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Hibiscus Leaves Turning White: What’s the Cause?

There are over 200 species of hibiscus, and all look beautiful, that is, until their leaves start turning white. Changes in your plants can be scary, especially if you’re new to gardening. But consider a few reasons for the change and how to resolve it.

Hibiscus leaves turn white because of too much sun or a fungus called powdery mildew. The fungus can cause the plant to stop growing, and it can even cause the leaves to fall off. Fortunately, baking soda and other remedies exist to treat and eliminate the white color on hibiscus leaves.

Whether you’re new to gardening or have years of experience, you may not have experienced white hibiscus leaves. But it can happen to anyone, so don’t worry too much. Instead, keep reading to learn more about white hibiscus leaves and how to treat them.

Powdery Mildew

If you notice white spots on your hibiscus leaves, odds are it’s powdery mildew. The color can change to tan or gray when the fungus begins to cover more of the leaves.

It’s particularly common in areas with a lot of humidity, and it can affect almost any plant. The fungus can come on slowly, but you want to stop it before it covers a lot of the leaves.

If you wait too long, it will become harder to treat the powdery mildew. Luckily, it’s easy to treat, and you can prevent future episodes by following a few steps.

What to Use to Treat Mildew

If you discover that the white spots on your hibiscus leaves are due to powdery mildew, you can treat it. You can choose from a few removal and preventative options, so you can find one that works for you.

When choosing a treatment option, consider the extent of the damage. In most cases, you can use a home remedy. However, if it gets to be severe, homemade treatments may not be enough.

Commercial Sprays

If you wait too long to treat the white hibiscus leaves, you may need to use a commercial fungicide. The chemicals in the mix will help kill off the fungus, so it can help restore the health of your plant.

However, you should leave commercial sprays as a last resort. If you aren’t careful, you may do more harm than good.

Baking Soda

One of the easiest homemade treatments for white hibiscus leaves is baking soda. Mix a teaspoon of baking soda with a quart of water and some vegetable oil.

Put the mixture into a spray bottle, and use it on the white leaves. You can use this when the white spots first begin to appear, and it can work later on.

Either way, you can use the mix to help reduce the fungus. Then, you won’t have to resort to harsh chemicals.

Neem Oil

You can also use Neem oil, which comes from the neem tree, to kill the fungus. Mix two tablespoons of Neem oil with a gallon of water.

Then, put the solution into a spray bottle to apply it. Spray the leaves with the mixture each week until the mildew goes away. It may take some time but keep at it to see the results you want.

If you want, you can also add a teaspoon of dish soap, but it’s unnecessary. Both options are fantastic for killing powdery mildew with household ingredients.

How to Prevent Mildew

While knowing how to treat powdery mildew is important, you should also know how to prevent it. Then, you won’t have to worry about the fungus developing on your hibiscus leaves in the future.

While you may not have complete control of your plant’s environment, you can do a few things. Small details add up, and it may be enough to prevent future issues for your hibiscus.

Keep Plants Healthy

If you utilize proper plant care, you can easily reduce the risk of developing powdery mildew and other issues. To keep your hibiscus in the best shape, water it at the plant’s base, below the leaves.

Watering the leaves can create a more humid environment, which the fungus loves. You should also water your hibiscus in the morning so that it can slowly use up the water during the day.

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Look for fertilizers without high levels of nitrogen. Nitrogen can stimulate growth, which is more at risk of having issues.

Give Enough Room

You should give your hibiscus enough space within the pot. If the pot is too small, the area will be even more humid, and there won’t be much airflow.

Lowering the humidity and increasing airflow can help keep the fungus from growing. If you find that your hibiscus is getting too big for its pot, transplant it to a bigger one.

Then, your plant will have room to grow and thrive without sacrificing a healthy environment.

Trim Area Immediately

As soon as you notice the beginnings of powdery mildew, trim the leaves. If you let the mildew stay, it can easily grow and start affecting other parts of the hibiscus.

You don’t have to trim the leaves immediately once the growth happens. But keep an eye on your plant each day so that you can tell when something is wrong.

The more you know what your plant usually looks like, the easier it will be to tell when there’s a problem. You can use gardening shears to clip the leaves to get the area off so that it doesn’t continue to grow.


Another possible reason for white hibiscus leaves is a condition called sunscald. This condition is the plant equivalent of a human or animal sunburn.

If a hibiscus plant receives too much light, it can overreact, and the leaves can turn white. Sunscald is the more likely culprit of white leaves if the leaves tend to die.

You’ll also see it happen more during the warmer months, and it will show up on the west and south sides of the plant. Sunscald can look a lot like bleached patches, so you can probably differentiate it from powdery mildew.

How to Prevent Sunscald

If you think your hibiscus experienced a sunburn, you can’t do much to treat it. The affected leaves will eventually fall off and die.

However, now’s the perfect time to focus on prevention. That way, you can save the rest of your hibiscus from the same fate.

Consider a few options for preventing sunscald.

Keep Your Plant Inside

Whether you just got a new hibiscus or have kept yours inside, start there. It’s important to keep your plant in a comfortable environment as much as possible.

Keep your plant inside for a while, and slowly adjust the lighting conditions. You can start with low light and then increase the amount of light each day.

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Be sure to give breaks from the harsher lighting so that your hibiscus can fully adapt without getting too stressed.

Keep the Same Pot

As you transition your hibiscus from indoors to outside, keep it in the same pot. Transplanting adds another layer of stress for the plant, so keep it as calm as possible.

The pot will have a familiar environment, even as the lighting changes. If you need to transplant your hibiscus, do so before or after you expose it to sunlight.

Rotate Light and No Light

As you start to put the hibiscus outside, leave it in the sun for about four hours at a time. After a couple of hours, move the plant back inside or to a shady area.

Giving your plant limited bouts of sun exposure will help it get used to the new lighting conditions. In a couple of days, you should be able to leave the plant outside all of the time without worrying about sunscald.

ReadyToDIY is the owner of this article. This post was published on July 26, 2020.

Final Thoughts

Hibiscus leaves can turn white from disease or too much sun exposure. Before you attempt to treat the leaves, figure out the cause for the discoloration. You can then take the necessary steps to treat it and prevent issues from happening in the future.