Problem with Tropical Hibiscus Leaves Turning Yellow

Hibiscus plants don’t like changes to their environment.

Why are the leaves on my tropical hibiscus turning yellow? -Carol

If your tropical hibiscus has a few yellow leaves here and there, it’s nothing to worry about, as the plants regularly renew their leaves by yellowing and dropping the old ones. However, if most of the leaves are yellow, or the plant looks wilted or stunted, it’s a sign that something’s not right.

Tropical hibiscus plants are very vulnerable to environmental changes. Bringing them indoors or out, repotting, and changes in their care can cause the plant to become stressed. Even minor changes that you might not notice can cause problems.

Sometimes yellowing of hibiscus leaves is a sign of temporary distress, and the plant will recover. At other times, it can be a sign of a more serious problem that must be addressed to save the plant.

hibiscus flower
Red swamp hibiscus (Jaycee, Deposit Photos)

Causes of Yellow Leaves on Hibiscus

Unfortunately, figuring out the cause of the yellowing leaves requires a bit of detective work, because it can come from lots of different causes. Here are some things to check on your hibiscus:

  • Water: Too much or too little water is a primary cause of yellowing hibiscus leaves. Tropical hibiscus need lots of water, but they don’t like to be soggy. Water more often (even daily) during heat waves, and less when it’s cool or overcast. Make sure the plant doesn’t sit in water and that the soil isn’t constantly wet.
  • Soil: Soil compaction, poor drainage, or lack of soil (becoming rootbound) are other causes of leaf yellowing in hibiscus, often because they contribute to water issues. Check the soil pH, and keep it slightly on the acidic side. Gently probe the soil around your plant, or lift it out of the pot, to see if the roots are packed and circling. If your hibiscus needs repotting, use a light, well-draining potting mix or soilless medium. Don’t plant in too big a pot, as hibiscus like to be just a wee bit crowded.
  • Temperature Changes: Moving your hibiscus, bringing it indoors, and normal weather changes (including wind) can cause temporary stress. Hibiscus need temperatures in the upper 60s to low 80s F. Exposure to extreme temperatures or drafts can cause the leaves to drop. If you’re growing your hibiscus indoors, keep it away from heat and air vents and drafty windows.
  • Light: Hibiscus are full-sun plants. Lack of sunlight can cause overall yellowing of the leaves. On the other hand, if the plant is getting sunburned, the leaves can get yellow or white splotches.
  • Insect Infestation: Spider mites and aphids are two major pests of hibiscus that can cause leaf damage and discoloration. Look for spider mites on the underside of leaves, and aphids clustering near the tips.
  • Nutrition Problems: Overfertilizing is another common cause of leaf yellowing in hibiscus, because of the shock it causes to the plant. Feed plants lightly and regularly, rather than heavily. I found some sources recommending occasionally supplementing your hibiscus with a very weak vinegar solution to lower the pH. I’ve never tried this but it could be helpful if your water is alkaline. Extremely poor soil can also cause hibiscus leaf yellowing due to nutrient deficiency. If the leaves are turning yellow with green veins, a condition called chlorosis, it’s a sign of nutrient (usually mineral) deficiency.
  • Chemical Shock: Pesticides can also cause leaf yellowing in hibiscus, especially if applied too heavily or during the heat of the day. Use organic pest control products, such as insecticidal soaps, and follow package instructions exactly.
  • Dormancy: Tropical hibiscus often goes through a dormancy stage during the winter. When you bring your plant indoors in the fall, it will likely lose some leaves due to the seasonal and environmental changes.
Man pruning tree branches on a sunny day
Pruning branches can help your hibiscus get the nutrients it needs. (DepositPhotos)

How to Care for Hibiscus

Once you’ve sleuthed out the cause of the problem, here are some tips for getting your plant back on track:

  • Correct Problem: It probably goes without saying, but the first thing to do is change the conditions causing the problem! Water, repot, move, or protect your hibiscus plant to keep the growing conditions as stable as possible.
  • Pruning: Once you’ve corrected the problem, your hibiscus plant should begin to sprout new leaves, but you may want to trim back bare branches to reduce water and nutrient needs as your plant recovers.
  • Be Patient: Plant problems can be difficult to diagnose and often take trial and error to correct. Once you hit upon the right solution, your hibiscus plant should recover nicely.

