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Rose of Sharon

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As Shakespeare wrote “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” and some would say the Rose of Sharon, no matter what name it is called, is colourful and lovely, ornamental deciduous shrubs.

Botanists classify Rose of Sharon, also known as Rose Althea, Althea, Chinese hibiscus, hardy hibiscus, Hibiscus Syriacus in a deciduous shrub. Contrary to its common names, it is not a rose, it is actually a hibiscus and a member of the Mallow family Malvaceae, which is a very large genus with several hundred species that are native to warm-temperate, sub tropical and tropical regions through out the world. Nor is it thought to be from Syria, in spite of its species name, hailing from India and the orient.

The Rose of Sharon mentioned in the Old Testament bible, scholars think that the reference in Songs of Solomon is a mistranslation of the Hebrew word for Crocus, a bulb plant growing as a lily among the brambles in the hills of Sharon.

It blooms continuously in the garden, growing slowly to a height of 8 to 10 feet. The width is about half of that (they typically have a spread of 4-6ft) their shape and relatively substantial, height comparison with other tall tree-like shrubs.

However some cultivars stay shorter like hibiscus syriacus ‘Minerva’ which reaches only 5-8 feet. Blooms on these shrubs are simple or doubled flowers, often wavy-looking giving the impression they are made of crepe paper. Depending on the variety, the flowers may be violet, blue, pink, red, lavender, purple or white, and they often have a dark ‘eye’ in the centre: Most bear small, deeply-lobed, light-green leaves (this trait may vary as some cultivars have variegated foliage). It requires minimal maintenance, grows slowly and has a natural resistance to pests. For these reasons, it is a favourite for both hobby and master gardeners.

Rose of Sharon is an easy-to-grow, undemanding plant, happy in full sun to part shade. It prefers moist well-drained soil but is tolerant of many growing conditions, including periods of drought and exposure to pollution, which makes it excellent for urban gardens, a good choice for front gardens on busy roads. Although naturally a multi-stemmed shrub, this plant can be trained through pruning to have simply one main trunk; so it becomes a “tree”. It’s easiest to give Rose of Sharon its desired shape by pruning it accordingly during its first two seasons. It can also be trained for espalier (which is trimming the plant to grow along a fence or wall.)

Landscaping
Plants developers have put a lot of effort into expanding the horticultural soft palette creating highly sought after, soothing colours that lend well to meditation gardens, though many people simply value it as “cool” colour. Rose of Sharon plants are especially useful to gardeners seeking continual colour in the landscape, as they are all year bloomers.

In the landscape, dramatic designs can be created with dark-leaved plants for very unusual effect. Dark foliage plants, such as Codylines, Ajuga reptanns ‘Bimblanea’, Alocasias, Phormium ‘Platts Black’, Black Mondo grass (Ophlopogon arabicus). Putting Rose of Sharon blooms (in shades of pink, purples, blues, and whites) against these plants with dark foliage makes for unique landscape design.

A popular use for Rose of Sharon in the landscape is as specimen plant; Hedge plant, as foundation shrub, and accent plant. It’s attractive and plentiful blooms make this plant holds its own as a specimen plant to up close to view. It also makes a good candidate for hedge. Try planting them in a straight line to create a hedge or living fence or use them as backdrop for shorter shrubs and flowers. Because the shrubs respond well to pruning, it is quite useful in foundation plantings, where it is important to be able to manage a plant’s growth (to avoid it eventually overwhelm your house). Rose of Sharon also makes excellent low maintenance potted plants.

A single rose of Sharon can add interest to a corner of the garden or create a sense height in a flowerbed. To train it as a small tree, prune the canopy to about one foot above the ground. Prune again each year to maintain the size and shape.

Rose of Sharon attracts butterflies, humming birds and bees.

Propagation
Propagation is by soft woodcuttings and seeds.

Planting
Planting is a fairly easy task that will only take a little time. Once completed, you will enjoy your plant for years to come.

What you’ll need
Rose of Sharon plant; shovel, water, mulch/fertilizer.

Location
Find the best place for your rose of Sharon. It likes full sun, but does well in partial shade. Don’t crowd it too much because it needs room to grow. If you are planting a hedge, space plant at least 6 feet apart. Dig a hole only as deep as the root ball and 2 to 3 times as wide. If your soil is in poor condition, amend the soil you’ve removed from the hole with a small amount of compost. Otherwise don’t amend it at all. Carefully remove the plant from the container and set it in the hole. Fill the hole half full in the soil, then water it well to settle the soil and eliminate air pockets. Let the water drain, then fill the remainder of hole with soil and water thoroughly. Apply mulch or organic fertilizer around the stem in an area large enough to cover the dirt. Apply mulch to a depth of 2 to 3 inches all the way around the plant. Do not allow mulch to touch the stem of the shrub.

Care and maintenance
Now that your Rose of Sharon is in the ground, you need to water it frequently, but careful not to over water it. A water-logged plant will begin to show yellow leaves because you are suffocating the roots. The soil should drain well. The Rose of Sharon does not need to be watered daily. Keep an eye on the soil to know when it gets too dry. When the plants is young, water it 3 times weekly. As it matures, reduce it to 2 times weekly. A well-established plant might survive one good weekly watering, though that depends largely on the region in which you live. If you get lots of rain, let nature do the work.

Pests
If Japanese beetles bother the plant, dust weekly with diatomaceous earth for organic pest control. Remove dead, diseased, and injured branches any time. Pruning yearly to 2-3 buds per branch encourages larger flowers.


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