Veiny & Chlorotic Leaves
Make Sure You Don’t Also Have Branch Tip Die Back
Veiny looking leaves typically occur first on the top leaves of your plant’s branches. If you simultaneously observe branch tip die back then you have a very serious problem with your plant. Many times when your plant has root rot most if not all of the leaves will look veiny, have a dull look (not shiny) and may even droop. Please see our webpage for Branch Tip Dieback
Veiny and chlorotic looking leaves are the first and important sign your plant is letting you know that you are not giving it enough air in the soil and/or too much water. This is an important state to spot early on so that you can make the proper modifications for your plant to avoid it from getting the dreaded root rot. That is where it is headed over time if you do not take corrective action. Remember hibiscus come from tropical climate origins that includes rocky and very porous soil environments so their roots are tender and easily susceptible to getting rot in heavier, wet soils.
Check Your Soil
First thing to check when you see veiny looking top leaves is the soil. Even if it does not appear to be overly wet it can be so down at the root level. This is true especially in pots during the hot months. The top layer of soil will dry out very quickly but the soil deep down at the bottom could in fact be saturated with water and no air in it. We recommend buying a water meter and slowly probing it down into the soil. Watch carefully the deeper you get. Many times after the first several inches it will start to become very wet. If this is the case you should only give your plants a quick hit of water to just keep that top surface layer wet. Also for potted plants check to make sure the drainage holes are not clogged or plugged up by plants roots.
Too Much Water?
Next thing to consider with veiny leaves on your top branches is if your plant is getting water from another source near by. This is usually the case when any lawn or planter sprinklers are nearby. We recommend to only water your plants when you feed them unless the temperatures are over 105F. So the addition of sprinkler water can easily cause your hibiscus problems in not only saturating the soil but also by diluting the fertilizers it gets. Remember hibiscus are very hungry plants for energy and they are easily affected in a negative way when they are not getting enough nutrients to match the water they receive.
The third thing to trouble shoot is what type and amount of fertilizer you are giving your hibiscus. Hibiscus differ from other flowering plants in that they need high amounts of potassium, very low amounts of phosphorus and low amounts of nitrogen. Most plant fertilizers are the opposite and have high nitrogen and phosphorus and low potassium. Also the amount of fertilizer is another factor that can lead to veiny leaves. If they are not getting enough they will get veiny without the proper levels of potassium. We recommend Hidden Valley Hibiscus Special Blend Fertilizer which is formulated just for hibiscus. HVH Special Blend Fertilizer
Heavily Shaded Plants
On a side note if you plant or grow your hibiscus in a heavily shaded area you will notice the leaves become very dark green and large. They do this in response to lack of sunlight so they build up extra chlorophyll and large surface areas in an effort to maximize photosynthesis. Conversely plants in extremely heavy and hot sun do the opposite and have leaves that are lighter green, small and the y get a bit of a scrunchy, curled look to them.
Less Water and Better Soil
In the end we have found that most often growers overwater their plants and have the wrong type of soil for those tender root systems that need lots of air. A great method to keep track if your hibiscus are doing well is those top leaves on your plant’s branches. If they are solid green/dark green that is a great sign. As soon as they start looking pale and veiny you know you have issues with what is going on underneath the soil.
Different Inputs for Different Locations
Remember every location has it’s own unique microclimate that you as a dedicated grower must figure out and make the adjustments needed to get your hibiscus in top form so they can put on a bloom show for you throughout the year. Even from one side of your yard to the other can be quite a change in growing conditions and you might have to approach each area differently. Sometimes just having enough time becomes the biggest challenge a grower faces but once you do have these things figured out your amount of time spent should decrease with a big improvement in your plants’ performance.