Hibiscus plants need to be pruned back approximately one third of the way down each branch, notes Hidden Valley Hibiscus. Pruning cuts should be made at 45-degree angles directly above nodes, which are the locations where new growth occurs. In warm climates, hibiscus plants respond best when pruned in the late fall. Hibiscus plants growing in colder climates need pruning during the spring.
Pruning hibiscus plants too late in the fall makes new growth susceptible to cold temperatures, and a large portion of the hibiscus plant could die. Gardeners should also avoid pruning hibiscus plants too early in the spring before the threat of frost has passed. Also, waiting too long to prune hibiscus plants leads to poor flowering during the summer.
You can prune the plant again in late summer by snipping off any faded blooms and seed pods. Trim one-third of the branches down to the ground or to a node that is within 24 inches from the ground. Once the plant reaches 16 inches tall, prune it by half to encourage the growth of additional stems and fuller development. After pruning a plant, feed it with a 20-20-20 balanced, water-soluble fertilizer.
A sharp pair of garden shears is required to prune a hibiscus plant. Dipping the shears in rubbing alcohol prior to cutting sterilizes them and reduces their chance of transmitting diseases to the freshly cut branches. It is important to understand how cuts will affect the final shape of the plant. Cuts made to the left side of a node encourage new growth to the left, and vice versa. Making cuts above outward-facing nodes encourages a bushy growth habit, while strategically placed cuts above inward facing nodes triggers tighter, more upright growth.