Rose of Sharon
Among my favorite of flowering plants or shrubs is the Rose of Sharon. There are few things to me more beautiful than when this outstanding flower producer shows off its blooms in the latter part of the summer.
Being part of the hibiscus (Hibiscus syriacus) family, Rose of Sharon also produces flowers very similar to the regular hibiscus, mostly in white, pink, red and lavender. Some varieties include gorgeous double blooms as well.
What's particularly great about the bush is it is among the few that will provide color as the summer winds down, offering gardeners an option that most other plants don't.
While some plants with fantastic blooms are difficult to grow, that's not the case with the Rose of Sharon, as once it is established there isn't much else that needs to be done with it.
It can grow as tall as twelve feet if it's allowed to, which is one of the reasons some people call it a tree.
Red Heart Rose of Sharon Photo
Rose of Sharon Seeds Itself
The numerous flowers on the Rose of Sharon results in the plant seeding itself, with many new bushes emerging around it at times.
That provides opportunity to plant new Rose of Sharon if you want to extend it to other areas of your yard.
One slight negative about the bush is it's deciduous, meaning once it's completed its blooming cycle the leaves of the shrub will fall off. So for most of the rest of the year you'll have a bare look.
It's easy to quickly forget all that though when the blooms come, as the are magnificent to behold.
There are things you can do to make the bare bush not be so obvious, like planting companion plants nearby to draw the eye to their color. Potted plants around the bush is another possibility, as they'll do well because there will be little to block the sun they'll need.
Leaves will start to grow again in the latter part of spring, so it won't be so obvious after that.
In some zones the flowers will appear sooner than in others, so they will have that going for them too. In those cases it can be as early as the middle of summer, rather than later summer when most will begin to flower.
Photos of Rose of Sharon Flowers
Here are a couple of more photos of flowers from Rose of Sharon plants, which show why it's such a desirable addition to any garden, yard, or landscaping design.
Lavender Rose of Sharon Photo
Pink Rose of Sharon Flower Photo
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Landscaping Uses of a Rose of Sharon
Rose of Sharon are very versatile, and can be used as a standalone shrub which looks more like a tree, or can be kept smaller and wider via pruning; a living fence by planting a number of them close together; borders with other shrubs; or as a potted plant being strategically placed where it fits best around the house or other parts of the landscaping.
Where to Plant Rose of Sharon
While preferring full sun, Rose of Sharon can do well with partial shade, as long as there is adequate direct sun during the day hours.
So plant it with this in mind, and if you have a spot with full sun, that will bring the best results for the plant in most situation. Very hot areas could require a little shade.
The bush is highly tolerant of dry conditions, so there isn't too much to be concerned about there.
Rose of Sharon also do well in almost any soil. It could struggle some in heavy clay soils, but they will grow in regular clay.
Because it must be in a well-drained area, clay offers challenges of poorer drainage, which is why heavier clay makes it struggle more. The bush doesn't do well in very wet soil. Don't plant it where that could be a problem.
If planted in good soil the plant could respond by really growing quickly.
Planting it in an area protected from strong winds is best practices for the shrub if you can.
You will need to offer some extra care for the plant until it is established. Once it's established, there's little else you'll have to do for it unless some unusual weather patterns produce unique circumstances. That's rarely the case.
As for spacing, the shrub can grow up to twelve feet tall and six feet wide. So depending on your goal, if you planted them about four feet apart they would have a little space in between each shrub.
If you're attempting to design a living fence, placing them a couple of feet apart, or maybe three at most, should do the job. It all depends on what you're trying to create.
Rose of Sharon
Growing Rose of Sharon in a Pot
Rose of Sharon does great in a pot. One secret is to grow it in a large pot.
This is especially needful in warmer climates where it can emerge from dormancy as early as March, and will grow quickly as a result. You'll be thankful you have it in a larger container at that time.
A larger pot will encourage the plant to produce more flowers, and the plant will be healthier.
When to Plant Rose of Sharon
While Rose of Sharon will seed itself after it blooms in the fall, I think it gives your shrub a better chance if you plant it during the early part of spring.
If you have no Rose of Sharon to begin with, you simply buy one at that time. Assuming you have a mature shrub, you can take some seedlings from around the mother plants and sow them in a pot until spring, and them transplant them at that time.
That will give them some time to establish before the hotter weather comes.
How to Plant Rose of Sharon
When talking about how to plant Rose of Sharon, the assumption is you're planting one for the first time and using one you've bought from a garden center or nursery.