Further Information

  1. How to Grow Hibiscus (article)
  2. How to Grow Swamp Hibiscus (article)
  3. How to Spruce Up a Summer Garden with Tropical Plants (article)


  1. I do have a hibiscus that is losing leaves that are turning yellow. However the plant itself is getting new growth all around it including buds. should i still be worried

  2. I am a newbie to the hibiscus plant world. I have 7 hibiscus potted plants and the leaves are turning yellow. I have been watering them daily as instructed on the flyer i too am noticing the increase of yellow leaves and yes the dirt is somewhat soggy. The plant itself has very beautiful blooms. should I pull back to once per week instead of daily as stated on the flyer attached to the flower? I have had them for 2 weeks.

  3. It’s a question. Why would my potted Hibiscus that looks healthy and green with loads of new growth, drop flower buds just as it looks like they are going to open? I feed and use a mild insect deterrent and see no evidence of bugs. I have another plant right next to it, though a different variety of Hibiscus, that flowers like crazy! What gives? Help?

  4. For all us who may be novices. I live in Southern California where the climate is rarely extreme. I’ve enjoyed great success with my potted beautiful flowering Hibiscus plants this year. Could you please give me a crash course on the proper pruning technique….and the right time to do this? My plants are starting to get big and some branches are stretching out and looking a bit unruly.

  5. My hibiscus has yellow leaves with brown spots that are dropping. What are the brown spots? I sprayed for insects a few weeks ago. The plant is also projecting new leaf growth.

  6. 2 of my 6 Hibiscus has new leaf buds on the tips of the stalks the the full body of the plants have not come back from a quick winter frost. The other4 bushes are lush and beginning to push bloom here in Souther California. They are all watered the same on my system, however I noticed the these 2 share an expesially strong water spray. Could this be over watering? If I turn that S Head off for a few weeks, because the ground in also geting some water from the lawn zone. Will these plant recover?

  7. my hibiscus is flowering beautifully..not as much as when it was outdoors…problem…half the plant leaves are yellow with brown edges.. we did have to spray it for aphids 3 weeks in a row when it was warmer, it hasnt been sprayed in over 3 weeks ….don’t see aphids anymore… It’s also more like a tree, not a plant…its 2yrs young & over 5ft and very wide…It lives in Martinsville, New Jersey..please help me to help my HIBISCUS.. thanking you in advance for your time and efforts in this matter…

  8. We have a ‘Cameo Queen’ Hibiscus which has only recently flowered after some years of no buds. I have noticed today that a fairly plump bud some 4cm long is not upright but lying along a leaf. Is it the heat that we have been experiencing here in Sydney or some other issue.

  9. Thank you. I may have fertilized it a little too much so I will be patient. I have a lot of new shoots so its going to continue to grow.

  10. My hibiscus did not all survive the frost this year in Texas so I had to buy new plants. I purchased a double to replace one that I lost and to my surprise when it bloomed there were different color flowers. Some were peach and others a dark orange almost red. This plant is beautiful and I would love to have more of them. Is this an unusual phenomonen or can these plants be purchased this way?

  11. I have had my hibiscus for 5 years. I live in Wisconsin so I bring it in, in the winter. It does well and even bloomed a few times this winter. I felt the weather was good enough to move it outside but it got a little cold the second night but did not freeze. The next day all the leaves wilted and turned white and fell off. It is starting to sprout new growth but is there anything I should do.

  12. I recently re potted my hibiscus, and started to notice yellowing leaves at the bottom of my plant. It is currently blooming new pretty healthy green leaves and flower buds on top. I have miracle grow hibiscus food, I also put a fertilizer I got from the nursery. I’m thinking after reading up on it I may have over fertilized it. How long till it corrects it self? And does it need a well drained pot? If so, could I just drill a hole at the bottom of my current pot? I’m new at owning a hibiscus. I can typically grow and take care of anything…this plant is giving me troubles. Any advise is much appreciated! Thanks. Troubled hibiscus in Houston Texas!

