How to Grow and Care for Rose of Sharon

closeup of rose of sharon

The Spruce / Autumn Wood 

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is a hibiscus species featuring numerous showy blooms in the summer and fall. The five-petal flowers come in an array of colors (including bicolors) and can stretch around 3 inches across. They have a prominent stamen and often a contrasting color in the center of the petals. The shrub overall has an upright vase shape with multiple branches of medium to dark green foliage. The shrub also can be pruned to grow from a single trunk in a tree form. Rose of Sharon can be planted in the spring or fall. It has a moderate growth rate and can gain roughly 1 to 2 feet per year.

Common Name Rose of Sharon, shrub althea, rose mallow, Syrian mallow, Syrian hibiscus
Botanical Name Hibiscus syriacus
Family Malvaceae
Plant Type Shrub
Mature Size 8–12 ft. tall, 6–10 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Moist, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, neutral
Bloom Time Summer, fall
Flower Color Pink, purple, red, blue, white
Hardiness Zones 5–8, USA
Native Area Asia
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7 Helpful Tips on Growing the Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon Care

This shrub is tolerant of air pollution, heat, humidity, poor soil, and drought. It's primarily used as a specimen, hedge, or foundation plant. It does readily self-seed, so some of your plant care will be dedicated to removing seedlings if you don't want your rose of Sharon to spread.

Young plants will need regular watering and feeding to help them get started. But mature shrubs typically don't require much care. Plan to water during prolonged periods of drought. And prune to keep your shrub's desired shape.

rose of sharon plant close up
Pixabay
Hibiscus syriacus 'Lavender Chiffon' in bloom
Hibiscus syriacus 'Lavender Chiffon'  49pauly/ Getty Images
Pink/purple petals of hibiscus syriacus
Barry Winiker / Getty Images
rose of sharon bush
The Spruce / Autumn Wood

Light

Rose of Sharon prefers full sun, meaning at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days. But it also can grow in partial shade. However, too much shade can minimize flowering and contribute to diseases, such as fungal issues.

Soil

This shrub can grow in multiple soil types, including loamy, sandy, and clay soils. It prefers a nutrient-rich, well-draining soil with a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH, though it also can tolerate slightly alkaline soil.

Water

Rose of Sharon likes moist soil, but mature shrubs can tolerate some drought. It won't thrive in very dry or very wet conditions. So plan to water to prevent the soil from fully drying out, and make sure your shrub isn't sitting in waterlogged soil.

Temperature and Humidity

These shrubs are heat lovers, but they also can withstand winters with below-freezing temperatures down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit. They also can handle high humidity as long as they have good air circulation. Otherwise, humid conditions can promote fungal growth.

Fertilizer

Fertilizer is recommended, though it's not mandatory for established shrubs unless you have poor soil. Use a slow-release fertilizer for shrubs and trees in the late winter or early spring, following label instructions. If you wish to grow organically, work compost into the soil around the root zone of the shrub in the spring.

Types of Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon comes in several different colors. Some popular varieties include:

  • 'Blue Chiffon': This cultivar has double flowers (two layers of petals) with a purple-blue tinge that bloom from mid-summer into autumn. 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 solid white flowers; they have no contrasting center. The shrub grows 6 to 8 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide.
  • 'Red Heart': This shrub's flowers are ruffled and feature white petals with dark red centers. Lovers of low-maintenance landscaping will be glad to hear that this is a sterile cultivar, so it won't produce any seedlings to remove.

Pruning

This shrub grows naturally in an attractive form, so it doesn’t need much pruning. But you can tidy up its growth each year to maintain the size and shape you desire. Rose of Sharon blooms on new wood, so it should be pruned in the late winter or early spring to avoid cutting off any flower buds. Pruning back the stem tips will encourage more branching and thus more flowers. Remove any damaged or diseased branches as they arise.

