Confederate Rose Will Rise Again!

November 18, 2009 | By | Comments (14)

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. 

 

CR1

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.

CR2

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

COMMENTS

  1. 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 http://shovelreadygarden.blogspot.com/2009/11/hammer-time-cant-touch-this.html

    November 19, 2009 at 9:29 am
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. Grumpy Gardener (aka His Excellency)

    You first.

    November 23, 2009 at 4:31 pm
  5. 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
  6. 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 http://www.woodlanders.net.

    August 23, 2010 at 2:32 pm
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. Steve Bender

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

    December 4, 2012 at 2:54 pm
  10. 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
  11. Steve Bender

    Good luck!

    January 16, 2013 at 2:37 pm
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. 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