Confederate Rose Will Rise Again!

November 18, 2009 | By | Comments (36)

No one ever has anything good to say about global warming. Well, here’s one benefit. Thanks to the beneficent effects of this Impending Global Disaster, more people are getting introduced to one of the South’s most emblematic and remarkable plants — the Confederate rose. 



Who wouldn’t want a flower like this? Although there are many forms, with either single or double flowers, the classic version looks like this. Showy blooms, 4 to 6 inches wide, appear in fall. They open white, fade to pink as  they age, and finally end up red. You’ll often see all three colors on the same plant. Cool, yes?

PP Native to China, confederate rose isn’t a rose, but a species of hibiscus (Hibiscus mutabilis). According to legend, it gets its name from the flowers soaking up the blood spilled on Confederate battlefields. Felder Rushing, co-author of Passalong Plants — arguably the most influential book on Southern gardening ever published –recalls that ladies in Mobile, Alabama gave these flowers to Confederate soldiers returning home from the war. (At 160 years old, Felder is still the world’s oldest lady.)

Some folks call the plant “cotton rose,” because its leaves resemble cotton foliage and its round flower buds remind them of cotton bolls. This makes sense, because cotton and Confederate rose both belong to the mallow family, the Malvaceae. (See? I do know some real horticulture.)

Depending on where you live, Confederate rose can be either a small tree, a perennial, or an annual. In places that rarely feel frost, it gets huge. I saw one in Johnnie Walker’s garden on Edisto Island, South Carolina, that must have been 30 feet tall. Imagine something like that loaded with multi-colored flowers each fall! And where it doesn’t get cold, it keeps on blooming. In Florida, you can have flowers in December and January.


Where Grumpy lives, in north-central Alabama, Confederate rose becomes a large multi-trunked shrub about 8 feet tall. It freezes to the ground in winter and then comes back up. I shot this one at Aldridge Botanical Gardens in Hoover, AL. I don’t know how far north this thing is hardy (Zone 6B?), but thanks to global warming, if it isn’t hardy this year, it will probably be in two more years. So pump out more carbon and let’s get gardening!

Confederate rose likes full to part sun and moist, fertile soil. It’ll tolerate poor drainage, because the one above is growing in a wet spot. It’s a favorite Southern passalong plant, since it’s so easy to pass along. You can sow seeds in spring, but the easiest way to propagate it is to simply root cuttings in water. So if someone you know has this plant, don’t be shy about asking for a piece. It’s what we do down here.

What happens if they turn you down? Well, after you go on the internet and subscribe them to every spanking and jihadist magazine you can find, you can order a plant through the mail from the very nice folks at Woodlanders.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m in the middle of making the world a better place for Confederate rose. My homies and I need to burn some tires.

Burning tires


  1. Steve Bender

    Woodlander’s Nursery is a good source (

    April 9, 2017 at 8:56 am
  2. Betty

    Where can one find a true confederate rose?

    April 2, 2017 at 2:21 pm
  3. Cindy Cranford

    Thanks for a nice read, made me smile😊

    February 5, 2017 at 8:53 am
  4. Steve Bender

    Here where I live, Confederate rose dies to the ground every winter and grows back. I assure you yours will too.

    January 6, 2017 at 9:46 am
  5. Virginia Grimsley

    I have two Confederate Roses which has grown up to be a tree the trunk is about six inches in diameter. it grew up about three feet before it put on more branches. I am afraid to cut it back to the ground, afraid it will not come back any suggestions?

    January 4, 2017 at 7:38 pm
  6. Steve Bender

    Plant it now.

    November 25, 2016 at 8:12 am
  7. Sher

    I have a potted Confederate rose and want to plant it in the ground. It’s almost December so do I wait until spring in zone 9? Frost is expected tonight.

    November 18, 2016 at 2:05 pm
  8. Grumpy Gardener

    My guess is drought. An extended drought can cause the flower buds to drop.

    Yes, each flower changes color as it ages.

    October 30, 2016 at 12:22 pm
  9. Bill Nestor

    My confederate rose was laden with buds and a few had already opened. we had been waiting for the explosion to happen any day. I went out this morning after being gone for two days and every single bud was gone. None were on the ground but a few leaves were laying there with what looked like chewed stems. Literally every bud was gone . Nothing but the short bud stems are left. What happened?

    October 23, 2016 at 11:37 am
  10. Camilla Lang

    the confd.rose blooms one color per bud.. there are about 5 to 8 buds at each limb end in clusters. each bud stays the color it starts but the bud blumes very from white, pink (ligh & dark) and purple, amazing!!! yes?

    October 16, 2016 at 1:46 pm
  11. Camilla Lang

    my confederate rose is here at the N.W. corner of my home when i purchased my home in 2006. it has bloomed every fall since! when the stalks{limbs} go dead & hollow in winter i cut it back to the ground. it is mid septender & it has been in bloom about a week, full bloom now. i had never seen one until i mooved here. Soooo, beautiful!!

    October 16, 2016 at 1:33 pm
  12. maxine harris

    My confederate Rose has black on the leaves that almost looks like oil

    October 19, 2015 at 9:30 am
  13. Glenda

    I have several rooting in pots, and they’re doing great with good roots, but i’m not sure what time of year to plant them. I’m in zone 8 on the MS Gulfcoast.

