Varieties of Rose of Sharon

Tree That's Truly a Late Bloomer

Rose of Sharon bush with pink-lavender flowers with red centers

Satoru Imai/Getty Images

Rose of Sharon "trees" (Hibiscus syriacus) are actually classified by botanists as shrubs, but they can be trained by pruning so as to form one main trunk (thereby becoming tree-like). They are beautiful plants and especially useful to gardeners seeking continual color in the landscape, as they bloom late in the growing season when most shrubs are long past their floral heyday. Plant Hibiscus syriacus as a complement to shrubs that bloom in spring and early summer.

The plant's main drawback is that rose of Sharon seedlings can be a nuisance, but the tree more than makes up for any landscape maintenance it requires with a superabundance of showy blossoms.

Grow rose of Sharon trees as follows:

  • Install them in full sun. They tolerate partial shade but will not flower as well there.
  • Give them rich soil and keep it evenly moist.
  • Provide a soil pH that is acidic to slightly alkaline.

Most rose of Sharon trees grow to be about 8 to 10 feet tall, with widths half that. The trees can make for a splendid hedge when in bloom if it is color you want from a hedge. But, being deciduous, they will not screen out prying eyes year-round. Another use for rose of Sharon is as a specimen plant for late summer. Flowers are most often white, pink, or bluish, but, through grafting, there are even varieties that bear multiple colors on the same plant.

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    Blue Rose of Sharon Trees

    Blue Chiffon rose of sharon flower.
    Blue Chiffon has double, bluish flowers. David Beaulieu

    Blue flowers are highly sought after; this soothing color lends itself well to meditation gardens, although many people simply value it as a "cool" color. Plant developers have put a great deal of energy into expanding the horticultural blue palette. Blue Chiffon rose of Sharon trees don't produce true-blue flowers, but we will grant they are a "bluish" color. Still, because the flowers are double (another sought-after quality), their beauty is unquestionable.

    Blue or not, the color of the flowers combines well both with orange flowers such as torch lilies (Kniphofia) and so-called "black" plants (plants with dark foliage), such as Sedum "Chocolate Drop".

    Blue Chiffon blooms from mid-summer into autumn. What makes the flower so beautiful is the presence of inner petals that surround the stamen. These inner petals give the flowers a frilly look.

    Another variety with blue flowers is Blue Satin. The Blue Satin shrub's flower can be much bluer than that of the Blue Chiffon, but do not get your hopes up too high. This type, along with the Blue Bird, too often turns out to be more of a lavender-blue than a true blue. Until developers produce a reliably true-blue rose of Sharon, gardeners are at the mercy of the luck of the draw.

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    Pink Rose of Sharon Trees

    Rose of Sharon's
    Sugar Tip is best known for its variegated leaves. David Beaulieu

    Like "Blue Chiffon," the variety known as "Sugar Tip" bears double flowers (in this case, pink in color). But with Sugar Tip rose of Sharon trees, it is not just about the flowers. Their foliage is also attractive, as these plants exhibit variegated leaves. The leaves have a creamy-white edging; in fact, it is to the leaves that the name "Sugar Tip" refers.

    Most varieties of rose of Sharon are valued mainly for their flowers, but do not underestimate the importance of attractive foliage. Such "foliage plants" as this variety will "be there for you," after many a garden bloom has become little more than a memory.

    Pink Chiffon has similar flowers but lacks the bicolored leaves.

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    White Rose of Sharon Trees

    Closeup of bloom of Red Heart rose of Sharon.
    "Red Heart" is so named for the color of its center.

     matricul/Getty Images

    Some gardeners find white flowers too plain, while others value them for their purity. Rose of Sharon is one of your options for a bush with white flowers.

    Many of the varieties with white flowers are technically bicolored: The majority of the petal is white, but the part near the center that forms the "throat" is a darker color. For example, in the case of Red Heart, the throat is red.

    In some situations, a variety with a solid-white flower may be preferable. For example, people who are making moon gardens and who wish to be purists in their plant selection will often want to grow a variety such as White Chiffon: It lacks a distinct throat, the petal being totally white.