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How to grow, care for the Confederate rose

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By Master Gardener, Brunswick County Extension

Tom Woods 
Master Gardener

Donald Adams of Oak Island provided much of the information in this article on how to propagate, grow and enjoy the Confederate rose.

The time is approaching when it is time to take cuttings. After frost and cold temperatures end the flowering season for the beautiful Confederate rose (Hibiscus Mutabilis), the plant should be cut back to approximately 4 inches above the ground. 

The next season’s growth will come from the roots. Mulch the plant with woodchips or pine straw to protect from freezing. The proper time in this area to take cuttings is before the first freeze. A freeze will kill the branches and cuttings will not grow. Frost doesn’t cause damage.

The cuttings should be 12-15 inches long. They may be placed in individual quart jars with water and set in a warm, sunny area. I have found that a sunny east window works well. The larger diameter cuttings make the best plants and they should bloom the first year. 

In about eight weeks, the cuttings should have good root and top growth. At that time, they should be transferred to a pot with potting soil. Keep the plants in a protected area and watered. The plants are as fragile as tomato plants, so the latter part of April should be the proper time to plant in the yard. With proper watering and part to full-sun, they will grow approximately 6 to 8 feet after the first year.

After the plants are established and growing well, scatter some general all-purpose fertilizer around the plant. The plant should bloom in October and November. Frost and freezing temperatures will determine the length of the blooming season. The coastal Carolina area is well suited for growing the Confederate rose. Raleigh and Greensboro are on the outer limits of blooming before frost.

There are several varieties of the Confederate rose. You can grow the type that blooms light pink and the second day turns to darker rose pink and the third day the bloom fades. It is a progressive bloomer and as some of the flowers fade, new buds will open. The Confederate rose does not seem to be available from commercial growers in this area. Surplus cuttings from neighbors and friends are your best source. In the past three years, Adams’ plants have produced more than 1,000 cuttings for lucky neighbors and friends.

Watch the Confederate roses in your area and select the type that appeals to you. Ask the owner of the plant if you may take cuttings, and most owners will be glad to supply you. This is a friendly plant owned by friendly folk. The Master Gardeners volunteers will have some available at its spring plant sale.

Send your gardening questions or comments to: Brunswick County Master Gardener Column, P.O. Box 109, Bolivia, NC 28422, or call 253-2610. Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope if requesting information or a reply. Answers may be printed in this column.