Hibiscus wilt disease is a form of fungal infection on hibiscus plants that make the leaves slowly wilt, turning them yellow and eventually making the plant die entirely.

Hibiscus Wilt Disease

Caused due to several reasons such as pathogen growth and an inappropriate environment around the plant, wilt disease can cause extensive damage to the plant foliage if it is left unattended, sometimes very quickly.

Our experts lay out easy and hassle-free ways to tackle the condition and also steps to prevent their occurrence in the future, so read on. 

Why Does Hibiscus Wilt Disease Occur?

Hibiscus wilt diseases can be caused by overwatering, under watering, dieback disease, using the wrong soil, cold temperatures and low humidity. Additionally, it can be due to root rot, verticillium, being placed in a small pot, or even because of various pest infestations.

– Overwatering

Overwatering can be disastrous to the health of the hibiscus in numerous ways. As the plant requires just slightly moist soil, over-watering increases the moisture levels in the soil and around the roots, making the plant susceptible to wilt disease, because it isn’t prone to having a high monstrous soil.

The hibiscus requires just slightly moist soil, so if you are going to add in much more than this the roots will seldom be able to take in the required nourishment from the soil, thereby wilting the leaves.

Note that in this case, overwatering a hibiscus, especially in poorly drained soil, can cause the roots of the hibiscus to rot and result in various other fungal diseases such as Phytophthora species to cause wilting of the entire plant.

– Lack of Watering

Much as the plant requires just slightly moist soil, a regular watering schedule is necessary to meet its hydration needs. With less moisture in the soil, the roots will seldom be able to take in oxygen and nutrients from the soil and the leaves will be left with little or no nourishment. Thus, they tend to droop and wilt as a result.

– Root Rot

Hibiscus root rot typically may be one of the outcomes of overwatering, but it is a fungal disease that causes the roots to turn black, develop edema, go mushy and emit a foul odor.

These symptoms are coupled with the hibiscus wilting as well, which is the earliest of signs that there is an issue, hence something is wrong with the plant, and that is the roots have been damaged. 

When root rot happens, the pathogenic fungi spores that thrive in the soil under a moist environment tend to reproduce, infecting the roots and then the complete plant rapidly. The microorganisms begin to disrupt the plant’s circulatory and capillary systems to reduce their nutrient and water absorption

They will develop because of the environment would be moist and somewhat nutritious for them, hence, your hibiscus will tend to look weak and limp despite all forms of care, and this is a key wilting disease. 

Hibiscus Wilt Disease Causes

– Fusarium Oxysporum

This is a fungal disease that results in wilting of the leaves, turn yellow and makes them fall prematurely. This infective agent is located underneath the floor of your soil or the grounds and can lie dormant for years, as they would be looking for a suitable condition and time to attack.

The disease needs to be curtailed as otherwise, its spread can quickly damage entire sections of the plant. You may additionally also notice that the bottom leaves turn brown first and as the disease progresses upwards it blocks vascular pathways kicking in the discolored streaks on leaves and stems.

It clogs the capillary vessels preventing your plant from taking over essential water and nutrients required for health and growth. The fusarium wilt can easily be identified as it kicks in a characteristic symptom of discoloring foliage into a reddish brown shade. 

– Verticillium

The hibiscus plant can wilt easily due to an infection called verticillium. This is a commonly occurring fungal disease that results in shriveled and yellow leaves, especially in the lower section of the stem, brown or black streaks on the foliage, coupled with wilting of the leaves. 

The disease is generally soil borne where the fungal pores exist. They thrive and are easily able to spread when the moisture in the soil is excessive, easily entering the roots and the stems through the vascular pathway.

Note that the symptoms of Verticillium wilt are similar to other plant diseases and environmental problems, making diagnosis difficult. The leaves wither and curl, becoming yellow or red. They will eventually turn brown and fall off.

Stems and branches wither as well. In addition, you may often find these symptoms on one side of the plant and the other side seemingly unaffected.

– Dieback Disease

This disease occurs when only certain branches of the plant are wilting. This may arise when there is an opening or a break on a section of the stem through which bacteria or fungi enter the plant. 

The dieback disease can be fatal to the plant, as not only does it make the foliage wilt and limp, it can over time destroy it in its entirety. You may also spot the hibiscus leaves turning into a darker shade of green with yellow, brown or black splotches because the disease was spread.

In this case, the wilt is also commonly referred to as the root rot of the hibiscus, as the microorganisms that entered the roots and took over the rest of the plant foliage upwards. 

The injury makes it easier for the invasion, as the opening becomes conducive for the pathogens to enter and thrive. A classic symptom of dieback apart from the wilting hibiscus is when the branches turn black as well, however, the tips will remain green. 

