Rose Mallow


Check out the sunny wet areas along our roadsides and you can’t miss them. This early July heat is speeding their maturity, but they look like they are hanging tough. Huge white or pink blooms now adorn our landscape. Individual flowers have five equal petals and can be eight inches across.

Rose mallow, sometimes called perennial hibiscus or wild cotton, is a fast growing perennial that can grow up to seven feet tall. Plants die back to the ground each year. Stems are somewhat hairy and sport large toothed edged leaves with reddish veins which are triangular to heart-shaped. Close botanical relatives are hollyhock, rose of Sharon, tropical hibiscus, okra, and cotton.

Perennial hibiscuses are gorgeous on our roadsides and can make colorful additions to our gardens. They are long lived and attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Blooming from late June to early September, color can be quite prolific if old flowers are removed. Seeds ripen from August to October and can be collected and planted in our gardens in the spring.

This perennial is great for sunny areas with moist soil. They tolerate a wide pH range. The huge blooms make a stunning backdrop when used with shorter plants. Rose mallow is not overly invasive and won’t take over an area like some tall perennials can.

They are often late to emerge in spring, so don’t get concerned if they are late to show themselves. That might even be an advantage when planted with early spring bulbs like daffodils. The simple fact that mallows thrive in wet areas may be enough for some gardeners to try them.

Japanese beetles, aphids and a few species of moths are common pests, but severe infestations are rare. Bacterial leaf spot and gray mold can sometimes be a problem too, but plants are relatively disease resistant. These perennial hibiscuses aren’t as prone to scale as the tropical types either and since they die down to the ground each year they don’t provide protection for overwintering pests.

Flowers are edible and make a pleasing mild tea high in vitamin C. It is used medicinally to treat urinary problems. It has strong diuretic properties, thus increases urine flow.

Leaf extracts are even used in some shampoos. Numerous claims boast that chemicals in the hibiscus improve hair strength and the mucilage is good for the skin. Hibiscus extracts have been used externally to treat eczema. Leaf mucilage would thicken soups and sauces if used in them. Foliage is somewhat hairy and quite bland and not used much for that purpose, but no parts of the plant are poisonous.

Other Hibiscus species are used in commercial herb teas. You can even use rose of Sharon and the tropical type hibiscus too. Some use the leaves as a garnish or in salads. A related species common in Florida is prescribed successfully to treat hypertension. That shows great promise, but like with any medicinal herb we must pay attention to medications we take that might counteract or accentuate the results.

Solid pink ecotype

Late afternoon shot – flowers closed for the day.

Red-throated white flowered type

Close-up of flower

Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School.

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About tedmanzer

I grew up in Old Town Maine and got a B.S. at the University of Maine in Plant Sciences/ minor in Botany. From there I moved to West Virginia and earned a M.S. in Agronomy at WVU. I also met my wife there. She grew up in rural WV as the daughter of tenant farmers who raised cattle and hogs. Their lifestyle at times was one of subsistence and I learned a lot from them. I've always been a foraging buff, but combining my formal botanical knowledge with their practical 'Foxfire-type' background opened up my eyes a little more. I now teach agriculture to high school students at Northeastern High School in Elizabeth City, NC. My wife teaches with me and we make a great team. I also write a weekly nature/foraging column for the local paper (dailyadvance.com) and frequently publish articles in several other newspapers in northeastern North Carolina. I also have written several Christian nature/adventure novels that I plan to publish eventually. One is a five book family saga I call the 'Forgotten Virtues' series. In the first book, Never Alone, a young boy comes of age after his father dies in a plane crash, and he has to make it alone. Never Alone is now available in paperback, Kindle and Nook. The second book, Strange Courage, takes Carl from his High School graduation to his recovery from a nasty divorce. The third book, Second Chances, takes Carl from his ex-wife's death and the custody of his son to his heroic death at age 59. The fourth book, Promises Kept, depicts how his grandchildren react and adjust to his death. In the final book, Grandfather's Way, his youngest and most timid granddaughter emerges from the shadow of her overachieving family and accomplishes more in four months than most do in a lifetime. I use many foraging references with a lot of the plants I profile in these articles in those books.
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26 Responses to Rose Mallow

  1. I think these flowers are beautiful. Who knew that they use theseflowers in shampoo? Its nice to learn something new about flowers and shampoo.

  2. Oh my gosh , my grandmother has the red-throated white flowered , and some yellow ones , idk what they’re called , but she makes me water them almost everyday over the summer ! They’re so beautiful !

  3. kimberlypaigeweaver says:

    I find it interesting how this is used in some shampoos. I never would have thought that a flower could also help treat urinary problems. Do you what type of teas have this in there?

  4. donnashawna says:

    i find this flower is very beautiful and very diffrent because you can use it in shampoos. and how the pedles is white. And it is red in the inside and it can be seven feet tall and it have 2 names

  5. amandawensel says:

    This flower is very unique, it has many uses you would never would have imagined from a simple flower such as this one. its used in shampoo, teas, and helps fight infections.

  6. I like the colors and the way this flower looks and its cool that it can help with urinary problems and used in cosmetology.

  7. I didn’t know that flowers can be used for tea. When I think of tea I usally think of leaves not flowers.

  8. seankathryn says:

    i think this flower is beautiful, love the redish coloring in the middle, thats cool they use it in shampoos too!

  9. susiehedley says:

    The Rose Mallow seems like a very convenient plant, how it’s not overly invasive, relatively disease resistant, attractive, and can be used for so many purposes.

  10. Ajfelton says:

    I think ive used a shampoo with rose mallow in it …im not sure. But very beautiful plant not invasive . Can be used for many things.

  11. awhitenhs12 says:

    Very beautiful plant, i didnt know that they were edible. We have a lot of these around my house.

  12. This is such a cool plant, by how it looks, what you can use it for, and using it for edible purposes.

  13. this flower is edible, and can be used for cosmetology. I always seen these around and thought wow, thats really a pretty plant

  14. this is a beautiful flower before it blooms in my opinion but the fact that it has so many uses makes it so much better

  15. never realized this plant was in shampoos? As well as the plant being used in teas to help urinary problems…. very interesting.

  16. tjones123 says:

    This is a pretty flower. the amount of uses amazes me. ive never noticed this plant.

  17. sbright16 says:

    I would have never actually thought this flower would be used in shampoo or help with your urinary problems. & also that you could eat them .

  18. I never thought that this is used for teas and shampoo.I like the colors on it.

  19. zachvanett says:

    Its really intersting thath we can use it for shampoo

  20. zachvanett says:

    its really cool thath it can be used in tea to help people with urinary problems

  21. cjbvans says:

    I’ve seen this flower many times before, never knew that it was used in some shampoos though

  22. a flower that i thought its main use was for decoration cause of the brightness of the flower, never known it had medical uses

  23. this is an especially beautiful flower! I love that it is used in shampoos, and is high in vitamin C!

  24. it is a very pretty flower and i’d never think that it would be used in some shampoos, its also cool that it helps with urinary problems.

  25. It’s cool that hibiscus extracts can be used to treat eczema and the leaf can thicken soups and sauces.

  26. i think its nice that it helps with urinary problems and and can be used to treat eczema

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