Photo: Steve Bender

On a walk through the neighborhood yesterday, I came upon a glorious shrub with white, pink, and red blooms. It's the rose of fall that's not a rose at all.

It's actually a hibiscus -- Hibiscus mutabilis, to be exact. Though it's native to China, Southerners know it as Confederate rose. How come? Well, legend goes that during the Civil War, a wounded Confederate soldier fell at the base of a plant with white flowers and the shrub's roots soaked up the dying man's blood. Now when Confederate rose blooms, the blooms open up white, change to pink, and age to red -- often all three colors appear on the bush at once.

But this is just one kind of Confederate rose. Others open pink or white and stay that way. Mixing ketchup into the soil when planting is undoubtedly the answer here. I prefer Heinz.

emJust add ketchup. Not salsa. Photo: Steve Bender/em

Can I Grow Confederate Rose In Minnesota? Nope. Neither can you grow it in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Montana, Iowa, the Dakotas, Michigan, or any other state that's not in USDA Zones 8-11. Sooooooooooo sorry! Here in central Alabama, it usually dies to the ground in winter, growing back during the summer to 6 feet or so. Around the Gulf Coast and farther south, it grows into a small tree up to 20 feet tall.

Growing it here is easy. Just give in full to part sun. It grows in both regular soil and wet soil. Flowers appear in fall. You can order it online from Woodlanders Nursery or you can beg a piece from somebody who has one. Cuttings root easily in water.

I use to have a Confederate rose at my former house, but we moved in winter, so I couldn't take it with me. You think my current neighbor would grant me a cutting?

My goodness, he already has!