When A Rose Is Not A Rose

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet” ~William Shakespeare

Hybiscus syriacus 'Violet Satin' in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Hybiscus syriacus ‘Violet Satin’ (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

The blossoms of our local rose of sharon are bursting open across the landscape in bright shades of rosy pink, ivory white, crimson red, golden yellow and violet blue; their masses of sizable blooms lending a colorful twist to the parched summer landscape.  Where lawns are frazzled and brown, and the leaves of some deciduous trees have yellowed and fallen, the heat loving rose of sharon marches on in a band of color trumpeting “Summer is here, summer is here.”  And as many of us are mopping our sweaty brows watching the last blades of grass keel over, we can’t help but feel uplifted by those bountiful, cheerful flowers. 

Hybiscus syriacus 'Blue Satin' in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Hybiscus syriacus ‘Blue Satin’ (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Not to be confused with the hardy Hibiscus moscheutos (similar flower, zones 4-9, but dies back to ground), rose of sharon or Hibiscus syriacus is really not very rose-like at all.  Native to Eastern Asia and India, this is a hardy shrub (zones 5-9) that is capable of growing to 12′ tall in a sunny, well drained location.  But here’s where is gets interesting.  The rose of sharon is a very versatile shrub that can be used in many different situations; from placement in a garden bed or border to grouping to create a hedge.  Because varieties of Hybiscus syriacus can bloom from July to September, they provide a dazzling display that carries through until other fall blooming plants take over.

Double Pink Rose of Sharon in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Double Pink Rose of Sharon (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

If the sound of a 12′ shrub doesn’t appeal to you, take heart as rose of sharon takes to pruning like flies to manure.  That is to say, they thrive when pruned, continuing to bloom with abandon, and showing no decrease in flower size either.  If pruned at a young age, they maintain a dense form that flowers from bottom to top.  And that’s another reason to prune, as Hybiscus syriacus can get tall and gangly when allowed to grow unchecked, and flowers are often prolific only at the top portion of sizable shrubs. I  have grown and maintained a rose of sharon that’s at least 15 years old, and it’s still as petite as when I first started pruning her all those years ago.  With Hybiscus syriacus and other shrubs such as dwarf lilac, if consistently pruned to shape for a few years, they give up the fight and stay at the size you desire.  I haven’t touched mine in years, except to remove a few unhealthy limbs, and it remains about 5′, yet blooms outrageously as if it were ten times the size.

Bee drenched in Hybiscus Pollen in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Bee drenched in hybiscus pollen (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Unlike cousin moscheutos, this hibiscus does not attract Japanese beetles (Hibiscus moscheutos is a magnet, I swear!), tolerates blazing sun and drought, while happily flowering with colors that resist fading even under the most intense conditions.  Relatively maintenance free, the only chore is cleaning up piles (literally) of spent flowers that accumulate under the shrub and quickly get unsightly (good reason NOT to underplant with prickly juniper like I did-ouch!). I grow Hybiscus syriacus ‘Blue Satin’, a Proven Winners selection that has been a dependable, trouble free bloomer for me.  Though fragrance free, the hummingbirds and bees adore it, even though it really isn’t a rose . . .


  1. Now you tell me to prune her, now that she’s 10 feet tall… Still blooms like crazy!

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