Rose of Sharon Plant Profile

Hardy Hibiscus for Late-Season Blooms

closeup of rose of sharon

The Spruce / Autumn Wood 

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) bears many blooms, and its attractive flowers are its main selling point. As with other types of hibiscus, its flowers bear a striking stamen. Another feature giving the shrub value is its relatively late period of blooming (in many northern climates, it blooms in August). Rose of Sharon is thus able to offer white, red, lavender, or light blue blooms when many flowering shrubs have long since ceased blooming. Late-summer flowering shrubs can help gardeners manage the sequence of bloom in their landscapes.

Rose of Sharon is classified by botanists as a shrub, but it can be pruned to form one main trunk so that it grows more like a tree. It can also be used for espalier. Its natural shrub form is multi-stemmed and vase-shaped. It has toothed green leaves that do not provide fall color. It can grow up to 24 inches each year and can be planted in spring or fall.

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7 Helpful Tips on Growing the Rose of Sharon

Botanical Name Hibiscus syriacus
Common Name Rose of Sharon, althea, Korean rose, rose mallow, Chinese hibiscus
Plant Type Deciduous shrub
Mature Size 8 to 12 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide
Sun Exposure Full sun to part shade
Soil Type Rich and moist
Soil pH 5.5 to 7.5
Bloom Time Late summer, early fall
Flower Color White, red, lavender, light blue
Hardiness Zones 5 to 9
Native Area China, India
rose of sharon bush
The Spruce / Autumn Wood
Pink/purple petals of hibiscus syriacus
Barry Winiker / Getty Images
rose of sharon plant close up
Pixabay
Hibiscus syriacus 'Lavender Chiffon' in bloom
Hibiscus syriacus 'Lavender Chiffon'  49pauly/ Getty Images

How to Grow Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon is tolerant of air pollution, heat, humidity, poor soil, and drought. This species has naturalized well in many areas and can become invasive if its growth is not monitored.

Light

Rose of Sharon prefers full sun. Older bushes may fall prey to fungal damage if they are grown in shaded areas where moisture is likely to be high.

Soil

This plant thrives in rich soil. It can tolerate many soil types, including sand, clay, chalk, and loam. It prefers nutrient-rich soil but can survive in poor soil, too. Rose of Sharon thrives in a wide range of soil pH from 5.5 to 7.5.

Water

The plant is reasonably drought-tolerant. In fact, if your rose of Sharon has yellow leaves, it could be due to overwatering, rather than to a lack of water.

Temperature and Humidity

A heat lover, this shrub is also prized by growers in the southeastern U.S. who seek plants that can stand up to summer's heat. It is also tolerant of a wide range of humidity conditions.

Fertilizer

Fertilizer is recommended (although not mandatory for established shrubs). Use a slow-release fertilizer for shrubs and trees, feeding in late winter or early spring. If you wish to grow organically, work compost gently into the soil around the root zone and water it into the earth.

Rose of Sharon Varieties

  • 'Blue Chiffon': This cultivar has double flowers with a purple-blue tinge (they're not really blue) that bloom from mid-summer into autumn. What makes the flower so beautiful is the presence of inner petals that surround the stamen, giving the flowers a frilly look. It grows 8 to 12 feet tall, with a spread of 6 to 10 feet
  • 'Sugar Tip': The name of this cultivar refers to its variegated leaves with creamy-white edging. It has pink double flowers and grows 6 to 8 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide.
  • 'White Chiffon': This variety is graced with white flowers that are solid: they have no distinct center, or throat, because the petal is totally white. The shrub grows 6 to 8 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide.
  • 'Red Heart': This shrub's flowers are ruffled and have a bicolored look with white petals and dark red centers. Lovers of low-maintenance landscaping will be glad to hear that this is a sterile cultivar, so there will not be any seedlings to remove.

Propagating Rose of Sharon

The best way to propagate rose of Sharon plants is by making stem cuttings and potting them.

  1. Cut several pencil-wide branches of rose of Sharon that have several leaves or leaf buds. Cut the stems 4 to 6 inches long and remove the leaves from the bottom half of the stem.
  2. Dip the end of the stem in rooting hormone. Plant the bottom third or bottom half of each stem.
  3. Place a piece of clear plastic over the top of each pot. Water well.
  4. Put your pots in a spot with shade or indirect light. Remove the plastic in seven days. Check the pots every few days to make sure the potting mixture remains moist. Add more water if needed, but do not let the soil get soggy.
  5. Check the cuttings for roots in one to two months. Pull gently on each stem; if it resists, the stem has rooted. You also should also see new leaves form on the branch stems that have rooted.
  6. Grow them larger, at least 2 inches of growth, before planting them in the garden.

Pruning

Although naturally a multi-stemmed shrub, this plant can be trained through pruning to have just one main trunk; thus, some people refer to it as the rose of Sharon "tree." Prune in late winter or early spring, since this is one of the shrubs that blooms on the current season's growth. It is easiest to give rose of Sharon its desired shape by pruning it accordingly during its first two seasons. It can also be trained for espalier (grown flat against a supporting structure).

Also, do not give up on rose of Sharon, thinking it is dead just because it has not leafed out by early summer. This shrub not only blooms late but leaves out late as well, so be patient. When its flower buds are not opening, that is another matter.

Common Pests

The chief pest problem for this bush is Japanese beetle infestations. Japanese beetles are somewhat easier to control than many other insect pests because they are large enough to spot immediately before they have done too much damage to your plants. The easiest and safest way to kill them is to pick or shake them off by hand, dropping them into a container filled with soapy water. The insect breathes through its skin, so a coating of soap over its body effectively suffocates it.

Landscaping Uses for Rose of Sharon

This shrub is primarily used as a specimen plant, hedge plant, and foundation shrub. Its attractive and plentiful blooms make it fully capable of holding its own as a specimen. The ability to shape the rose of Sharon also makes the shrub a prime candidate for hedges. But since this bush is deciduous, it is an effective privacy hedge only in summer (select one of the evergreen shrubs to gain privacy all year).

You can use the plant as a privacy shrub around swimming pools in regions with cold winters, since you would most likely be doing your swimming there only during the summertime. However, its blooms could attract bees, which are usually unwelcome in poolside areas. Because the shrub responds well to annual pruning, it is quite useful in foundation plantings, where it is important to be able to manage a plant's growth. You want to avoid having it eventually overwhelm your house.

Fertile varieties of rose of Sharon drop their seeds and may sprout where you do not want them to, and the consequent need to remove the young plants manually is hardly conducive to low-maintenance landscaping. There are many ways of getting rid of its seedlings than by pulling them, so do not let this issue dissuade you from growing these lovely shrubs. Alternatively, you can always choose an infertile variety of this popular shrub.