  13. Professionally planted hibiscus TREE in central FL has lost 3/4 of it’s leaves. Will new leaves be produced on woody stems or will these stems closer to the trunk always be barren? I’m quite sure it’s transplant shock (10 days in ground), but I’m wondering how my $100 baby will look in a few months.
    Thanks in advance, Sara

  14. I have 3 gorgeous hibiscus in pots; 1 older but neglected a bit on the balcony; 1 in the gar den. The 3 love the location of sun outside my kitchen. The terrace returned from white icky stuff last winter season inside and the garden looks like it wants to rest. What to do with the beauties this year. Last year, when I brought the terrace one inside, it got white icky stuff on it. Spring it got washed and it the leaves returned and I got a few flowers. The “kitchen” hibiscus were soooo gorgeous this summer and are still flowering (October 10). It’s still is 22C and only drops to about 14C but this will change. Do I keep them out in the sun but close to a warm wall or bring them in? What next. Probably still have a few more weeks here in Provence.

  15. My potted plant was moved indoors 2 weeks ago. The leaves are turning yellow. I sprayed it with joy dish liquid for aphids even though I did not see any. I fertilized with miracle plant food for the first time. When outside I did not water or feed it. Nature took care of it. How can I help my plant to survive?

  16. We planted an hibiscus outside at the front of the house beside a Boston Fern. It has done very well for months (we live in Largo, FL and we get quite a lot of rain) Suddenly it has developed yellow leaves which are dropping. It is our winter now and we have had some temps. dropping down to the 40’s. Will this affect the hibiscus or is this a natural process of growing and losing leaves? I don’t want to lose it. We have two others in the back garden that are thriving and have done so for years. We don’t water them as the rain is quite prolific here.

  17. I have a hibiscus plants… That I purchased three months ago. I have noticed the leaves turning yellow with green spots. Any ideas?

  18. I have 3 indoor hibiscus plants. All 3 are blooming except the branches below them are bare. The one on my windowsill has almost all the leaves yellow. Any feedback? I think I need to re-pot them.

  19. Can’t find any mites on my two hibiscus but leaves are turning yellow when I look underneath them there is like a black mold on them. They are planted outside and were planted back in September 2014 and did well until just a month or two ago no one else has had this problem that I can find so can you help? I live in central Florida.

  20. Early winter last year I bought 4 hibiscus plants 3 large and one very small, I live in ohio so it was already getting too cold for them outside and I put them indoors, but it was at a house we were going to be moving to where there was room enough for the plants, the house was being worked on and it took longer then we planned to get the furnace working, all of the plants I had there lost their leaves and soft stemmed plants became mushy. The soft stemmed plants seem completely dead, but two bouganvillia I had bought at the same time have re sprouted new leaves about a month ago and bulb plants are already sprouting too. I cut one of the hibiscus stalks to check if it was green and it was but very pale, the soil is very thin and fluffy it does not hold water, I gave them general plant fertilizer sticks thinking it may be early but seemed needed to help regrow leaves. These are my first hibiscus any advice will be appreciated! They did continue to bloom up till the leaves dropping they did not turn yellow just dry and fell, that was in early december I think and have had no leaves still up to march.

  21. In my house I bought two hibiscus plants orange and pink colour colour, planted in Gumala which is kept it on Terrace. The diameter of Gumala is about 14 inches. However, Orange colour hibiscus grown well so far pink one leafs suddenly are yellowish despite regular water, dosing of compost manure, ‘Tilt’ spraying Soil mulching etc. What is the remedy to prevent yellowish leafs

  22. I live in NE Florida. I bought a hibiscus on sale at lowes. With the plant, I also bought the bugs and black spots on it, and didnt see them at the store. I bought neem oil, like the internet said and followed the instructions. That didnt get rid of the bugs completely. So someone told me to strip all the leaves off as it was getting very cold outside and bring it in for winter. I know it didnt get enough sun cause I couldnt keep it near a window all the time. I was going to repot it, but the internet said dont until the bugs are gone or it could shock and die. Now the tops of all branches look dry and dead. The bark has become loose. I peeled some off of one branch and it was black, mushy, and gross. Under that it was brown. That branch was brittle and snapped off. Some other branches are brown with a hint of green. Is there a way to save my poor hibiscus. I dont have any kids or pets, so this plant is my pet. Is there a way to tell if the plant is male or female? It was so pretty when it bloomed before winter. Its a double bloom, peachy, rosy, pink hibiscus. Please help my poor plant. Thank you.