With that in mind, look at the size of the potted shrub and dig a hole about double the width and about one and half times the depth of the root ball, placing the dirt nearby.
Now tap the sides of the pot while you turn it in your hands to loosen up the shrub. It will slip out easily if it's done correctly, although in the case of shrubs they can become rootbound and get stuck in the pot.
In this case, sometimes you may have to cut the sides of the pot itself in able to get the shrub and its roots out.
You'll know if the pot has to be cut if after tapping and pressing against the sides it won't budge at all.
Now it's time to loosen the dirt on the root ball by turning on the water and allowing the water to wet the dirt in order to loosen it up.
This helps the shrub to have its roots freed up so it will be encouraged to send growth outwards after being in the pot so long. You don't want to have the roots totally naked of dirt, only loosed up, so don't wash the dirt all away. You want the outside to be worked on while not doing too much so you don't reach the inside of the root ball.
Now you're ready to place the shrub in the soil. When it's in, you want to have the root ball end up about an inch below the surface of the soil.
With the additional room left after digging the hole, you can add whatever you need until it reaches that level.
Start to fill in the sides now that you have the Rose of Sharon where you want it, adding compost or some other organic matter to the soil you're putting back in the hole. Push it in and press as it fills in order to fill up pockets while compacting the soil. Do it until the hole is filled to the place of being level with the ground.
Now water the shrub until it gets moist but not soggy.
Don't worry if the newly planted bush loses its leaves after you plant it. That's not an uncommon occurance and response.
As long as the stem or stalk of the shrub remains green, you won't have any problems with it adjusting and sending out new leaves.
Chiffon Hibiscus Series
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Rose of Sharon Care
Rose of Sharon don't need a lot of care, as evidenced by being drought resistant and being able to thrive on rather poor soil.
Having said that, it's good to water it fairly often after you first plant it to help it get established. Once it takes off, you can cut back to watering as needed.
Still, don't over water the shrub or you'll get some negative feedback from it, usually in the form of yellowing leaves.
Be careful here, as you may make the wrong diagnosis and think the yellowing leaves are the result of not enough water, which would make the problem worse if you water the bush even more in response. Just be sure to check the moisture content of the soil and not make decisions based solely on how the plant looks.
Usually with Rose of Sharon, the shrub responding negatively will tell you you're either watering or fertilizing it too much. Less is more with this unique plant as far as care goes.
If it responds adversely to waterings, allow more time between applications for the water to dry out more.
Wilting leaves could mean you're not watering enough at times; the reason why checking the soil to see its actual condition is so important, rather than looking outwardly at the effects of the response of the plant to the prevailing conditions.
When the plant is producing prolific flowers you will probably have to water it more at that time. Even then be careful not to overdo it.
Fertilizing Rose of Sharon
To get the best blooms out of the plant, fertilizing is necessary, and you can use a type that is made for the purpose of boosting the blooms of the Rose of Sharon. They like phosphorus more than nitrogen and potassium, so one that has 15-30-15 would be a good one, or something close to it.
A rule of thumb concerning fertilizing Rose of Sharon is to stop doing it near the end of July or very early August. That's so it doesn't generate soft growth which could be damaged in a fall frost. This time period could change depending on what zone you're growing the shrub in.
In regions where it gets very cold, you will have to take extra steps to ensure the health of your plant.
First of all, don't be tempted to take the Rose of Sharon out of the ground and winter it indoors. They respond better to being left in the ground during the winter months.
A couple of steps you can take are you can heavily mulch the shrub in the autumn with leaves to help protect, and also place burlap around it to insulate it.
You can't always rely on it, but most years the snow itself will be a helpful insulator to the plant.
Your Rose of Sharon will need protection if the winters where you live drop to -10° F (-23° C) or colder.
Cooler winters are one of the reasons for planting the shrub in places that have protection from direct, heavy winds. Do that from the beginning and you've taken care of one of the big winter problems the plant faces.
They are hardy in Zones 5 to 10, meaning they should survive and thrive in winter weather as cold as -20° F (-29° C) if they're protected.
Salvaging a Rose of Sharon Bush for Bonsai
Besides mulching for winter protection, adding mulch around the Rose of Sharon helps to keep the moisture levels even and at correct levels.
As with all plants, it also helps to manage weeds while adding organic matter to the soil.
It's a good practice that has little or no downside.
Propagating Rose of Sharon
If you want to expand the number of Rose of Sharon in your yard, it's very easy to do.
Assuming you have at least one Rose of Sharon established, you can get new plants from seedlings year after year.
