Rose of Sharon

As I come and go from the little house on a big hill, I pass a garden filled with lavender rose of Sharon. As summer gardens are waning, this bush is still blooming like crazy.

Because of this garden and one I remember from childhood, I added Rose of Sharon to my garden this year. Like all my favorite plants, these small starts came from a friend’s garden.

Rose of Sharon is part of the mallow family and is related to the tropical hibiscus. Don’t let tropical relatives fool you; this plant is hardy in Zones 5-9 and can tolerate poor soil, heat, humidity, and drought once established.

Blooms come in many colors, including white, pink, lavender, and blue. They are easily recognized because of the trumpet-shaped flower with a darker color or throat deep inside and a prominent stamen in the center. 

I think of this as an old-fashioned bush – one found in cottage gardens and as a backdrop for other plantings. Because Rose of Sharon can grow to be 6-10 feet tall and 2-4 feet wide, it can be planted as a hedge, but keep in mind if planted for privacy, this is a deciduous bush and will lose its leaves in the winter.

For best results, pick a sunny spot where the bush will soak up at least six hours of sun each day. Place the plant where it will have room to grow and give it plenty of water until it is established in your garden. 

The beauty of Rose of Sharon is that a happy plant will bloom from late spring to late fall. Expect to see these blooms going strong until the first frost. The bush naturally grows in a large fan shape but can be pruned to form a column if needed. 

Plan to prune in the late winter or early spring. Don’t wait too long. Flowers form on new stem growth, and trimming too late in the season will prevent blooming that year. A hard prune of up to a third of the size every 5 or 6 years is a good idea to keep the bush healthy and encourage more blooming. Don’t fret about the size; Rose of Sharon can grow up to two feet a season.

More good news – there is no need to deadhead the blooms. They will fall off when done. Older varieties will self-seed from the dropped flowers. Breeders have worked with newer varieties to prevent them from being invasive.

Humming birds, butterflies, and other pollinators will be attracted to the flowers and find protection under the bush leaves. Rose of Sharon is deer resistant – as resistant as any flower – a hungry deer will eat just about anything.

As a kid, I remember picking the white blooms from the bush on the nearest corner. Then, I would carry them around in my bicycle basket. Soon, I hope to have my own to float in a bowl of water. To help these young transplants survive the winter, I will add extra mulch around the base of the plant and make sure they have water through the fall. With a bit of luck and a lot of sunshine, the plant should take off and begin growing taller in the spring.