An empty spot between the house and my west verandah steps stayed that way for several years while I casually kept an eye open for the perfect plant.
A plant that produces flowers like this is worth babying over the winter. This tree hibiscus appreciates misting and a cool location inside.
Carla Allen photo
This spring I found it in the form of a braided hibiscus tree at a local garden centre.
It was the deep salmon-coloured bloom that attracted me to this little standard. A few weeks after planting it I was thrilled to discover it was actually a multi-coloured bloomer with ruffled white, pink and red flowers in addition to the colour I saw.
After a month-long adjustment period in the ground and regular deep watering and fertilizing, the tree began producing more blooms.
By the time October arrived, the tree was loaded with buds. Each flower would last a day or two before twisting itself closed and dropping off.
As the weather became colder I knew I had to move the plant indoors. Hibiscus trees are not native to our climate and must be brought inside to survive.
It's best to park these trees in as bright and cool an area as possible. I mist mine with diluted kelp meal concentrate at least once a week and constantly inspect it for dryness.
Shortly after bringing it indoors, it began dropping a few leaves and buds. I found that the higher the temperature (some evenings I turned on an electric fireplace in the same room as the tree) the more the tree shed its foliage.
Through research I've learned it's normal for this tree to lose some leaves during the transition from outside to in. It's also good to remove those that appear to be affected by pests or fungus and to dispose of them to prevent the spreading of disease. Continued fertilization at half strength is recommended and 1/3 of the tree should be pruned back during March or April for full, healthy regrowth in time for its move outdoors.
It's going to be interesting when it comes to continuing the braided trunk. New vertical growth that appears next to the branches already braided will have to be pulled in and tied to the braided ones. New horizontal buds must be pruned from these branches and the length of the central shaft as it grows.
Once May arrives I'll be moving the pot outside and covering the tree on nights when frost is forecast. By the end of May it will be removed from the pot and re-installed in its own special spot.