There it is! The perfect hibiscus killing machine. If you grow exotic hibiscus in pots you have probably run into the most dreaded of diseases they can get: root rot. It really isn’t a disease as much as an infection. An infection from fungi pathogens that rapidly reproduce in the soil and enter the plant through the roots. Once inside the plant the pathogens then start to block the uptake channels within the plant cutting off the plant’s ability to get nutrients. You start to see dieback and loss of leaves on the highest branches and it slowly works it’s way down the plant over the course of months.
Here is are some photos of my potted plants as they go through the slow process of dying from root rot.
Sometimes the whole plant will just wilt at once when all the channels are finally blocked and it dies very suddenly. At least in that scenario the plant does not suffer long.
So why is the innocent pot the killing machine?
Simple: After removing the dead plant and the contaminated soil you would think you are ready to put in a new plant and start over.
As I have learned the hard way those fungi pathogens survive on the inner surface of your pot just waiting for new soil to be added so they can start reproducing once again and infect whatever next you plant in your pot. I have lost a lot of plants in the beginning as I kept thinking the soil must be too wet or not full of enough air pockets, etc….that sure can be a way to start up root rot but without first properly disinfecting your pots you will be in a revolving world of pain with your potted exotic hibiscus.
To properly disinfect your pots you can use a mild bleach solution with water (10% bleach). Some people also just use soapy water or detergent but I like to play it safe and make sure I have an agent I am using that will kill the pathogens completely so the bleach is the way I prefer to do it.
It is more extra work, time and energy expelled but when you pay money for plants you have been longing for only to see them die after barely having a chance to enjoy them and get only a few blooms at best it is well worth the small sacrifice of your time. And don’t forget this means any pot used that had a plant die of root rot.
Here is my stack from winter that I need to disinfect – all shapes and sizes. Now if a future plant gets root rot while in one of these pots I know that I need to evaluate the soil and watering aspects to achieve better outcomes going forward. But at least I will know that the pot did not potentially infect the new plant. One less thing to consider and hopefully much less issues in the future.
Good luck & Happy Hibiscusing!