Tropical Hibiscus - Propagation by Rooting

To propagate specific varieties of tropical hibiscus, other than by grafting, rooting cuttings is the usual method. The common varieties found in nurseries and home improvement centers are propagated in this way. Many of the hybrid varieties can also be rooted.

Here is an overview: A good idea is to pinch off the very top of the branch two weeks before take the cutting to activate the plant's hormones and speed up the rooting process. Take a one-gallon pot, fill it with perlite and wet thoroughly. The perlite will need to stay wet. Make your cuttings about the length of a pencil and cut off all but one or two leaves at the top (snip away 2/3 of each); cut below an eye (a leaf node) on a slant; dip this end in Rootone; poke a hole in the potting medium with a pencil so as not to wipe off the hormone and stick in the cuttings. (Many growers will nick some of the bark from the bottom 1" of the cutting.) You can put many cuttings in one pot as they tend to root better with company. Keep the cuttings moist and in partial sun. If fewer cuttings, use a smaller pot -- even a styrofoam coffee cup with drainage holes poked in it.. They should root in about 6 - 8 weeks with temperatures in the roughly 70-85° F range. (Some varieties will root without using rooting hormones.)
Or, use oasis cubes.

Above are the supplies needed for two different approaches to rooting. A rooting hormone like Rootone or Dip 'N Grow and the rooting medium. The pot at right is full of moist perlite and the cubes at bottom are a sheet of Oasis. Both the pot and the Oasis tray have plenty of drainage holes. Moisten the Oasis before inserting cuttings and follow all directions on these products.

Here, the cuttings have been placed in both media. Usually a grower will only use only one, probably the perlite method since perlite is more readily available than Oasis.

If all goes well, in 6 to 8 weeks these cuttings will have new leaves and have developed root systems. The next step will be to gently remove the cuttings from the pot and separate them before potting in individual pots. Similarly, the Oasis cubes with the rooted cuttings should be carefully separated/broken from the sheet and planted in individual pots. Be very careful with the tender new roots.

Here's another technique:
A gallon plastic pot with drain holes toward the bottom of the sides is set in a tray that's deep enough so that when the tray is full of water, the water level is higher that the tops of the drain holes. The pot is filled 2/3 full of perlite and the cuttings are stuck into that. It is then left in the sun and you occasionally check to make sure that the tray has enough water in it to cover those drain holes. The perlite stays damp because it's wicking the water from the tray -- no muss, no fuss. (Use rooting hormones as necessary.)

Some other things to keep in mind:

Some varieties, even under optimum conditions, can be very difficult to get to root. Some growers will put plastic bags over their potted cuttings in order to make a little greenhouse, but beware that too much sun will bake your cuttings. The professionals use misting beds to maintain high humidity and 70F degree bottom heat to encourage rooting. If there is plenty of humidity, the cuttings can tolerate more sun.

There are people who are successful rooting non-woody 4-6" top cuttings in water. Be especially careful with these new roots.

Different people do things in different ways and they may be equally successful. see what works best for you.

 Also see this Australian page on rooting. And this Swedish page on rooting in water.

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