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Confederate Rose is Really a Hibiscus

Confederate Rose is a very tall perennial that grows like a shrub in most of the South. Near the coast it will leaf out on old stems, but in most areas, the tops will die back, and the plant will regrow each spring from the base.

Despite their popularity and ability to thrive in the Southeastern United States, Confederate roses are not native to the United States but come from China. They thrive in the South anywhere that they have time to open their very late flowers before fall frost. This species is a popular passalong plant not usually available in your local nursery.

Height varies from about 8 feet in the northern parts of Georgia and Alabama to about 15 feet on the coast.

Confederate Rose is an eye-catching foliage plant even before bloom, with large, soft, gray-green maple shaped leaves. Large blooms four to six inches wide open in September or October. Both double and single flowering forms are available. It is the changing of the bloom color that gives the plant its botanical name, Hibiscus mutabilis. The blooms open as a very soft pink and darken gradually to a deep pink the third day after opening. When in full bloom, the plant appears to have 3 different colored flowers all on the same bush.

Confederate Rose grows best in full sun or part shade. Although average garden soil is fine, the plant will grow larger and bloom more in good fertile soil.  As with all plants in the hibiscus family, Hibiscus mutabilis needs regular water to grow and perform well, but can withstand drought. Water whenever you see the large leaves droop.

Once winter frosts burn back the foliage, the entire plant can be cut back to make the garden more tidy. This can be done any time during the winter or early spring. Near the coast, you can let the stems stay if you don’t mind the plant becoming very large, since Confederate Rose will resprout from current branches where winters are mild. Even when the plant is cut to the ground, it will become 10 feet tall by summer’s end. You cannot make this plant stay small and compact, no matter what you do. Confederate Rose is meant to be a flamboyant, voluptuous focal point in the garden. Make sure you plant it where the large size can be appreciated.

Sources for this plant: Shady Gardens Nursery.