– Using the Wrong Soil

The hibiscus plant needs light, well-draining soil. Loamy and sandy soils retain far too much moisture, which makes the plant vulnerable to wilt disease, and the latter will be trapped like the rest of the water. 

In this case, the leaves get discolored and look weak and limp. In addition, having alkaline soil is not something that’s going to be conducive for the plant to grow in, and you are surely going to find the hibiscus leaves wilting and turning yellow because the soil provided was not proper

– Cold Temperatures and Chills

Note that if you are exposing your hibiscus to cold drafts, frost conditions or chilly winds, then this is surely going to make the leaves wilt as being a tropical hibiscus, the plant will not tolerate contrast in temperature in comparison to its native. The plant will be stressed from these conditions, and wilt.

Apart from the cold temperatures, even a sudden blast of air from air-conditioner vents or radiators is going to hamper the foliage, if you are growing it indoors. The ideal temperature of the plant is between 65 degrees Fahrenheit, to almost reaching 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

– Low Humidity

The hibiscus plant requires moderate levels of humidity and when grown in a dry environment you will notice brown-edged leaves and early bud drop, accompanied by wilting. 

As a tropical plant, the plant constantly needs a constant level of moisture around it to thrive and grow. If it has a low humidity range, which is lower than 65 percent, it will look weaker.

– Growing the Plant in Small Pot

If you are growing your plant in a smaller pot when it needs a bigger one, then you will have to rethink this as it could be a major cause for wilting. This is because small pots hold less soil which tends to dry up way too soon when the plant is placed in full sun, because the pot is simply too compact.

As the soil does not retain enough moisture, the plant is subject to dehydration, thereby reacting by wilting and turning yellow or brown. 

– Pest Infestation

Common house garden pests such as aphids, spider mites and mealybugs affect the hibiscus plant and feed on the foliage. They suck the sap off the plant and remain in clusters typically under leaves and in node corners. If a hibiscus plant has become infected by bugs or pests then this may also be why it’s wilting. 

When pests invade your plant they slowly destroy it by eating away at the foliage. They demolish leaves and flowers and spread diseases around. Wilting will be one of the signs of a pest infestation on your hibiscus. However, other more common signs of an infestation include yellowing leaves and stunted growth.


How To Fix the Hibiscus Wilt?

You can fix hibiscus wilt by watering less in early stages, cure the root rot, move it under sunlight, snip away the affected parts, mist the plant, treat fusarium wilt. Additionally, adopt a watering schedule, be aware of pest control, treat dieback disease, pot it properly and fertilize.

– Water Less in Early Stages

Have a regular watering schedule in place to prevent the occurrence of any wilt disease. As much as it is important to keep the soil lightly moist, it is also important to never let it go completely bone dry.

Water once a week depending on the temperature around, with hot days requiring more frequent watering and winters lesser. You could do a simple finger test to know if the plant requires more water by pushing your finger deep into the soil and feeling for moisture. 

If it comes out dry, just add in some more. Scale back on the watering immediately if you suspect root rot or if the soil is soggy. Note that you will need to find the right balance concerning soil moisture by drying the soil sufficiently to avoid overwatering.

Also remember, if you don’t water enough, the plant will eventually die. Keep in mind how the potted hibiscus will require more frequent watering, as it will not retain much water.

– Cure Root Rot

Root rot is a classic outcome when excess moisture at the roots causes the roots to get infected with fungal pathogens. Dig up the soil a bit, and you will notice soggy, swollen and blackened infected root sections.

As a prime cause of wilt disease, to tackle it, begin by removing the plant from the soil. Snip away all infected sections with the help of a sterile garden pruner and repot the plant in fresh, well-draining potting soil. 

For best results, give the roots a bare wash to remove the pathogen or fungi spores. This is a delicate procedure that should be done in the shade, out of direct sunlight. 

In order to wash out the roots, you must first remove the plant from the pot and shake the loose soil from the roots, so you will be able to see exactly which parts are affected and need to be removed.

Alternatively, give a wash with 10 percent bleach for hibiscus wilt disease and finally, make sure the roots are mostly dry before repotting the plant. 

It is important to note here that the sooner you tackle the root rot the better it is because as the disease and condition spread across the plant, it becomes difficult to treat it even with fungicides. Thus, to reduce damage to the plant’s foliage, the best is to not only detect and attend to it at the earliest, but you can prevent its occurrence.

– Move It Under Sunlight

Wilt disease could get worse when the hibiscus plant lacks an adequate level of sun’s light. Besides, as a tropical flowering plant, the hibiscus prefers at least eight hours of direct sunlight every day.

