Rose of sharon blooms

Rose of Sharon isn’t fussy about how or when it’s pruned

Question: We have a hedge of Rose of Sharon plants down the side of our driveway. They’re getting a little overgrown. They’re also very thick because they’ve spread by seed, too. What is the best time to prune them, and how do we do it?

Answer: Unlike most other trees and shrubs, Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) isn’t fussy about how and when you prune it. There are, however, several things to consider before pruning your plants.

Rose of Sharon blooms on new wood. This means the flowers that appear in summer come from buds that develop on the plant just a few weeks prior to bloom-time.

In contrast, many spring-blooming shrubs, such as forsythia, lilacs, azaleas and saucer magnolias, form their flower buds the season prior to their bloom (on old wood). Improper pruning of those types of plants may mean that you accidentally cut off your flowers for the season.

However, summer-flowering shrubs that bloom on new wood, such as your Rose of Sharon, offer more flexibility in terms of pruning. And, since Rose of Sharons are notoriously tough and resilient plants, there is really only one time when you DON’T want to prune them — late spring.

Rose of Sharon pruning is best performed at one of these four times:

1. In late summer just after the plant finishes blooming

2. In autumn

3. In winter

4. In very early spring, before the plant leafs out.

Some people prefer to prune Rose of Sharon in winter, when there are no leaves on the plant, so they can readily see the shrub’s structure — and this is just fine. However, I prefer to prune my Rose of Sharon just after it blooms in late summer.

Not only does this keep the shrub from growing too large for its space, but it also keeps the plant from throwing thousands of seeds that could grow on to become weedy in the landscape.

If you choose to prune right after bloom time as I do, be sure you’re cutting the plant back far enough to remove all or most of the seed pods before they crack open and disburse the seeds. If you’re pruning in the fall, winter or early spring, the seeds will have already been shed.

A good rule of thumb when it comes to how far back to cut the plants is to never remove more than one-third of the total height or girth of a tree or shrub in any one year.

Don’t use a hedge trimmer to shear the shrub into a meatball shape. Instead, use a pair of hand pruners to judiciously thin out branches down to the point where they meet another branch. This retains the beautiful natural shape of a shrub while still keeping its growth contained and managed.

If your Rose of Sharon is extremely overgrown, take off one-third this year and one-third next year, rather than doing it all at once. This is a lot less visually dramatic and enables the plant to rebound a little in between major prunings.

And, as always, when pruning your Rose of Sharon, be sure to use a sharp pair of pruners or a hand saw. Prior to starting the job, sterilize the blade with a quick dip in a 10 percent bleach solution or a spray of disinfectant. This will kill any pathogens on the pruning equipment that could go on to cause problems for your shrubs.

Always prune on dry days and take your time to ensure the job is done correctly.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio with Doug Oster. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is jessicawalliser.com.

  • Horticulturist Jessica Walliser is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden,” “Good Bug, Bad Bug,” and her newest title, “Container Gardening Complete.” Her website is jessicawalliser.com. Send your gardening or landscaping questions to or The Good Earth, 622 Cabin Hill Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601.

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    My Rose Of Sharon Is Not Blooming – Reasons For No Rose Of Sharon Flowers

    A rose of sharon without blossoms is just a nice shrub. The spectacular flowers that emerge from this landscaping favorite are why you put it in in the first place. If you aren’t seeing any flowers on your rose of Sharon, there is likely a simple problem that can be solved, although it may not be until next year that it blooms again.

    No Rose of Sharon Flowers

    Rose of sharon is a beautiful shrub that gives you pink, white, or purple flowers in abundance, after other plants have finished blooming, except for those years when something goes wrong. There are several reasons you may either see no buds forming or your buds fail to open and simply fall off prematurely:

    • Excessive shade and too little sun.
    • Drought during an exceptionally dry summer.
    • Rot caused by an exceptionally rainy summer or spring or because of soil that isn’t draining.
    • Inadequate phosphorus.
    • Inappropriate or inadequate pruning.
    • Pests or disease.

    What to Do When Rose of Sharon Won’t Flower

    Having no blooms on a rose of sharon is a real bummer, and it may seem like there are several problems that could be a cause. The good news is that most of these are simple fixes, although making corrections now may not get you flowers until next season.

    If your shrub isn’t getting enough sun or the soil doesn’t drain enough, you may need to move it to a better location. More likely the issue is one of over- or under-watering, though, which is easier to correct. Your rose of sharon should get about one to one and a half inches (2.5 to 4 cm.) of water each week. Too much water and rot can prevent flowering. Too little water will stop flowers as well.

    If your rose of sharon is not blooming and you give it the right amount of water and sun, it may be that your shrub isn’t getting enough phosphorus. This is easily fixable with a high-phosphorus, low-nitrogen fertilizer every couple of weeks. Bone meal helps too.

    Pruning can also be an issue, as new blooms form only on new branches. If you never prune back older branches, you’ll get fewer flowers. Only prune in the late winter or early spring; otherwise, you may prune off buds, resulting in no flowers.

