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Rose of Sharon Bush

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Bloom of rose of sharon.

Bloom of rose of sharon.

David Beaulieu

Plant Taxonomy of Rose of Sharon:

Plant taxonomy classifies rose of sharon, also called "althaea" or "althea," as Hibiscus syriacus.

Plant Type:

Rose of sharon is a deciduous flowering shrub.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones for Rose of Sharon:

The climate is most favorable for growing rose of sharon bushes in USDA plant hardiness zones 5-9.

Characteristics:

Generally speaking, rose of sharon bushes can get 8'-10' tall and have a spread of 4'-6'. However, some cultivars stay shorter (e.g., Hibiscus syriacus 'Minerva' reaches only 5'-8'). Blooms on rose of sharon can be white, red, lavender or light blue; some have double blooms. Most rose of sharon bushes bear small, deeply-lobed, light-green leaves (this trait may vary according to cultivar).

Pruning Rose of Sharon:

Although naturally a multi-stemmed shrub, this plant can be trained through pruning (in late winter) to have simply one main trunk; thus some people refer to it as rose of sharon "tree." It's 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.

Sun and Soil Requirements for Rose of Sharon:

Rose of sharon prefers full sun and well-drained soil. Older bushes may fall prey to fungal damage if you are growing them in areas without full sun.

Uses for Rose of Sharon in Landscape Design:

Its attractive and plentiful blooms make this plant fully capable of holding its own as a specimen. One's ability to shape rose of sharon also makes the shrub a prime candidate for hedges. But since rose of sharon bush is deciduous, it makes an effective privacy hedge only in summer. It could be used to achieve privacy around swimming pools, for instance. However, be aware that its blooms could attract unwanted bees.

Outstanding Qualities, More Growing Tips:

Rose of sharon blooms profusely, and its attractive flowers are its main selling point. Like other types of hibiscus, its flowers bear a striking stamen. Another feature giving the shrub value is its relatively late period of blooming (in the Northeastern U.S., it blooms in August). Rose of sharon is thus able to offer color when many flowering shrubs have long since ceased blooming.

A heat-lover, this shrub is also prized by growers in the Southeastern U.S. who crave plants that can stand up to summer's heat. The plant is reasonably drought-tolerant. In fact, if your rose of sharon has yellow leaves, it could be due to over-watering.

Don't give up on rose of sharon, thinking it's dead just because it hasn't leafed out by early summer. This plant not only blooms late, but leafs out late, as well, so be patient. When an althea's flower buds are not opening, that's another matter.

Nor are those the only problems associated with growing Hibiscus syriacus. Its seed drops and sprouts where you don't want it to, and the consequent need to remove the young plants manually is hardly conducive to low-maintenance landscaping. For those seeking help in getting rid of althea seedlings, I do, however, offer an alternative to pulling up the seedlings.

Rose of sharon isn't the only type of Hibiscus that flourishes outside of tropical and sub-tropical regions, although when you hear that genus referred to you may very well think immediately of the tender types seen on display in greenhouses. Another hardy hibiscus is Hibiscus moscheutos, known for its giant-sized flowers.


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