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Gardeners' Dirt: Confederate rose - a pretty pink charmer

By By Jean Wofford - Victoria County Master Gardener Edited by Charla Borchers Leon
Sept. 29, 2011 at 4:29 a.m.

Confederate rose buds are large, with  blooms that are 4 to 6 inches in diameter. The bright green leaves make the plant attractive, even without the pretty pink blooms.

CONFEDERATE ROSES

Easy to propagate

Have few or no pests

Like full sun

Flourish with little to no care

Are beautiful in the landscape

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This spring, I waited with bated breath to see if my beautiful Confederate roses would return. They did fine after the hard freezes, and they put out new growth at the soil line. My big one sprouted from the limbs but not from the tips of the limbs. It also had a lot of new growth along the trunk this spring and summer.

Each year, they are so refreshing when very few things are in bloom. The heat of the summer is abating, the earth is sort of settling down, and I am hoping for cooler weather when I check on my Confederate rose tree. What a thrill to find it either budding or better yet, in full bloom.STANDARD IN SOUTHERN GARDENS

The Confederate rose is neither Confederate nor is it a rose. The plant actually originated in China. It was brought to the gardens of Europe around the year 1690, but the entrance into southern states was unknown. My research only states that it made its appearance during the colonial times. By the 19th century, this wonderful plant was considered to be a standard in southern gardens.

One of my sources said the Confederate rose was very popular after the Civil War because it was so easy to propagate and care for.WHAT'S IN ITS NAME?

The Confederate rose is actually a type of hibiscus. The botanical name is Hibiscus mutabilis. The name mutabilis actually means "changeable." In this case, it refers to the changing of the color of the blooms.

Pretty in Pink - Some bud out pink, change to white then back to pink. There is one in my neighborhood that does this. Mine blooms pink and gets darker pink, then the bloom drops. Unless the day is overcast, the blooms only last one day. However, there are so many buds that I do have continual blooms for about a month.

Cotton Rose - The Confederate rose is also called cotton rose or rose mallow because it is said to resemble a cotton boll. I really don't see it when I look at the bloom. I only see the beautiful ruffled flower in a lovely shade of pink that reminds me of a very fine silk flower. The seed pod, however, does look like a cotton boll - and thus the name.SIZES VARY

One of my Confederate rose plants is about 25 feet tall. It has grown into a beautiful tree with large rough leaves. The leaves are sort of hairy on the bottom, bright green, and even without the blooms, it is a nice plant. It is planted at the back of my garden and can readily be seen from the street in the front, especially when it is in full bloom. This plant's trunk is about 6 inches in circumference.

There is one in my neighborhood that has multiple trunks and is about 8 feet tall. This is the one that blooms white and changes to beautiful pink as it ages. It actually looks like a shrub instead of a tree like one of my own Confederate roses. There is also a "Rubra" variety that has red flowers according to Extension horticultural sources.OCTOBER BLOOMS

For some reason, I always associate pink blooms with spring and early summer bloom periods, but the Confederate rose blooms into October. The buds are large and the blooms are 4-6 inches in diameter. They are very full, ruffled and a beautiful shade of pink. When it blooms, it is a sight to see. Dr. Bill Welch, extension horticulturist, has indicated that the bloom season usually lasts from summer through fall.PROPAGATION

Confederate rose plants are very easy to propagate. My tree that is about 25 feet tall started with a cutting in a small flower pot. I have read that the seeds are easy to start as well, but I haven't tried that. Although they propagate best in early spring, I put a cutting into a pot last fall, left it outside all winter and was thrilled to see new growth starting at the soil line in early spring.

Just that Easy - Go purchase one from your nursery - or ask someone with the plant to give you a few cuttings. Just take a small piece, about a foot or so long. Dip the newly-cut piece in rooting hormone and put it into a small pot filled with good soil. Keep the soil damp for a couple of weeks, and you should have a new plant soon. Confederate rose plants are just that easy to start.

LITTLE CARE REQUIRED

I put very little effort into caring for my Confederate rose plants. They get very little water. I never have had any pests on them. I do give them a light feeding when I feed other plants in my garden.

Try adding this easy, southern pink bloomer to your garden. It surely will charm you - and your neighbors.

The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or vcmga@vicad.com, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.

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