Vegetable Gardening for Beginners

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Rosella – Hibiscus subdantta

Rosella plant flower and calyx red

Origin: Native to tropical West Africa.

Family: Malvaceae.

Plant description:

  • Rosella is a fast growing annual shrub which reaches heights to 2 metres.
  • An attractive plant, with reddish green leaves and yellow flowers that resemble hibiscus. It is widely grown for its edible red fleshy calyx that are used in salads, jams, jellies, syrups, teas, wines and cordials.
  • The young leaves can be cooked like spinach and the fibrous stems can be used as jute substitute.

Growing conditions:

  • Rosella will grow in most soil types provided there is adequate drainage. The size of the harvest will depend on you providing plenty of water and fertiliser throughout the growing period. Once the rosellas starts to show signs of flowering, cease fertilising and only supply the plants with liquid seaweed.

How to Grow:

  • Sow seeds in early September- tropical areas or the onset of warm weather in other regions. Rosellas need a very warm soil, 25 degrees Celsius or over, to germinate. In cooler climates you will need to start the seeds indoors under glass, by using a bottom-heat propagating unit, or the top of a water heater.
  • Rosellas need at least 5 months of frost-free conditions to bear fruit.
  • To produce an abundant crop, three to five plants is all that is needed. These are usually grown from seed but can also be propagated from cuttings, but the yield will suffer from this. Leave approximately one square metre of growing space for each plant.

When to harvest:

  • Plants will generally begin to bear fruit when about they are approximately four months old and may continue to crop may for up to 9 months. It is advisable to remove the first “flush” of flowers. By doing this you will allow the plant to fully develop, which will provide you with more fruit in the coming months. Tip prune the Rosella when it becomes lanky to encourage a bushier, more productive plant.
  • The fruit is ready to pick when they are approximately 2 – 3cm across at their widest part. This is approximately 3 weeks after flowering.

Common problems:

  • Mealy bug and aphids may be your only adversaries with growing rosellas. If you have provided a balanced, regular fertiliser program along the way then these pests will probably not present themselves.