Propagating Rose of Sharon

The best way to propagate this shrub is by stem cuttings. Not only is this an inexpensive way to get a new plant, but it also allows you to make a new plant from an existing one whose flowers you especially like. The best time to take cuttings is in midsummer. Here's how:

  1. Cut a pencil-wide stem that's 4 to 6 inches long. Remove the leaves from the bottom half of the stem.
  2. Dip the cut end of the stem in rooting hormone.
  3. Plant the bottom third to bottom half of the stem in a small container filled with soilless potting mix. Make sure the container has drainage holes.
  4. Water to lightly moisten the growing medium.
  5. Place a clear plastic bag over the container.
  6. Put the container in a warm spot with bright indirect light. Check the growing medium every few days to make sure it remains moist. Add more water if necessary, but don't let it get soggy.
  7. Remove the plastic in seven days.
  8. Check for roots in one to two months. Pull gently on the stem; if you feel resistance, the stem has rooted. New leaf growth is also a sign the stem has rooted.
  9. Wait for at least 2 inches of stem growth before planting it in your garden.

How to Grow Rose of Sharon From Seed

Rose of Sharon readily self-seeds in the garden, and you can plant seeds as well. Start seeds indoors roughly 12 weeks before your area's projected last frost date in the spring. Fill a container with soilless potting mix, and plant each seed about a half inch deep. Lightly moisten the soil by misting it, and put the container by a bright window in a room that stays between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the soil consistently moist, and you should see germination in roughly two to four weeks. 

Overwintering

Rose of Sharon doesn't typically need any special winter care in its growing zones. It ideally should be situated in a spot that's protected from strong, chilling, drying winds. If you live in a cold part of its growing zones, adding a layer of mulch around its roots also can help to insulate the shrub from extreme weather.

Common Pests

The chief pest problem for this shrub is the Japanese beetle. Japanese beetles are somewhat easier to control than many other insect pests because their large size makes them noticeable. That means you'll likely spot them before they've done a lot of damage to your plant. The easiest way to kill them is to pick or shake them off the plant by hand and drop 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.

How to Get Rose of Sharon to Bloom

Rose of Sharon readily blooms year after year in the garden, as long as it has full sun and adequate nutrients and soil moisture. The showy flowers start to appear in the early to midsummer and can stretch through mid-fall or even up until frost. The five prominent petals are slightly ruffled, and the tubular stamen at the center is very apparent. The blooms attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators. Deadheading (removing spent blooms) is not necessary to promote continued blooming. However, it will prevent the seed pods from forming, so it's recommended if you want to limit your shrub's spread.

Common Problems With Rose of Sharon

This shrub is generally robust in its preferred environment. However, inadequate conditions can cause some common issues to arise.

Leaves Turning Yellow

Overwatering is often the culprit when your shrub's leaves start to turn yellow. Make sure your shrub is planted in soil with sharp drainage and that it's never in waterlogged conditions. It might be necessary to transplant your shrub if it's in a poorly drained spot.

Not Blooming

Several issues can result in a shrub that isn't blooming well or at all. It's possible you might have pruned too late in the spring and removed flower buds by accident. Drought also can minimize blooming, so make sure to give your shrub some supplemental water during very hot and dry spells. Furthermore, soil that's deficient in phosphorus can result in low flower production and smaller blooms. Do a soil test to see whether you are dealing with any deficiencies, and apply fertilizer as needed.

FAQ
  • Is rose of Sharon easy to care for?

    This shrub can tolerate a variety of growing conditions and doesn't need much maintenance. Pruning to keep the shrub's desired shape and to limit its spread is often the task that takes the most time.

  • How fast does rose of Sharon grow?

    Rose of Sharon has a moderate growth rate, gaining around 1 to 2 feet per year.

  • Can rose of Sharon grow indoors?

    The small rose of Sharon varieties can be grown in containers indoors; however, they need good air circulation and direct sunlight to thrive. So it's best to bring your plant outdoors during the warmer months.