The difference between a hibiscus plant and a hibiscus tree is in the pruning. To turn a hibiscus plant into a hibiscus tree you will need to remove all of the side branches on the stem of a single stemmed hibiscus plant with a pair of pruning shears. Clip the branches as close to the main stem of the plant as possible. Leave the branches that are at the top one-third of the plant. This will give the plant a tree appearance. Pruning of the top branches will be the same as pruning for a hibiscus plant.
Cut off all dead, dying or wilting branches from the tree with a pair of hand pruners. Make the cut at the point where the branch meets another branch or stem. You may do this at any time during the year. Leaving dead and dying branches on the plant will make the plant look sickly and pull energy from the plant. If you are pruning a hibiscus tree, remove any side branches with a pair of hand pruners. Do this at any point during the year to maintain the tree shape of the plant.
Look over the plant and choose one-third of the longest branches on the plant. Use a pair of hand pruners to cut these branches at the base of the branch. Make the cut straight across the branch. Do this step in late winter, an ideal month for the first pruning is February.
Wait one month after the first pruning of the hibiscus plant or tree to prune again. Choose one-third of the longest branches of the hibiscus plant and cut these branches with hand pruners in the same manner. By using this slow pruning method, you will not interfere with the hibiscus's natural blooming cycle.
Prune another one-third of the branches from the hibiscus plant one month later. This will be the last major pruning session for the hibiscus for the year. Continuing this pruning method every year will keep your hibiscus at the size you wish without removing the plant's blooms.
Never prune live branches from a hibiscus plant during the late fall or early winter.