    Finally, check your rose of sharon for signs of pests or disease. Look for aphids on the undersides of leaves and buds. If the buds form but don’t open, look for rotting inside, which can indicate a fungal infection. For aphids, use an insecticidal soap or neem oil. For a fungal infection, use an appropriate spray from your local nursery (neem oil works for this too). In the future, prune the shrub to let air circulate better and destroy any diseased buds carrying the fungus.

    Rose of Sharon, sometimes hyphenated to Rose-of-Sharon, is a delightful summer-blooming garden shrub.

    Rose of Sharon key facts

    Name – Hibiscus syriacus
    Family – Mallow family (Malvaceae)
    Type – summer shrub

    Foliage – deciduous
    Flowering – May through Oct/Nov
    Exposure – full sun, tolerates part sun

    This blooming shrub has been listed as noteworthy by ancient Greek men of science. Its beauty led it to be cultivated in gardens of Mesopotamia and the Renaissance saw it spread across Europe.

    How to plant Rose of Sharon

    Rose of Sharon exposure

    Rose of Sharon is native to semi-tropical regions (Southern China, Northern India). It’s used to getting a lot of light.

    • Full sun suits Rose of Sharon best.
    • It tolerates part shade, but won’t do very well in areas that are constantly overshadowed.

    In many places, Rose of Sharon is planted along roads and highways where it thrives and brings beauty to daily commutes.

    Planting Rose of Sharon directly in the ground

    Some Rose of Sharon varieties are hardy down to 20° F (-5 or -6°C), these can be planted in the ground in most parts. Non-hardy varieties will have to be grown in containers.

    • Plant your Rose of Sharon shrub in Spring for best growth, but Fall is also a good option.
    • This step is important. Check how to plant shrubby trees.
    • Proper drainage helps keep Rose of Sharon safe in winter, but doesn’t matter in non-freezing areas (as long as proper exposure is provided).

    Growing Rose of Sharon in pots and containers

    Many of the wildly attractive blooming Rose of Sharon varieties are tropical hibiscus hybrids and aren’t quite as hardy. Container growing makes it easy to bring them indoors for the winter, where you can store them in a greenhouse or lean-in.

    • Any regular, healthy soil mix will do.
    • Double-check that drainage works and excess water flows out freely.
    • Repot every year, or ever two years, to replenish soil nutrients.

    The constant summer blooming drains soil nutrients fast, so repotting is an important step to ensure abundant blooming. For larger pots, consider topdressing with rich compost.

    Watering Rose of Sharon

    Rose of Sharon is a plant that likes water and doesn’t cope well with extended drought, especially for younger specimens.

    • Old Rose of Sharon shrubs can survive moderate droughts well but young plants need daily watering.
    • Water in the evening to conserve water without losing it to evaporation.
    • Mulch with organic mulch, clay pebbles to lock moisture in, but avoid mineral mulch which might weigh down on roots and provide excessive mineralization.

    Rose of Sharon is rather sensitive to water that is excessively loaded with salts and minerals. It’s best to collect rainwater in the garden to give it pure, mineral-free water!

    When grown indoors in pots, it helps to provide moisture to the air around the plant. This helps recreate moist environments that some tropical Rose of Sharon varieties are native to.

    Pruning and trimming Rose of Sharon

    Rose of Sharon, while it isn’t a tree, can grow impressively large. It’s a bit like jasmine in that respect, reaching sizes of 6 feet across and 12 feet tall (almost 2 meters wide and 4 meters tall).

    When well settled in, in a suitable environment, Rose of Sharon will grow multiple trunks and turn into a dense flowering thicket in under 5 years. Pruning is important to contain this and keep a nice, clustered bearing.

    How to prune Rose of Sharon

    Pruning in spring is the best time. It ensures your Rose of Sharon won’t suffer from frost at the wounds, while still giving plenty of time for new wood to grow. Blooms appear on new wood.

    • Prepare sharp pruning loppers or garden shears.
    • Remove small scraggly stems and dead wood that may have died off in winter.
    • Cut two-thirds of each stem off the Rose of Sharon, just above a bud.
    • Select a few key stems to form a bowl-like shape, and remove most of the center ones to let light shine through the entire plant.

    It’s also possible to work with Rose of Sharon into espalier shapes. This is nice and rather uncommon for Rose of Sharon, so pruning it into palmate patterns or along a wall will make for a surprising and appealing impact!

    Rose of Sharon, when used as a flowered hedge, will only provide privacy when diligently pruned to branch out a lot. It’s a good solution to separate portions of a garden without completely shutting each out.

    Deadheading and removing Rose of Sharon flowers

    Some Rose of Sharon varieties are infertile, which means seed pods don’t fully form. But most varieties actually go to seed very successfully, and quickly spread seeds around them when the pods burst open.

    • To limit the spread of your Rose of Sharon plants, remove wilted flowers regularly, or at least towards the end of summer.
    • Removing wilted flowers will trigger more blooming, even in the case of sterile varieties.