You can either gather the seeds, or better yet, wait until they drop to the ground and root up and simply dig them up and plant them in the place or want them, or place them in a pot and plant them in the spring.
For best results, when the blooming season is coming to a close, stop deadheading the shrub and allow the seeds to form. That way you can gather and plant the seeds or plant the resultant seedling, as mentioned above.
You can also propagate Rose of Sharon from rooting cuttings. Just take the new growth and place it in a container with a couple of inches of water in it. Once it roots you can transplant in the ground or container.
Pruning Rose of Sharon
There are two basic reasons to prune a Rose of Sharon. The first is for the purpose of shaping it in the first couple of years after you planted it.
If it's mostly a light pruning, that can be done any time it's needed.
For heavier pruning from damage or it getting out of control, it's best to do that in the latter part of winter, or even better, if you can, early spring.
In zones that don't get much if any winter damage, pruning in the latter part of winter can help the shrub produce larger flowers the following season.
Other than that exception, the spring is best because you can rid the plant of any die back from winter. This will also result in the shrub producing more and better blooms when the flowering season arrives.
Now be sure you're not pruning the plant where it is dormant only. I'm talking about pruning only the actual damage from the winter that has caused part of the shrub to die. If you're not sure, just let it grow until leaves come forth, as you'll know then if the limb is still alive.
Pruning Rose of Sharon
Deadheading is a great practice to ensure the Rose of Sharon produces the most number and quality of blooms.
If at all possible, remove the flowers as soon after they are finished blooming as you can. This keeps the bush from even starting to enter into the production of seeds.
This is so the energy of the plant will be centered on producing more blooms. If the seed phase is entered, there will be less blooms on the plant.
Other than allowing some seeds to form at the end of the season for propagation purposes, this is the best way to manage the plant to get the best color out of it that it can give.
Disease and Insects
There are very few occasions when insects or disease will affect Rose of Sharon.
If insects attack the shrub, identify it and take appropriate measures as soon as possible. Usually an insecticidal soap will take care of most problems, if they occur, and if you use it immediately.
Heavier infestations while rare, may require more drastic measures.
Diseases are seldom ever a problem.
Rose of Sharon
For me there are very few plants to compare with the compelling and beautiful Rose of Sharon.
You have very little care, and even if you did nothing other than water it, the shrub is so hardy and prolific it's still going to produce some amazing blooms.
What's really enjoyable is the little work that can be done pays off handsomely, as from year to year you can see the measurable results and the shrub grows and produces more and larger blooms.
All we have to do is add some complementary plants to offset the period of time when the leaves have fallen so it doesn't look so barren. That can be done with strategically placed potted plants which can be moved once the leaves of the plant emerge after winter is over.
Either way, Rose of Sharon should be a part of every gardeners landscaping design, as their versatility, adaptability, easy management and extraordinary blooms makes this among the most amazing shrub or plant that can be placed in a yard or garden.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Sankhajit Bhattacharjee from MILWAUKEE on June 22, 2020:
gardening is a beautiful hobby...
Ana E. on June 01, 2020:
Just planted rose of Sharon drop the bud before it opens
Kimberly Lake from California on August 15, 2018:
Great article, very informative.
BevC on August 13, 2017:
My Rose of Sharon frequently drops the buds before they open. I can't find a remedy for this. Do you have any suggestions?
alberta burbank on June 15, 2016:
i do not want a bush i want a tree,,i also want the 3 in 1 colors,is this tree hard to grow and do i prune it the same way as the bush is pruned
james robinson on July 28, 2013:
two different callings of a tree. i have three of these rose of Sharon. none of which even resembles a shrub. these are trees small trees. the rose of sharon that i have starts around the 4 to 5 feet before u get the the leaves and flowers, but these only grow to 6 and 8 feet high not the 15 feet of the shrubs do or the ones that have had there foliage cut to a certain height the ones i do have in the tree format is the white chiffon, pink, and a lavender one with the patriot one coming
Mary Brown on July 27, 2013:
Do you need more than one Rose of Sharon Planted to make them bloom ??
RTalloni on May 09, 2012:
Thanks for an interesting read on Rose of Sharon. How I would love to have the Bluebird! I'm not sure if it's our area or the location I have my Rose of Sharons planted in, but we have green foliage throughout the spring and summer, and often through early fall. Have been working on pruning one to train into a topiary. They are fast growers so it's been interesting to figure out the best method and shape. We have a purple that reproduces itself like bunnies, and white transplanted from Florida that has yet to reproduce itself. I have, however, used cuttings to easily grow roots in a glass of water and now have more of them, even been able to share some with friends.