Under partial light or shade, the pathogens tend to multiply at a faster rate spreading across the plant foliage sooner than you can expect them to. Thus, move it to a spot where there is ample bright light. 

However, you must watch out for sunburn when the heat is too intense, which could scorch the delicate blooms of the plant. When growing hibiscus indoors, it’s a good idea to place the plant near a southwest or south-facing window to provide the brightest light for most of the day. Constant warmth and bright indirect lighting are best.

Hibiscus Wilt Disease Solutions

– Snip Away Affected Sections

Check your plant leaves and snip away affected sections. This will help the plant to conserve some energy that it will otherwise spend to drop them off.

As you prune them away, they must regain the strength because you are letting the plant stop transmitting any nutrients to the dead and weak parts, and now they will regenerate all the nutrients to new blooms.

– Mist Your Hibiscus

Mist the hibiscus leaves every day so that the extra hydration around reduces the stress of the roots as it tries to pick up health.

As wilting is mainly caused when the leaves are losing too much moisture in comparison to what the roots are drawing in, the quickest way to revive the plant is to give it a good mist spray.

Misting also helps create a microclimate around the plant thus, giving it an environment closest to its native especially if you are in a dry zone, making up for the loss of water through the leaves. 

– Treat Fusarium Wilt and Verticillium

There isn’t a definitive and effective treatment to tackle the fungal infection of Fusarium Wilt and verticillium. However, as soon as you spot the infection, snip and dispose of all affected sections of the plant to prevent their spread to other plant foliage. 

However, the aspect that importantly needs to be done is to prevent their occurrence by keeping excess moisture at bay, maintaining proper plant hygiene and ensuring all tools used on the hibiscus plant are sterilized with a solution of isopropyl alcohol. 

Copper-based fungicides with thiophanate methyl, can be used to suppress fungi if it has been detected early and the spread hasn’t moved completely across the plant foliage. You can also try solarisation of the soil in the initial stages, where you heat the top six inches of the soil to a temperature high enough to kill the fungus.

You must prepare the soil by digging or moistening it after digging and cover the area with a clear plastic tarp, later burying the edges under a few inches of soil to hold it in place and retain heat. For the soil to get hot enough to kill the fungus, as it takes three to five weeks of bright sunlight and warm temperatures.

– Proper Watering Schedule 

Hibiscuses need daily watering for the first week after planting, so overall you may water until the soil is properly submerged. In the second week, resume watering every other day. It is common for recently transplanted hibiscuses to need a little more water initially to establish themselves. 

The weather will determine how often you need to water your grown hibiscus, along with rainfall, and soil quality which will also determine the need to be watered, but usually three to four times a week will keep the plant going. 

As with most plants, early morning watering is best for summer hibiscus. Watering the plants early in the morning allows the soil and roots to absorb most of the water and prevents the plants from drying out during peak sunlight and high daytime temperatures.

Also, wait until the soil is almost dry before watering and keep leaves dry when watering to prevent fungi and mildew growth.

– Treating Dieback Disease

Luckily treating hibiscus dieback disease is possible and the plant can overcome the damage and head on a path of gaining good health. Begin by picking out the affected stem and looking for the source of the infection. 

Cut out the affected stem section and apply a graft at the point where it has been cut. Leave the plant undisturbed for a week and it should pick up its health soon, and this would be a way if you are wondering how to revive a dying hibiscus plant.

– Regular Maintenance

Practice regular maintenance of your Hibiscus plant, in order to see it rise again and bloom to recover from the previous shock. Look for early signs of any disease or pest infestation and take the necessary action as soon as possible.

Prune regularly not only to promote growth but also to keep the plant free of bacteria and fungal infestation. Clear debris of dead and decayed leaves from around the plant, that can often become carriers of pathogens.

Additionally, remember to snip away diseased, dead and decayed leaves of the plant. Cut off the blooming flowers as soon as they die to keep the plant clean. This also encourages the plant to continue sprouting. Prune up to one third of a tropical hibiscus plant to control size and shape during summer season when the plant is actively growing.

Basically, the hibiscus leaves that have wilted will grow back in the spring when the temperature rises. Look for new growth on the plant, both on the branches and leaves. If the whole plant looks brown and isn’t growing at the same time as another hibiscus in your garden, it’s likely dead

– Pest Control

Tackle pests by snipping away all infected sections as soon as possible. Treat the plant with a soapy solution such as a liquid dishwasher.

Alternatively use an organic application such as neem oil or diatomaceous earth to repel the pests off the plant foliage, or you could also blast a spray of water on the plant foliage which makes these pests fall off. Apply any kind of soap spray early in the morning or late at night.

