Caring for Rose of Sharon, Chinese hibiscus

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus Syriacus, hibiscus Syracuse) is a member of the mallow family (Malvaceae), a large group of several hundred different plant species. Members of the family include; Chinese hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa sinesis), Hibiscus Moscheutos (marsh mallow) from whose roots the original marshmallow were made; okra and cotton. They are all ‘cousins’. Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) and Chinese hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa sinensis) may look similar, these plants are from different climates; one is temperate and the other tropical. Both plants are native to Asia.

Rose of Sharon is a woody shrub that grows 8 to 12 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide. Like Chinese Hibiscus, it is easy to grow and tolerates polluted air, a wide range of light conditions and poor soil, it is common in cities, where it thrives in conditions not many other plants can tolerate. Both Rose of Sharon and Chinese hibiscus are also valuable because of their spectacular flowers. Each flower last only a few days, but there is such a profusion of flowers, the shrubs remain in continuous bloom. Both Rose of Sharon (‘the cool’) and Chinese hibiscus (‘the hot’) are popular as they are “plant-and-forget-it shrubs.”
Rose of Sharon

In fact, in areas with good sunlight and soil, Rose of Sharon in particular, is so enthusiastic that it could become a problem, sowing seeds, making baby plants with abandon and founding spreading colonies. Do not plant Rose of Sharon where its aggressive seedlings can escape into the wild and spread, destroying native plants species, or if you think pulling out its many babies will be a chore.

Chinese Hibiscus is a tropical hibiscus and prefers full sun and moist but no wet soil. Planted outdoors it reaches 10-16 feet high and 6-10 feet wide. This deciduous plant is often grown in pots so it can be brought in as a house plant at least part of the year in places where the temperature falls below freezing in winter.

Mulch
Once established both species Rose of Sharon (hibiscus syriacus) and Chinese hibiscus (H. rosa-sinensis) like all mature hibiscus don’t need much attention. However, they will appreciate annual mulch. To do this, remove any remnants of the previous years’ mulch layer. If it has been dry recently, water the area. Apply annually 3-4 inches (7.6-10cm) of compost or well-rotted manure. Place this under the leaf canopy spread it out to the drip line (the area under the outermost branches). Add a 2-inch layer of mulch to retain moisture and control weeds.

Pruning: Numerous and attractive flowers are hallmark of the species .You may choose to prune your Hibiscus plant for shaping purposes, or on old shrubs for rejuvenation.

Flowers are produced on new wood, so prune early just before the rains to shape and reduce size, pruning the shrub back to 2or3 buds per branch encourages larger flowers. Pruning the top of the plants will encourage the plants to grow wider and fuller looking. The Rose of Sharon and Chinese hibiscus will grow 8 to 16 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide, but if you prune yearly before the rains the plants can be kept smaller—as low as 3to4 feet tall and wide. If you plant your hibiscus on 6 to 7 feet centers, they will fill in quickly, creating a thick hedge for privacy, a noise barrier, and a wind break. Prune plants yearly, in the early rain season when first planted—even if they are only 3 feet tall at the time. If not pruned the plants will grow like columns- tall and narrow. When individual plants are pruned regularly, the individual branches become stronger. Remove any dead, diseased or damage stems which should be cut right back to the base of the stem. Remove dead, diseased and injured branches anytime. Pruning time is also a good time to apply a balanced slow release (granular) or liquid fertilizer to keep plants strong and encourage more flowers.

Soil pH does not affect the flower production or plant’s growth.
Watering: water plants weekly during the dry season to prevent the soil from drying out.

Pests: Plants of both species prefer full sun and well-drained soil. Older bushes may fall prey to fungal damage, if you are growing them in areas without full sun. That is because excess moisture is retained in shaded areas and it is precisely in moist conditions that the fungus thrives.

This plant does profit from growing in a rich soil, so fertilising is recommended (although not mandatory for established shrubs). If you wish to stay organic, work compost gently into the soil, around the root zone and water it into the earth. The chief pest of this plant is Japanese beetles’ infestations. Happily Japanese beetles are somewhat easier to control than many other insect pests, because they are large enough to spot immediately, before they have done too much damage to your plant. The easiest and safest way to kill them is to pick and shake them off by hand, dropping them into a container filled with soapy water. The insect breathes through its skin, so a coat of soapy water over its body effectively suffocates it. If other pests such as aphids infect it, dust weekly with diatomaceous earth for organic pest control.

Popularity From Antiquity
“I am a Rose of Sharon,
A lily of the valleys.” Songs of Solomon 2:1

Sharon is a plain along the Mediterranean coast between Joppa and Caesarea south of mount Carmel. It was a place of great fertility in the midst of dry parched lands. Sixty miles long and 10 miles, the Sharon plain was one of the largest valley-plains in ancient Israel in the time of king Solomon. It was well known for its beauty and majesty, having many flowers and trees and there the Rose of Sharon, also called Hibiscus (Syriacus or Syracuse) bloomed profusely. It is a plant that was popular from ancient time and more so now, that hybridising has produced variety of cultivars. They have spread worldwide Rose of Sharon and Chinese hibiscus plants can be found in gardens, in different regions of the world, even hardy species that can be grown as annuals in cold regions, for the greatest part of the year.
Hibiscus species are unique flowering plants because they can grow as a shrub; a small tree, as hedge plant or potted as houseplants.
Some other reasons to have these plants in your garden are for their beautiful spectacular flowers, that bloom in profusion all year round. Hibiscus species are plants that also attract butterflies and are useful in humming bird gardens.

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