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CONFEDERATE ROSE (Hibiscus mutabilis)


Anne K Moore
Photograph Anne K Moore

Other names for the beautiful Confederate rose include giant mallow, cotton mallow, and rose mallow. The flowers are large and ruffled, about four-six inches wide. They will last three days on the shrub going from white to pink to red. They will even go through their color change in a vase. These beautiful flowers appear on tall, thick-growing shrubs around the end of summer. In most of the South, Confederate rose is grown as a perennial, as it will often freeze to the ground in winter, only to rise up again from the roots in the spring. It eventually makes a full shrub by the end of summer, around eight feet wide and ten feet tall.

Because of the ease with which cuttings can be rooted in water, I wonder if Confederate rose couldn’t be used in gardens that are more northerly just as easily as in the warmer climates. A caveat – this is an untried way to grow it as far as I know, so be prepared to lose the shrub altogether.

If you want to try to grow Confederate rose outside its zone, you need to get some cuttings. If you have grown Confederate rose, then before frost threatens your shrub, take a few cuttings about six inches long and put them in a clear vase of water on a bright windowsill, indoors for the winter. Dump out and change the water every week. Check the cuttings to make sure they don’t rot. Remove any that get soft below the water level.

It is considered a passalong* plant in the South and can be hard to find in commerce. With a quick look at mail order suppliers, I found two who carry it, Ty Ty Nursery in Ty Ty Georgia  and Woodlanders Nursery in Aiken South Carolina.

If you successfully overwinter cuttings and plant them out the following spring, after frost danger is past, see if you get flowers in the fall, normally around September as the days cool off. If your area gets frost early then this probably won’t be a viable plan since frost will cut it down. Let us know how the shrub works for you by posting on our GardenSmart Facebook page along with where you garden.

*Passalong plant: An old garden plant that is easily grown and is shared gardener to gardener. These old time plants are often either hard to find or not sold locally at all. The phrase was popularized in the book by the same name written by Felder Rushing and Steve Bender and which I highly recommend to any gardener with a sense of humor. It is available at Amazon.

Posted October 18, 2013


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