    Learn more about Rose of Sharon

    Rose of Sharon bears a name that draws back to near-mystical times. It’s actually named after a flower mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible, in the book of Salomon. Sharon refers to a place in the Middle East that was rich and fertile, and the unceasing blooms of the Rose of Sharon highlighted this abundance.

    Like the passion flower, the Buddha’s Hand citrus, and the Judas tree among others, Rose of Sharon shows how culture and quest for meaning are intimately connected to every day life. Every gardener can remember a moment of awe and wonder at a marvelous flower, a sprouting seedling, or a favorite plant seemingly resurrecting from the dead! (Less favorite plants, too. Weeds are good at this resurrection thing…)

    Rose of Sharon can be used in hedges, as a standalone and it can also be added to a sun-endowed shrub bed. The more sun it gets, the more flowers it will bear!

    Diseases and pests are almost never a problem to the Rose of Sharon Hibiscus.

    Smart tip about the Rose of Sharon

    Try sprouting some of the seeds and let them reach blooming age. In many cases, flowers will grow in new colors and shapes compared to the mother plant!

    Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
    Pale pink rose of Sharon by young seo under license
    White-colored Rose of Sharon by choe yongwoo under license

    Branching out.Flower arranging with shrubs.

    For the second time this year I realized that I could deal with unwieldy shrubs and fill my house with flowers all at the same time.

    Earlier this year I dealt with a particularly aggressive rose bush by clipping off a few of the branches and bringing them inside. The rose bush got cleaned up and the dining room buffet got a little snappier.

    Now, it’s another rose that’s out of control. I have a Rose of Sharon shrub that has developed into more of a weeping willow. A weeping Sharon I guess you could say. The branches are literally bending over and touching the ground. I’m not usually one to complain when something bends over backwards for me, but when they contort themselves to the point of looking foolish, I feel I must put a stop to it.

    So I started hacking.

    Before I put the branches into the jug, I cut the bottom of the branches with pruners vertically up about 4 inches. So the bottom of the branch was split in two, allowing a lot more room for the plant to suck up water.

    I expected the branches to be dead by morning, or at the very least looking forlorn. But it’s been 3 days now and they still look perfect. The flowers are fine and new ones are opening.

    So if you have a yard (or you have access to someone else’s yard) take a look outside for what you can hack. This time of year you can look for Hydrangeas, Rose of Sharon, Rose branches, Sedum, and Hosta flowers. Of course there are many more you can cut but those are the ones I can actually see from my window right now, so I figured I’d go with those. No use using my imagination if I don’t have to.

    You think this hacking is impressive? You should see me with a computer. Just as fun but the end results aren’t nearly as pretty.

    Your name: Althea Wiles
    Your Business name: Rose of Sharon Floral Designs
    Your Location: Northwest Arkansas (Fayetteville)

    How did you start your business?
    During college, I volunteered at a local shop during Spring Break. It was instant love. After Spring Break was over, I was offered a part time job. (I guess 40 free hours of work really did show dedication.) After four years of work in traditional floral shops, I realized that I really enjoyed event work. The local shops were all general florists with gifts, houseplants, daily delivery and the like. I decided to start my own business where I could focus my talents on weddings and other events. We recently expanded to include some of these traditional items, but events are still my first love.

    How many years have you been in business?
    I opened the Rose of Sharon 15 years ago in 1998 and I’ve been a florist for 19 years.

    What is your design aesthetic?
    Natural, organic and organized. Every flower is beautiful, I try to show this in each and every arrangement. My favorite designs are the ones that go with the will of the flower rather than forcing it into a shape or design. The mechanics of a design are also very important. To me, it’s not a good design unless it’s structurally sound. The organized, list-making side of me I likes repetition, which is part of why I enjoy event work.

    How do you create your style and where do you draw your inspiration?
    I draw my inspiration from other florists and from my clients. I view myself as a commercial artist–it’s my job to bring my client’s floral vision to life. I love looking at the work of other florists and thinking about how I would create something similar. But when I’m creating for myself, my inspiration comes from the flowers themselves. I generally design around whatever flower has captured my attention that day.

    What are the trends, flowers & colors that are unique to your region?
    Northwest Arkansas is all about nature. The ‘wildflower’ just-picked look is very popular. Oh, and anything Farmers’ Market.

    Are you a retail shop, studio/warehouse or home based?
    Retail shop with studio roots.

    Do you offer any services in addition to floral designs?
    We offer event florals at two levels: couture and events-to-go. Couture events are our full service events. Events-to-go include hybrid DIY events, long distance planning, and design workshops. We also offer sympathy designs, plants, chocolates, everyday designs, and corporate event designs.

    What tool in your toolbox can’t you live without?
    Oasis cold glue. My knife. Bullion wire.

    What’s your favorite flower?
    I don’t have one. I love finding the ‘perfect’ bloom and I love the unusual. I do have a least favorite, however. I really dislike Matsumoto Asters.

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