    October 11, 2015 at 2:03 pm
  14. Deborah

    Mom has these all over her yard. (zone 7a-Marietta,Ga)- this fall, due to an unusual rainy year, they are spectacular-I was out there with a camera snapping photos like a tourist… someone noted why theirs didn’t bloom, Mom (my authority on all things planted-sorry Grumpy and to our own Walter!) said it took 3-4 years for hers to mature and start to bloom, I have fallen in love with these and am even thinking of cutting trees in our forest covered yard to get light to plant these beauties! (Also, Mom cuts hers back to the ground after frost, covers them heavily with pine straw until they sprout in the spring..the ‘canes’ or branches she cuts down are chopped into 12″ sections, popped into water to root to give as gifts- the left over branches are solid wood and I’ve made everything from curtain rods, coat/hall trees to flower bed edgings out of them-nothing is wasted-Mom was a ‘depression’ baby and everything is used up! Her plants get both morning and evening sun, some just morning, some just evening…so it seems they like whatever light they can get.)..Thanks Grumpy for highlighting these gorgeous flowers-i’d love to see them all over the south!

    October 11, 2015 at 12:01 pm
  15. Steve Bender

    If you can get that cutting before the cold arrives, you can root it in water and plant it outside in spring. If the cold kills the top of the plant, what until it starts growing next spring. Then root a cutting and plant.

    November 13, 2014 at 9:14 am
  16. Terri Stokes

    I have been admiring these beautiful trees (bushes) for a couple of years – when is the best time to plant one – and I do have a friend that I can ask for a clipping to root. Thanks.

    November 9, 2014 at 1:52 pm
  17. Pamela

    Love my confederate rose! I’ve had it for about five or six years in Tennessee (just south of Nashville). Some winters have been bitterly cold dipping down to the single digits but she always reappears with new shoots in late spring and shows her beauty the last week of September or first week of October. We do make sure though to heavily cover with pine needles and mulch once we cut it back for winter.

    October 23, 2014 at 1:13 pm
  18. Judy

    My sincere thanks to Steve Bender for information on how to treat the problems with my Confederate Rose. I’ll get the Nitria Disease Control as soon as we get home this weekend. Thanks a bunch!!!

    September 25, 2014 at 8:01 pm
  19. Steve Bender


    It’s probably a leaf spot fungus. Try spraying according to label directions with a natural fungicide called Natria Disease Control. You can get it at garden centers.

    September 25, 2014 at 4:02 pm
  20. Judy

    I planted my Confederate Rose about 2 months and it’s growing well, However, now it’s getting something on it that looks like “rust” spots. It had spider webbing under the leaves but sprayed with Neem Oil and that’s gone, but some of the leaves have the brown spots and also have a “withering” effect going on. Not shriveling up – just the leaves look puckered up all over. Not sure what any of this is or how to treat it. I live in Fla. and we’ve had a lot of rain. My plant is well drained though. Any idea what’s wrong with it? It’s just not looking healthy anymore but is still putting out new growth (about 3 1/2 ft tall). Thanks!!!

    September 20, 2014 at 11:52 pm
  21. Steve Bender


    Sounds like winter damage. Go ahead and cut it to the ground. If it isn’t completely dead, it should sprout new growth and bloom this fall.

    June 12, 2014 at 1:10 pm
  22. EM


    June 7, 2014 at 12:02 am
  23. Steve Bender

    If the stalks are dead, cut them to the ground. New ones will grow up quickly and be bloom-size by the fall.

    April 1, 2013 at 10:27 am
  24. Val Creach

    I have two tall stalks from my confederate rose, and this is the end of March in zone 7, SC. Should I cut these down near the ground, so they will grow up again in the Fall?

    March 28, 2013 at 8:14 am
  25. Bonnie Idigpio

    from my experience I could only root a branch from the older growth. The newer growth just didn’t work. By the way my tree is beautiful.

    March 6, 2013 at 9:33 am
  26. Steve Bender

    Good luck!

    January 16, 2013 at 2:37 pm
  27. sam kivett

    just picked a cutting in new bern nc from a lovely lady in a antique store and i hope it does as well as your photos! 01/13/13

    January 14, 2013 at 2:08 pm
  28. Steve Bender

    You can prune it back now if you want. This won’t affect the blooming next year.

    December 4, 2012 at 2:54 pm
  29. Sue Wallick

    I just bought a house on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and there is a ten foot tall Confederate Rose in the back yard. Can I trim it back so it isn’t so large and unwieldy?

    November 29, 2012 at 9:26 am
  30. Why Didn’t My Confederate Rose Bloom? – The Daily South | Your Hub for Southern Culture

    […] rose isn’t a rose at all. As I wrote in an earlier post, it’s actually a species of hibiscus (Hibiscus mutabilis) native to China. Where Grumpy lives […]

    October 16, 2012 at 7:01 am
  31. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    In MD, Confederate rose will die to the ground in winter. Mulch it heavily in late fall and it may survive. A good mail-order source is

    August 23, 2010 at 2:32 pm
  32. Dolores McDonnell

    Will the Confederate rose survive in Maryland..if so how can I get one? Thanks DMcD

    August 19, 2010 at 6:25 pm
  33. Grumpy Gardener (aka His Excellency)

    You first.

    November 23, 2009 at 4:31 pm
  34. Jim Long

    I just planted one yesterday I’d gotten from the Ozarks Folk Center in Mountain View, AR. Spectacular flowers. And, since it’s in the hibiscus family, I’ll see how it tastes, too. Confederate salsa anyone?

    November 23, 2009 at 3:22 pm
  35. Grumpy Gardener (aka His Excellency)

    Thank you for adding the letter “s” to the second word in the award’s name.

    November 19, 2009 at 4:55 pm
  36. Caroline

    Dear Grumpy, you’re a gardener after my own heart. Spanking and jihadist magazines – a fair and just punishment for any gardener who refuses to share, indeed! p.s. I gave you one-a them blogger meme awards: the Honest Scrap award. Details at

    November 19, 2009 at 9:29 am

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