiscus plants come in two main types, tropical hibiscus and hardy hibiscus.

Both types have large, vibrant flowers and attractive foliage. The main difference is in where they’re grown. Hardy hibiscus can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 5-9. Tropical hibiscus need to be grown in warmer areas, typically zone nine and above.

Both tropical and hardy varieties can be propagated, but hardy hibiscus is much easier.

Don’t worry though. If you have a beautiful tropical hibiscus you’d like to propagate, you can definitely do that. Just plan on taking extra cuttings to increase your chances of one taking root.

What You Need for Propagating Hibiscus

A gardner is planting Hibiscus from cuttings - Plant cuttings in the hand. How to prune hibiscus by cuttings concept - Grow tropical plants at home.

If you do much gardening, you probably already have what you need to propagate hibiscus.

Pruning Shears

A pair of sharp, clean pruning shears is essential for taking healthy cuttings from the hibiscus plant you want to propagate.

Rooting Hormone

Rooting hormone encourages your cuttings to produce healthy roots quickly. This is especially helpful for tropical hibiscus, which are harder to grow from cuttings than hardy varieties.


If using the water method, you’ll need a good-sized jar or drinking glass to root your cuttings in.

For the soil method, you’ll want a pot that’s at least 6-8 inches deep. If you’re planting several cuttings at once, choose a bigger pot to ensure they have plenty of room.

Potting Soil

Whichever method you go with, you’ll need a well-draining, high-quality potting soil like Miracle Gro Tropical Potting Mix to plant the cuttings in when they’re ready.

How to Propagate Hibiscus in Water

1. Gather Cuttings

The first step to propagating hibiscus is to gather your cuttings. Choose a healthy hibiscus plant to ensure the best chance of healthy cuttings.

Look for newer stems that are somewhat flexible and green. Avoid very hard, woody stems and stems that have already flowered.

Cut one or several stems that are 6-8 inches long.

2. Prepare the Stems

Carefully remove all of the leaves from your cuttings except for 1-2 at the top. This encourages the plant to put energy towards making roots instead of maintaining leaves.

Make a diagonal cut with your pruning shears across the bottom of each cutting. The cut should be at about a 45-degree angle. This increases the surface area for the cutting to take up water and helps it develop roots.

Cut the stems directly under a leaf node and make the length of the stem somewhere between 4-6 inches long.

3. Apply Rooting Hormone

Take the cuttings and dip the cut end of each stem in the rooting hormone.

When propagating hibiscus, developing strong and healthy roots is the first step to growing large and healthy plants. Rooting hormone helps your plants develop healthy roots quickly.

4. Place Hibiscus in Water

Take a clean glass or jar and fill it about halfway full of cool water. You just need a few inches of water to cover the bottoms of the stems, you don’t want to submerge the cuttings.

Put the cuttings in the jar and place it in a warm location out of direct sunlight. A north-facing windowsill that receives indirect light works well. It’s fine to put several cuttings in the same jar.

Roots should begin to emerge within the first week. Change the water once or twice a week to keep the cuttings healthy.

In about four weeks, the cuttings will be ready to move into a container with soil.

5. Move the Cuttings to a Pot

When the roots are ½-1 inch long, it’s time to plant the cuttings in soil.

Choose a container that’s at least 6-8 inches deep and fill it with potting soil. Poke a hole in the soil that’s about two inches deep and wide enough to accommodate the roots. Stick the cutting into the soil and gently fill in the hole.

6. Caring for your Plant as it Grows

Take some clear plastic like plastic wrap or a gallon-sized resealable bag and wrap it loosely around the cutting to create a mini greenhouse over the pot.

Hibiscus plants like it warm and humid. The plastic helps create these conditions indoors. Keep the bottom of the plastic open to ensure airflow.

Water the plant regularly to keep the soil moist.

Keep the plant out of direct sunlight until it starts producing new leaves, then you can move it into a location with full sun.

At this point, your hibiscus propagating is a success! You can start caring for the plant like you would any other hibiscus.

How to Propagate Hibiscus in Soil

Growing hibiscus from seeds. Hibiscus moscheutos seedlings growing in flower pot

The steps for propagating hibiscus in soil are much the same as the water method, but instead of rooting the cuttings in water, you’ll go straight to planting them in soil.

1. Gather Cuttings

Choose a healthy hibiscus plant to gather your cuttings.

Look for newer stems that are firm while still being flexible. Stems that have not flowered yet are ideal because they’ll be more likely to root well.

Choose stems that are 6-8 inches long and remove them from the plant with sharp pruning shears.

2. Prepare the Stems

Carefully remove all of the leaves on each stem, leaving just 1-2 at the top.

Using the pruning shears, make a diagonal cut at the bottom of each stem to increase the surface area. This helps the stem take up water and develop roots more effectively.

The cut should be made directly under a leaf node. After trimming, stems should be about 4-6 inches long.

3. Apply Rooting Hormone

Dip the end of each stem into the rooting hormone.

This is a short step, but it’s important for helping the cuttings develop strong roots quickly. It’s not something to skip over!

4. Plant the Cuttings in Soil

If you have several cuttings, it can be convenient to plant them all together in one medium-sized pot.

Later on, as the cuttings develop, you can then choose the healthiest plants to move out into their own pots.

If you’d rather, you can plant each individual cutting into its own pot from the get-go. Either way works fine!

Once you’ve chosen a container, fill it with potting soil. Poke a hole in the soil for each cutting and plant them about 2-3 inches deep. If planting several cuttings together, space them a few inches apart so the roots have room to grow.

Place the container in a warm spot out of direct sunlight.

5. Caring for your Plant as it Grows

Keep the soil moist to encourage root growth. You can create a mini-greenhouse for propagating hibiscus cuttings by covering them gently with plastic wrap or a resealable plastic bag.

Leave the plastic somewhat open at the bottom to allow for good air circulation. Water the plant regularly to maintain moist soil. This is important for early root development.

Keep the plant out of direct sunlight until you see new growth developing.

Once the plant starts producing new leaves, that’s it! Your hibiscus cuttings have turned into their own, healthy plants. Move each one into its own pot and give it regular hibiscus plant care.

Frequently Asked Questions

Colorful Hawaiian hibiscus in the garden

When is the best time to propagate hibiscus?

Late spring through mid-summer. If you take cuttings too early, there won’t be many flexible, green stems to cut from. The best stems for propagating hibiscus have grown enough to be firm, but not yet developed into hardwood.

What if I don’t have any rooting hormone?

Rooting hormone is helpful but not strictly required. If you don’t have any available, there are several household alternatives you can try.

Honey, aloe vera, or cinnamon all encourage rooting while protecting against harmful bacteria that can damage your plants. If you don’t have rooting hormone on hand, try one of these instead!

Do I need special soil to propagate hibiscus?

No, any high-quality potting soil will do. The most important thing to remember is that the soil should be well-draining. You don’t want your roots getting soggy as this can damage the plants and prevent proper growth.

How can I tell if my cutting is taking root?

In water, it’s easy to tell when roots start to grow, but it can be much harder with cuttings planted in soil. Take a look at the top of the plant to see if it’s growing.

New leaves growing from the top are a sure sign that the cutting has taken root.

Time to Start Propagating Hibiscus

With this guide and a few helpful tools, propagating hibiscus is simple and rewarding! Soon you’ll be growing a whole garden full of incredible blooms. For more information on growing and caring for hibiscus plants, check out How to Plant Hibiscus.

If you’d like to grow more flowers through propagation, head to How to Propagate Hydrangeas next.