Q. I grew a rose of Sharon in the Austin, Texas area and read “they are easy to grow” here in the Albuquerque area. When is the best time to plant one? From my memory, in the early 1990’s when I planted, I watered and fed them until they grew and flowered a bit, then I really just let them go. Same for this area? – J.S., Albuquerque
A. Easy to grow would be a great definition on how wonderfully the rose of Sharon does here in this climate.
Hibiscus syriacus, or rose of Sharon, is defined as a deciduous shrub (drops its leaves each autumn) that can easily grow to a height of upwards to 10 feet tall and 6 feet wide if it’s kept healthy.
They tend to be compact-shaped shrubs when young, then open and spread a bit more as they age. So be sure that if you have a small space to offer a rose of Sharon; you’ll want to keep it pruned to fit the space. But they do take to pruning or shaping without any hard feelings, making them a very malleable shrub for the landscaping.
The rose of Sharon is usually fairly pest-free, too. When they are in flower, they are an excellent provider for lots of pollinators, so that makes them even more valuable in the landscape.
The leaves are a good green color, kind of toothy-edged and withstand our hot, sunny weather with ease all through the growing season. They are strong enough to deal with the windy weather, too.
The flowers are what the rose of Sharon is most recognized for, and you have lots of choices. You can find varieties offering brilliant white flowers, some with light lavender blooms, deep magentas or true purples. You’ll also be able to find types that sport different colored “throats” in the center of the blooms, complimenting the petal colors.
There are also several varieties that wear flowers called doubles, meaning the flowers look like powder puffs, as opposed to a single that reminds one of the state flower of Hawaii. The flowers are usually fairly large, too.
I read and reread your missive several times and wondered how your rose of Sharon dealt with living in Austin. You said you tended it in the beginning, offering augmented water until it took, then left it to its own devices. I poked around the internet and found a website from the University of Texas at Austin listing averages in precipitation. Learning that Austin averages upwards of 35 inches of precipitation a year, that answered my concern as to how your roses were able to survive.
Here in this climate we wouldn’t know what to do with 35 inches of water a year.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a healthy, happy shrub here. You’ll just need to offer water periodically throughout the growing season and a couple of times during the dormant months, too.
Now is one of the best times to plant a rose of Sharon and I believe that you have until mid-May to get one in the ground. Allowing the shrub time to settle in before the heat of the year comes will help ensure its long-term health.
You’ll want to offer a deep drink of water initially every day for the first 10 days to two weeks after planting, then gradually weaning back to a deep drink every 10 days. If it gets hot, stays dry and is at all windy, you’ll want to offer water a bit more often.
If, during the heat of the day it looks a bit droopy, that’s OK. But if by late afternoon through early dusk the foliage doesn’t perk back up, that’s a sign the plant is yearning for a drink.
So, as far as growing a rose of Sharon here, it won’t be exactly how you tended to the one you had in Austin, but know that yes, they grow well here, are really long-lived and remarkably sturdy individuals. I’d recommend getting out there and find the perfect rose of Sharon to grace your landscaping.
Happy Diggin’ In.
Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to email@example.com.