Source: © Frances Michaels (Green Harvest.com.au)
African rosemallow, false roselle, maroon mallow, Florida cranberry
Native (most likely) to tropical Africa
This plant is a short-lived perennial shrub in the subtropics and tropics but can be grown as an annual in cooler climates. It grows rapidly to 1.7 m high with deeply cut leaves similar to Japanese maple. The leaf colour of deep cranberry red is highly ornamental; the flowers are a small, very pretty, rose-pink hibiscus-type. Cranberry hibiscus is a hardy plant that thrives when it is warm and wet; it prefers full sun but will grow in partial shade. It needs ample water, rich, fertile, welldrained soil that is kept mulched and a pH of between 6.1 and 6.5.
Food: A very nutritious vegetable; the leaves are high in vitamins B3 (niacin), B2, A and C. It is high in protein and an excellent source of antioxidants and anthocyanins. The young leaves are known for their pleasantly tart flavour, eaten either raw or cooked. As the leaves contain oxalic acid, cranberry hibiscus should not be eaten in large amounts – e.g. as the only raw green vegetable in a salad – or more than once a week. Unlike Aibika, it is not particularly mucilaginous. Cranberry hibiscus leaves retain their colour after being cooked. Flowers are used to make teas or other drinks where they contribute colour rather than taste. In Central America the flowers are combined with ice, sugar, lemon, or lime juice and water to make a purple lemonade. Edible Landscaping: The vivid leaf colour makes this a good choice as a background plant in ornamental beds.
Recommended Planting Time: Cuttings are best taken when the soil temperature is at least 25°C.
Planting Depth: : It is easily propagated from cuttings 10 – 20 cm long, half buried in potting mix and kept moist.
Spacing: Space plants at 60 cm apart. The plant responds well to pruning, rapidly becoming bushy. Pruning also prolongs its life.
Cranberry Hibiscus is also available through Yandina Community Gardens
This article was kindly sourced by Judith Anderson:
“I first saw Cranberry Hibiscus is growing at Yandina CG, and I fell in love with the colour. I bought a couple of seedlings from the Gardens and, unlike the profile, I just stuck one into soil that hasn’t been greatly pampered and watered it, and it is growing well, although it isn’t big enough to try yet. Maria Page tells me she puts them wherever she can as they add colour, have lovely flowers and are edible.”