Archived Story

Gardening: Confederate roses shall rise again and again

Published 5:46pm Monday, October 21, 2013


For the Daily News


The Confederate rose (hibiscus mutabilis) is not a rose at all but a type of hibiscus. Blooming in October and November, this Southern favorite has soft and fuzzy green leaves and camellia-like, double pink flowers.

Depending on the variety, the flowers are either white or pink when they first bloom. In all varieties, the 4- to 6-inch-wide flowers slowly turn dark pink over their two- to three-day life span. Because the flowers of this plant come into bloom on different days, showy flowers of two or even three different colors can occur on the same branch at the same time. To ensure continued flowering, it is important to remove the dead flowers before they form a capsule and release seeds. The fuzzy capsule looks like a cotton boll, which is why the Confederate rose is also sometimes called the cotton rose.

In the deep South, the Confederate rose often grows like a tree and can reach a height of 15 feet, but in planting zones 7 and 8 (the Beaufort County area is in zone 8A), the plant behaves more like a perennial — growing to 6 to 8 feet by the fall and then dying back to the ground after the first winter frost, only to start the growth cycle over again in the spring.

The Confederate rose will grow in full sun or partial shade and needs plenty of water during hot weather. If the soil is too dry, the leaves will yellow, but too much watering can result in mildew and rot. Thoroughly soak the plant only every two to three days. Fertilize the plant with a high-potassium, water-soluble fertilizer (12-4-18) every other week according to package directions, watering the plant well after fertilizing.

Whiteflies, which are common on the Confederate rose and may cause the leaves to turn yellow and drop off, can be controlled with a commercial insecticide designed to kill whiteflies. Follow the label instructions carefully. Blackflies can be managed by spraying the plant with a horticultural oil spray; however, to protect the plant from any possible damage from the oil, avoid spraying the plant on hot, sunny days.

With just a little bit of care and attention, the Confederate rose will reward the gardener with large, beautiful flowers in the fall — a time of year when many other plants have stopped blooming.

The information for this article is given courtesy of the Beaufort County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers. If you have a gardening question, please contact the Beaufort Extension Master Gardener hotline at 946-0111 or email your question to: For local horticulture updates, follow Jacob Searcy on twitter: @BeaufortCo_Hort


November gardening calendar


Lawn care

Maintain cool season grasses by mow as needed.

Keep tree leaves from collecting on your lawn. Control fire ants with either a bait or contact.


Spread ashes from the fireplace around gardens and bulb bed where soil pH is below 6.0. Avoid acid-loving plants.


Plant 1-year-old asparagus crowns in the vegetable garden this month.

If you don’t use your garden through the fall and winter months, consider planting a cover crop like annual rye, barley, or wheat.

Now is a good time to set out or transplant landscape plants. Be sure to “open up” the root balls on container plants.


The foliage from existing asparagus can be cut down to the ground after the first killing frost.

Cut back herbaceous perennials after the frost kills the tops.

Any dead or diseased wood can be pruned out anytime of the year.

Weeds or unnecessary trees should be removed from the landscape.

Rootprune any plants you plan to move next spring.


None required.

Other activities

Take soil samples from your vegetable garden if you haven’t already done so.

If you have received your soil recommendations, apply lime as suggested. Don’t apply fertilizer till spring.

Order fruit trees and grape vines now if you wish to plant them in February and March.

Prepare bird feeders.

Don’t forget to water evergreens trees and shrubs thoroughly before winter.

Continue putting the leaves from your yard into a compost bin.

Poinsettias should be placed in the sunniest room in the house.

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