Those Confused Hibiscus Plants! Lots of Yellow Leaves in January

Those Confused Hibiscus Plants! Lots of Yellow Leaves in January

Are you now seeing lots of yellow leaves on your hibiscus all of a sudden in the middle of winter? Don’t be alarmed – this is actually to be expected due to our unusually hot weather we just experienced a few weeks ago. One of the things hibiscus do not tolerate well is dramatic swings in the weather and temperatures. Let’s review what happened:

That is a crazy and drastic shift in both the temperatures as well as the weather. First thing to learn from this is this might become the new normal for us here in Southern California. This is part of a new phenomena that is being called “Precipitation Whiplash” which means that we are more commonly seeing drastic and very quick shifts in our weather pattern. It can go from summer to winter in just a couple days and from bone dry for months to strong rain events too. For plants like hibiscus that are built for tropical climates that see little variation in weather patterns and temperatures this is hard on them.

So after we had several days of temperatures near 90F in So Cal our hibiscus plants which have been living in slow motion for the past two months due to the colder nighttime temperatures typical for this time of year woke up and suddenly. The burst of heat energy and more mild nights we had after New Year’s made them think it is now spring and time to start dropping last year’s leaves and start growing new ones. Thus lots of yellow leaves start to show up a couple weeks after our winter heatwave on our hibiscus.

So be prepared to see baby leaves sprouting up under the old large leaves of last year. Some hibiscus like to lose their leaves first before popping out those new baby leaves so don’t be surprised if some plants start to look a bit barren.

The hard part about this early spring growth spurt is it won’t last. With the weather pattern dramatically shifting back into winter mode your hibiscus will get confused and shut down again. So don’t panic over the yellow leaves, nothing is wrong with your hibiscus plants. Just remove the leaves as you see fit and be patient. Your hibiscus will slow down again and go back into slow motion mode until the next change in our weather pattern. The quick hit of heat is good for them but at the same time it does confuse them and their owners a bit. Just remember that when we do finally get into our spring weather pattern that you should expect lots of yellow leaves and that is a good thing. Look for new baby leaves under last year’s leaves as well as new leaves and bud at the branch tips.


It is important to keep in mind that your hibiscus plant’s metabolism is significantly slower during the winter months. So it might take more than 2 weeks to see the effects of inputs. I know for my hibiscus it took a little more than 2 weeks to see the full extent of the yellow leaves and the plants that were in the most direct sunlight got the most yellow leaves. In summer after heatwaves you can see yellow leaves show up in as little as 3-4 days after the event since their metabolism is much faster then. 

Finally it is best to back off on watering with the stronger rain events we are having. You might notice your hibiscus look even better after the rain which is typical. We theorize that as the rain drops through the atmosphere it become more oxygenated which hibiscus roots enjoy the extra air in the wet soil. Plus your hibiscus are getting all cleaned off after months of brush fire ash and smoke, dust and dirt accumulations from many months without precipitation.

If you have any further questions or need help please check out our Pro Grower’s Section which is filled with tons of helpful growing information. You can also contact us through our Contact Page or email us at:

We wish you and your loved ones a safe and healthy start to the New Year. May your days be green and colorful!


The SCHS Crew



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