Hibiscus mutabilis [hi-BIS-kus, mew-TAB-ill-iss] is known and grown for its beautiful showy flowers. It is a member of the Malvaceae or hibiscus tree family.
Their gorgeous blooms and foliage make for a hardy hibiscus plant growing color-changing flowers which take on a different hue as the sun goes up during the day.
When the U.S. was still divided between North and South, these plants were commonly found in the South or Confederate states.
This is where the common name Confederate Rose comes from.
Other common names include:
- Cotton rosemallow
- Dixie rosemallow
- Rose Dixie mallow
- Cotton rose
They are native to East Asia, especially China and Japan but have been naturalized in other areas around the world.
They are deciduous plants but become perennial further north.
Either way, they become the garden’s glory.
Hibiscus Mutabilis Care
Size & Growth
The plant has a fast growth rate, bearing remarkable rich green foliage and white to hot pink flowers.
In the right conditions, the plant grows up to 6’ – 15’ feet tall.
In Zones 9-10 however, it tops at 6’ – 8’ feet.
It has a woody trunk and shrub-like foliage sporting bright green leaves.
Flowering and Fragrance
The beautiful inflorescences of the confederate rose are the glory of the plant.
During its summer bloom season, it produces bounds of large showy flowers.
Flowers are double and single and are typically 4” – 6” inches in diameter.
The blooms first open white. As the sun comes up and goes down during the day, they change colors from white to deep pink or bright pink flowers.
The ‘Rubra’ variety of the plant produces red flowers.
Light & Temperature
The plant is hardy to USDA Hardiness zones 7 through 10.
In Zones 9 and 10, the plant can grow quite splendidly.
In zones 7-8, the plant will die back after the first freeze.
But with proper care, it sprouts vigorously the next spring.
Temperatures between 55° – 64° degrees Fahrenheit (13° – 18 ° C) are optimal, especially for germination and during the bloom season.
Since it is native to temperate climates, the plant prefers full sun but can do well in partial shade too.
Watering and Feeding
This plant type requires a moderate amount of moisture.
This means you should water Dixie rosemallow plants regularly in the summer to maintain the soil’s moisture levels at a medium scale.
Be careful about overwatering as it may lead to root rot or other problems.
Also, water sparingly in winter, mulch plants to retain moisture.
As for feeding, a well-balanced liquid fertilizer works well.
During the growing season, along with watering the plant freely, feed the plant several times (6-8 weeks) with a hibiscus plant food to see lush growth.
Soil & Transplanting
The cotton rosemallow doesn’t have strict soil or transplanting requirements.
Native to temperate climates, it does well in most average-quality soils.
However, you have to ensure it’s well-drained yet still retains a medium amount of moisture.
As for transplanting, transplant soft-wood cuttings when the plant gets big enough.
Be careful while doing so to avoid disturbing the root system.
Grooming and Maintenance
This tree-like shrub is a fast grower.
When it’s been provided all the required growing conditions, it spreads magnificently.
The growth can sometimes be a little too much.
Deadhead the flowers and prune back overgrown or leggy foliage to give the pant some shape.
How To Propagate Confederate Roses
The plant is propagated with seeds and with stem cuttings.
If you’re using seeds, they are best sown in early spring in a greenhouse.
- The optimal temperature is between 55° – 64° degrees Fahrenheit (13° – 18° C).
- Germination is pretty rapid.
- Once the seedlings are large enough to be handled gently prick them into individual pots.
If you’re growing the plants as annuals, shift them to their permanent location in early summer and protect them with a cloche, etc.
For perennials, grow them inside a greenhouse for the first year before transplanting them out in early summer next year.
Cutting of stem or half-ripe wood is also an efficient way to propagate the plant.
In late summer to early fall, plant them in a frame and overwinter in a greenhouse.
Once the last frosts have passed, plant them in their permanent locations.
Confederate Hibiscus Pests and Diseases
The Confederate rose is destined to be a hardy hibiscus.
While being resistant to deer and drought, the plant is also usually problem-free.
There is no threat of serious pests or disease issues plaguing the plants.
However, there is some vulnerability to the common pests.
It’s suggested you keep an eye out for hibiscus aphid attacks, scale insects, mealybugs, and powdery mildew.
Consult your local garden centers or nursery to find a solution.
Suggested Confederate Rose Uses
This deer-resistant and drought-tolerant plant is a great addition to any shrubby landscape.
They add stunning showy flowers to garden shrub borders in the summer with dramatic foliage. They are also great as foundation plants.
If you want to bring their floral beauty a bit indoors, on your front or back porch, plant the shrub in containers.
Just make sure the container is larger than 3-gallon size with excellent drainage to keep the plants happy.
One benefit of the plant is its ability to attract pollinator like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
This is why they make an eye-catching addition to pollinator gardens and home gardens can benefit from these pollinators.