My Hibiscus Project

The mother hibiscus in my office in bloom. 7/2/2019

When I started at the campus library--15 years ago this semester--there was a potted hibiscus in my office.  I've been a big fan of this plant since day one.  It is a sizable, leafy bush and the flowers are substantial and vibrant.  The hibiscus will go through periods of dormancy and then a wave of stunning blossoms arrive to greet me each day for a few weeks or so.  It is one of my favorite plants in the library--and we have some cool ones so that's saying something.  It is a fixture in my office behind the circulation desk.

The mother hibiscus in my office in bloom.  7/2/2019

After one failed attempt, I successfully rooted a cutting from this mother plant towards the end of 2019.  I didn't write down exactly when I started the second attempt.  I looked back through my photos and the earliest appearance of the hibiscus baby is in the background of this silly snap (below) from a belated Christmas gathering with my family.  The itty-bitty, new hibiscus is in the green pot behind me, barely visible over the rim.  It had perhaps just three leaves at this point.

December 2019--sometime between Christmas and New Year's Eve.
The growth progressed quite slowly.  Like, obscenely slow.  There was very little action that first year and at times I wondered if it was really going to "do" anything.  The newbie hibiscus seemed sort of stagnant rather than thriving.  Not dying, but not growing either. 
Four months+ in and still just a handful of leaves (hardly visible over the rim of their pot).  4/8/2020
I patiently waited and watered and rotated the shrimpy, twiggy thing around the living room.  Eventually, it started to take and put out new leaves.
The hibiscus is in the green pot on top of the speaker.  10/10/2020
Approximately one year into the project:  The hibiscus baby--on the table on the right-- with 8-10 leaves.   11/14/2020
I was over the moon each time the baby would put out a new leaf.  "Oooooh!  There are six leaves!  That's double what it had when I started!"  I would count them aloud as a botanical proclamation to the household.  "It has ten leaves now!!!"  And so on.

Around the turn of the year, the hibiscus had gotten tall enough that I'd moved it down to the floor (in the round pot) beside one of my numerous snake plants (in the square pot).  1/23/2022
Partway through 2021 each new leaf no longer warranted a proclamation.  It seemed like the plant had rooted and was steadily growing.  If the previous stage was the hibiscus baby I suppose I should call this the teenage phase.  The green stem grew up, up, up, gradually growing woodier from the base upward.  It went from being less than a foot tall to 2 feet tall just like that.  The broad, finely veined leaves sprang out in a ladder that followed the stem upward toward the sun.
The hibiscus is up by the front windows (round pot).  2/2/2022
Just visible at the right of the frame, is the hibiscus on a snowy February day. 2/22/2022
After all that slow and steady growth, the adolescent hibiscus rapidly launched into adulthood this year.  It has been remarkable how fast it happened.  As 2022 kicked off the plant had reached a height of 2.5 feet.  In February it was 3.5 feet tall.  By April it had shot up another foot to 4.5 feet.  
By the first week of May, the hibiscus has reached 5 feet tall.  5/8/2022
At this point I was starting to wonder if the plant was just going to grow straight to the ceiling instead of putting out any side branches, bushing out as I had expected.  The hibiscus in my office is a many-armed shrub that is now considerably shorter than her offspring!  In the late spring though, the stem started a set of secondary leaves in between the initial set and appears to be working on a fuller, more leafy look.  
All of the flower buds are at the very top of the plant.
In June, the evidently mature hibiscus started to produce a crown of flower buds atop the singular, 6-foot-tall stalk.   I was over the moon.  I eagerly observed their progress each day, offering encouraging words, until the petals unfurled and revealed themselves.  What a satisfying process!  I can hardly believe it.  
The first bud to open. 6-25-22
There is just one thing.  I took a cutting from one of the "irregular" branches.  That became clear the moment the first bud opened.  Honestly, I didn't even think about it at the time when I was snipping off a little piece of the mother plant for my cutting.  It wasn't until the buds started forming (literally years later) that it occurred to me.  
Cat in the foreground, blooming hibiscus in the background.  7/5/2022
See, the mother hibiscus in my office produces two kinds of flowers.  The standards and the irregulars.  The latter are double or triple blossoms rather than the classic five-petaled hibiscus flower.  I don't know why.  Some genetic thing, I guess.  These irregular flowers grow multiple sets of petals nested inside of each other which results in a blossom that is very different though still quite lovely.  I never paid attention to which branches produced these special flowers and so, as luck would have it, I snipped my starter cutting from one of these irregular branches, I guess.  So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut would say.
Another flower...7/5/2022
No matter.  That just gives me the opportunity to take another cutting and grow both kinds.  That will be cool.  I'll just have to pay attention the next time the office mother blooms, take a new cutting from one of the classic branches.  Variety is the spice of life.
... and another one... 8/4/2022
In the meantime, I have these ruffled fuchsia beauties to brighten up the living room.  As with the mother plant in my office, I am a big fan.  I am still sorta shocked it actually happened--the flowers were my ultimate hibiscus goal.  And ohhhhhhhhhh the flowers we have had!!  The home hibiscus has been in perpetual bloom since June.  One pretty pink blossom after another.
That's the towering hibiscus in the corner behind me. 8/6/2022
The hibiscus appears to be making actual side branches now, too, at the node where the flower stems attach to the main stalk.  This month it broke a new height benchmark--7 feet tall.  It is actually taller than the windows now.
..and yet one more blossom!  8/16/2022
I remain eager to see what this hibiscus is going to do.  How will these new itty bitty side branches play out?  Will it get bushy?  Will it reach the ceiling?  How long is it going to keep blooming?!?  We shall see! 


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