EXOTIC HIBISCUS THRIVE ON CONSISTENT INPUTS
Exotic hibiscus are some of the most hungry plants you will come across when it comes to fertilization and attention. They also thrive when they not only are receiving the proper inputs they want but at a constant amount over long periods of time. Exotic hibiscus are momentum plants and take time to slow down and then build up momentum to go in a different direction both good or bad.
Being that hibiscus originated from tropical climates they have evolved to be used to constant temperatures and weather with only minor variations. Since Southern California is a Mediterranean Climate Zone we experience seasons which hibiscus do not like or need. This includes both moderate changes in seasonal temperatures and precipitation which again are not consistent with how hibiscus have genetically evolved to flourish. One advantage we have here in Southern California is that we do not normally get excessive amounts of rain on an annual basis so we can have adequate control over how much water our plants get. This is a nice setup for using drip systems that can deliver precise and consistent amounts of water and fertilizer to your plants.
Drip systems have been around for a long time now and they continue to innovate new products to make them more effective and easier to utilize. Not only are drip systems the best way to minimize the amount of water used on your property but they allow you to target specific inputs into your water for your hibiscus like fertilizers. This is known as FERTIGATION – the process by injecting fertilizers directly into your drip system’s water source. For those of us who have a large amount of plants on our properties this becomes a life saver in both time management and effectiveness with growing results. And drip systems work great for both in ground plants and potted plants. There are a host of different fertilizer injectors now available for the home grower. The size and power of injectors cover it all from a small collection of just a dozen plants to those of us well into the hundreds spread over vast spaces across our properties.
Most parts for drip systems can be purchased at your local big box stores as well as many hardware stores that have gardening/ plumbing sections. We highly recommend Dripworks.com for all of your special drip irrigation needs and great how to info on their website. Drip Works Website
EZ FLOW INJECTORS
We recommend for small size drip system setups to use an EZ Flow injector. EZ Flow comes in 3/4 gallon and 2 gallon holding tanks which take up little space, can be placed on the ground, are easy to connect to your water supply, can handle high PSI and are the most inexpensive reliable injectors. The one big downside to using EZ Flow injectors is that they work using a dilution mechanism. Your holding tank will be filled with your concentrated fertilizer mix and when your drip system turns on it will push water into your holding tank through one water line and then push it out through through an exiting water line that will mix the concentrate to the mix ratio dial you preset. The problem here is that with each use of your EZ Flow injector your concentrate mix will become more and more diluted with water until the entire holding tank is nothing but water after a number of uses. So your plants will not get a constant mix of fertilizers which goes against their need for constant inputs that they can grow accustom to over time allowing them to thrive.
For the grower that has a large collection of hibiscus plants and/or spread out over large areas a stronger and larger volume injector is needed. We have tested out several of the top of the line fertilizer injectors over the years and have found that Dosatron is the most reliable. Other brands tend to start having mechanical issues after several years and seem to be more sensitive to the elements. Dosatron also offers a nice array of injectors that offer different gallons per hour output. This is very important as the more drippers, micro sprinklers and distance you cover with your drip lines your water pressure can drop quickly to your peripheral outlying lines and emitters causing them to not work. The set up and assembly needed is definitely a lot more complicated and involves some planning out ahead of time but the results are well worth it. You can choose the size holding tank (not part of the Dosatron Injector assembly) for your concentrate fertilizer mix you want to accommodate both space available as well as controlling what intervals you will have to refill your tank concentrate mix. The giant advantage with Dosatron is it mixes your concentrate with the water inside of the pump itself drawing up only pure concentrate from your holding tank (it never gets diluted). Also with the ability to get a pump with much stronger gallon per hour volumes you can supply water to much larger areas and more plants.
Both recommended injectors come with dials that let you determine the mix rate of concentrate to water. Based on years of experimenting we recommend setting your mix ratio to 1:100. The ideal mix we prefer is Hidden Valley Hibiscus Special Blend Fertilizer 1 pound per gallon of water in your holding tank. Additional fertilizers you can add and this might become a budget issue as the cost can add up quickly are: Hidden Valley Hibiscus Booster (potassium nitrate), Supernova Plant Additive, Miracle Gro All Purpose Plant Food (24-8-16), Soluable Potash, SulMagPo, and Epsom Salts. One thing to look out for is that you don’t put too many granular substances together that they cannot all dilute or over time they undilute to the bottom of your tank creating a sediment layer. If this were to get past the filter and into the mixing chamber of your injector that can clog it up quickly and cause it to stop working requiring it to be serviced.
Here is an example from one of our member’s yards where they tore out their lawn and replaced it with just exotic hibiscus plants and plumeria trees. All sprinkler systems were disconnected and drip irrigation lines were installed with only emitters all run by 4 different EZ Flow fertilizer injectors using 3/4 gallon holding tanks. This yard is south facing which is important to note as the plants get maximum sun exposure year round which in Orange County is a perfect set up for them to get vast amounts of the correct levels of heat which they thrive on.