September Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Hibiscus mutabilis, Confederate Rose

One of the most requested plants in our garden is the Confederate Rose. You will probably never find this plant in a big box store, and it's hard to find it in any nursery. Yet, this elusive old Southern plant is a favorite of many gardeners.

Confederate Rose is not really a rose, but a Hibiscus, Hibiscus mutabilis, to be exact. 

The blooms of the Confederate Rose are voluptuous, like one might expect from a flower in the South. Although single flowers are out there, I have seen only the many-petaled, double blooming variety that opens light pink and gradually changes to a deep rose-pink on the third day after opening. It is the changing of the bloom color that gives the plant its botanical name, Hibiscus mutabilis. Blooms can be up to 6 inches across. All those petals remind me of the many fluffy layers of the petticoats worn by Southern belles of antebellum times here in the Southeastern United States.

Despite their popularity and ability to thrive in the Southeastern US, Confederate Rose is not native to the South but comes 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. 

Height varies from about 8 to 15 feet and the plant grows wider every year (kind of like me, apparently.)

Confederate Rose is an eye-catching foliage plant even before bloom, with large, soft, gray-green maple shaped leaves. 

Like all plants in the Hibiscus family, Confederate Rose grows best in full sun with regular water, but it will bloom quite happily in part shade. This is true especially in areas with very hot temperatures lingering into its bloom time of late summer and early fall. Although this Hibiscus does love water, it can withstand periods of drought that is common in the Southeast.

Confederate Rose will grow in regular garden soil, but it will grow larger and develop more blooms in good fertile soil. 

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. Confederate Rose will resprout from current branches where winters are mild. However, the plant will become 10 feet tall by summer’s end, even when cut back the previous season.  Make sure to plant it where it has plenty of room to spread out.

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