It is key to remember that you must not spray soap solution on hot days as it can cause leaf burns, although it is a good pest control but not on bright days. On the other hand, water your hibiscus well before spraying it with soap. The most prominant way to prevent the occurrence of such pests is to keep the plant dust free. 

Dust wool would attract pests and help them to lay eggs on the part that’s below the leaves and weave their weblike structure, so you must mist the plant often or wipe the lease gently with a moist cloth regularly to remove the dust. 

– Keep the Soil Well-draining

Increase the organic content of the soil by throwing in peat or perlite along with orchid bark. This not only keeps the soil nourished increasing the immunity of the plant but also keeps the soil aerated. You can also throw in some wood shavings or worm castings to make the soil more coarse and have better drainage. 

The plant needs slightly acidic soil between 6.5 to 6.8. Additionally, plant the hibiscus in raised beds to reduce the chances of water build-up. You could also water your hibiscus with vinegar to temporarily increase the acidity of the soil around the roots.

You can dilute one cup of vinegar in one gallon of water and pour this onto the roots of the plant and as the solution sinks into the soil, it nourishes as well as raises the pH. 

– Reducing Wounds Caused Due to Transplant

Transplantation often puts the plant at risk of developing the disease, as discussed in the above sections. Reduce such injuries so that there is no entry of pathogens. 

Use sharp garden pruners that are sterile when snipping or pruning the plant. Be gentle in the process of moving the plant to minimize any sort of damage to the plant stem. 

– Avoid Over-Fertilizing the Plant

As the plant is not a heavy feeder do not fertilize your plant which tends to wilt the leaves. Use a high potassium compost formula preferably a liquid formula or a slow-release fertilizer.

In addition, you may also use a growth enhancer with iron and magnesium to help the hibiscus build its immune system to remain strong to fight off wilt disease in its initial stages, or even reduce any infection. 

Coffee grounds, in addition, may also be used as a fertilizer for hibiscus plants. It contains nitrogen, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Hibiscus plants require fertilizers that are moderate to high in nitrogen (N), low in phosphorus or phosphate (P), and high in potassium (K).

Be careful not to add too much of it, as it could stunt plant growth and increase the risk of fungal diseases, or even fertilizer burns, but the right amount would work just fine.

– Get the Right Pot

Use a pot that is at least twelve inches in dimension so that there is enough moisture retained for the hibiscus and the soil does not dry out easily. This will reduce the chances of the leaves wilting, dropping prematurely or getting discolored due to the excess loss of moisture. 

Additionally, throw in some mulch of about two inches, which will not only preserve soil moisture but also set the temperature and soil condition right for the plant. You must make sure that the pot or container has well-draining drainage holes that permit free flow out of water. There should be no debris or gravel blocking the holes. 

Conclusion of Hibiscus Wilt Disease


Does Epsom salt stop Hibiscus Wilt Disease?

Epsom salt does not stop Hibiscus Wilt Disease. Proper care, such as adequate watering and disease prevention, is crucial.

How often should I prune Hibiscus to prevent Hibiscus Wilt Disease?

Prune Hibiscus regularly, removing dead or diseased parts, to help prevent Hibiscus Wilt Disease. Frequency depends on the plant’s growth.

Is Hibiscus Wilt Disease reversible?

Unfortunately, Hibiscus Wilt Disease is generally irreversible. Prompt action and preventive measures can help minimize its impact.


You have now read in this comprehensive guide what exactly causes hibiscus wilt disease and how you can fix the problem in a hassle-free manner.

Let us summarize all that we have learned in this section below: 

  • Hibiscus wilt can be caused by a variety of reasons, including, inadequate watering schedules, plant exposure to pests, fungi and an environment unconducive for the plants to thrive and maintain glossy foliage. 
  • Overwatering hibiscus, especially in poorly drained soil, can cause hibiscus root rot, and various other fungal diseases, such as Phytophthora species. 
  • Fungi can wilt the entire plant and cause roots to become black, edematous, mushy and foul-smelling. These symptoms are also associated with wilting hibiscus. This is the first indication that there is indeed a issue with the plant.
  • Dieback disease occurs when only certain branches of a plant wilt. This can occur when part of the stem has an opening or cut that allows bacteria and fungi to enter the plant. Along with wilting hibiscus, the typical symptom is that the branches also turn black, but the tips remain green.
  • Keep your plants healthy by monitoring your watering schedule, curing root rot, moving plants into the sunlight, and maintaining your hibiscus plants regularly. 

Having learned how to keep the hibiscus plant healthy and without any wilting and diseases, it is time to grow them with all their vibrant hues in your garden.

With our expert tips, you can easily keep diseases at bay and fix every problem on your own in a hassle-free manner. 

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