  23. we planted a hibiscus last May and it bloomed beautiful peach colored blossoms all summer. we brought it in for the winter and all the leaves dried off but never fell off. we kept in front of a South window and watered it. we planted it in early May and still have not seen any greenery come forth. Is this plant dead or will it green up at all?

  24. I live in Texas and have a hibiscus that appears to be dying. I was watering it everyday since its been over 100 degrees, but the leaves are turning yellow and shriveling. The soil is not too moist or too dry. Could it be getting too much or too little sun? I have it on the corner of my patio so its gets morning sun for about 6-8 hours.


  26. My fairly new hibiscus plant bloomed everyday. I would water when it looked sorta wilting. But now it’s dropping yellow leaves and stopped blooming. There’s little eggs? On the buds and looks like it’s diseased. I don’t see bugs but it looks like eggs on the buds. What should I do.

  27. I see no replies. I have some of the same questions that I have read plus….ALL of my leaves fell off at one time after transplanting. We had a talk, and she came out of it. I now have one bloom but the yellowing is coming back. Help!

  28. I have a row of hibiscus that are against a wall and I live in Arizona so its hot, but this year one at a time, the plants leaves are turning yellow and dropping, all of them. two of the plants have no leaves and the plants next to them are starting to turn yellow as well. They are getting plenty of water and I’m at a loss since we didn’t lose any last year due to the heat.. Not sure what to do any help would be appreciated.

  29. I live in Australia on the North Coast of New South Wales. We have just bought a new property the hibiscus are old, but the flowering is profuse, there are no green leaves at all on the trees. The trees are about 2 metres talls. I would like to see some leaves on the trees, Hope you can help?

  30. I have sort of the same problem, but my leaves are a beautiful green. The whole plant is a nice green. Mine wasnt producing any buds for flowers for a long time. I finally seen a bud and was like okay now its back in bloom. Well its been a little while so i took a closer look at the bud and seen red ants and these black grains on the bud and a huge bud that the flower was showing but not opening. My husband is a landscaper went to school for this. He recommended we spray the plant down with soapy water. I did today we will see what happens.Its a table spoon of dish soap to a quart of water very lightly stirred. This should kill off any mites or bugs. Keeping my fingers crossed it works cause the plant is beautiful just no flowers. My other one produces flowers but the leaves are yellow not a lot. But it was also just winter so i’ll keep a close eye on my plants. By the way I’m in FL Daytona Beach area. Let me know of any other home remedies if you all have any. Hope this works.

  31. I think the answer to my yellow leaves falling is due to stress \I recently put it out for”summer camp” as we call it. All my plants, except the African violet, go out for the summer.There are no aphids or any other sign of insect infestation. I will keep a close eye ,water frequently and make sure it is draining properly.It must be the stress of going out of doors. Thanks for all your information on line. Sincerely, Joan

  32. hi my hibiscus has brown fungus or mites not much on tropical plants , but, is there a homemade way to get rid of these bugs or whatever these things are or suggest maybe a cheap cure, it’s still flowering and the fungus hasn’t stopped that yet. i live in nc and plant is on my back deck.
    thanks ,rachel

  33. I have what looks like tiny white and black specks on the buds of my hibiscus plant. I assume they are from some insect. When the flower blooms (if it does) the flowers are disfigured.
    Is there some special spray I can put on them to get rid of the insects.
    Please help me

  34. My hibiscus tree lives indoors in a south window in Calgary, Alberta. It is constantly losing its lower leaves. But before they turn yellow they seem to have tiny black dots on the underside. They are not spider mites on the leaves as I am very familiar with spider mites and how to spot them and their webs and the damage they do. It has also never flowered in the 2 years I’ve had it. Do you think it’s something in the soil that’s causing the black spotted leaves? I feel like removing it completely from its soil and giving it new soil. I’ve never seen this black spotting before. From the top of the leaf it just looks spotted, like it’s missing some nutrient in the soil. I love this tree but it’s frustrating! It’s always getting new leaves so it’s big but with spotted leaves and no flowers. Thanks for your help!

