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What is a Rose of Sharon?

Mary McMahon
Updated: Feb 13, 2024

Rose of Sharon is a plant in the Hibiscus genus. This plant is native to Asia, specifically India and China, and it is widely cultivated in many regions of the world as an ornamental. As a general rule, Rose of Sharon thrives in USDA zones five through nine, making it among the hardier of the plants in this subtropical genus.

Although a plant known as the Rose of Sharon is mentioned in the Bible, the real identity of the Biblical plant is not known. Rose of Sharon is certainly a contender, but some translators have argued that the Biblical plant may have been a form of crocus, a lily, or even another plant in the Hibiscus genus. The confusion stems from an imperfect understanding of the Hebrew used in this section of the Bible, paired with numerous misprints and mistranslations over the centuries.

You may also hear this plant referred to as althea or Hibiscus syriacus. It has a naturally shrubby growth habit, developing woody stems, serrated leaves, and flat white, purple, pink, or even blue flowers. Many domesticated cultivars are variegated, with stunning color combinations and a rich color saturation which some people find quite striking. Garden stores in temperate and warm regions usually carry Rose of Sharon, often offering several cultivars for customers to choose from.

Rose of Sharon can grow to 10 feet (three meters) and sometimes even taller, and gardeners can prune and train it so that it turns into a tree with a single central trunk, rather than a shrubby bush. When Rose of Sharon is largely left alone, it tends to grow in a roughly pyramidal shape, and the branches can break, becoming unsightly.

This plant is deciduous, losing its leaves in the winter and growing them back in the spring. Rose of Sharon tends to leaf out and flower very late, leading some gardeners to think that their plant has died. A little bit of patience is usually rewarded, as the tree will leaf out eventually, sometimes waiting until summer to do so.

For best results in the garden, Rose of Sharon should be provided with fertile, well-drained soil and a very sunny spot in the garden. Mulching is not advised, as the roots are subject to rot, and Rose of Sharon especially likes hot summers. It is reasonably drought-tolerant, with fairly relaxed water requirements. Pruning for shaping can take place at any time.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By milagros — On Jul 15, 2009

It is a beautiful bush with light green leaves and large colorful flowers. I just got some small plants that I will plant in my garden, and hope for the best.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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