  35. I use an organic called Neem Oil. It leaves the leaf shiny and lasts
    2-4 weeks. It is used in Hawaii (tropical climate). You mix with
    water and spray on all the leaves.

    Plant needs full sun, hopefully without wind. I feed Nelson Hisbiscus
    Food and you can’t imagine the blooms! It is expensive to pay for
    post but you can order it at I can’t find it
    locally but its awesome. I use one capful dry, sprinkled around the
    base of the plant. I do pull the yellow leaves off as soon as I see
    them. I took a magnifying glass and that will tell you what pest
    you have.

  36. Recently pruned many branches that were getting too long. I had been watering everyday, then we started getting more frequent rain so I stopped watering for a while. Now most of the leaves are turning yellow then they fall off. How do I check for soil deficiency? I dug back some dirt around tree & soil did not seem to be too dry or too moist. Could it need some acid added to the soil? Thanks for your help; I want to save my tree.

  37. I have a hibiscus bush in my glass conservatory. Will it still receive enough light to bloom now it is indoors.
    Also, it has white marks on a couple of leaves and others are all crinkled up. I purchased some ladybugs and they have done a good job of keeping the bugs down.

    What else can I do to protect it?

    Sara Mylam

  38. My hybiscus leaves are turning yellow and dropping leaves the ground around plant is damp . We have had some very hot days now weather is cooler. How can I help my plant and recommend a good plant food please


    Tom, the blooms of the hibiscus don’t last long… only about 12 hours, maybe a little longer if the weather is cooler. That’s the one drawback to these gorgeous flowers! They don’t last very long! I did bring my tropical hibiscus indoors for the winter and it bloomed a little every now and then– I didn’t expect the same prolific show that I get in the summer, but I do get a bloom now and then to remind me that she’s alive and well. Now, those blooms do last considerably longer, but even those only last at most for a day and a half. Just the nature of these plants! The only thing you can do is just enjoy their transient and fleeting beauty, and take good photos!

  40. Just brought my tropical hibiscus up from basement and put out doors and leaves are all turning white. Have had for 5 yrs. Help

  41. DON’T EVER ADD VINEGAR TO YOUR HIBISCUS. I did this, diluted with water and all the leaves turned yellow and it defoliated. It came back but I had to use Bushdoctor Sledge Hammer to get rid of the vinegar. If I could submit pictures you’d get it and never do this to your plants.

    • Hi, John,
      Gardening questions can be tricky since the rules can change based on the region. You didn’t include the location, so we would suggest contacting your local Master Gardeners association.
      Master gardeners train on a range of topics so they can provide advice, at no charge, for people in their area.
      Thanks for your question, and good luck!

  42. My hibiscus tree has soon webs units branches .The buds start to open then they fall off prematurely . we think it infested with bugs. Is their a spray we can use to get rid of them . we are Hobe Sound Fl


  43. As far as blooms go my hibiscus is doing amazing. I’m getting 2-3 blooms a day. Even though it has new growth most of the leaves are turning yellow with a little bit of green left on them. It started with just a few here and there and now it’s most of them including new leaves. I am fighting Japanese beatles right now. ( Apparently they love hibiscus buds and roses) but other than that I don’t let the soil dry to much or keep it to wet. I’m in North Eastern Kentucky and it’s outside and we’ve had some very wet weather lately but I have it in a well drained pot. I live in a holler so when it is really hot the sun isn’t on it for to long. It has full sun from around 10am when the sun comes over the hill till around 3 or 4 when it goes below the tree line. I mixed shake and feed miracle grow into the soil when I potted it. I can’t figure out what else to do.

  44. I live very close to a wooded area and the chipmunks were eating the buds off of my hibiscus. So I had to bring it indoors. It’s been blooming so I hope it will live indoors through the winter.


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