Confederate rose. Photo by Steve Bender.

Question from Desperate Reader: I live in Texas and have had a Confederate rose for 5 years. The first three years, it bloomed beautifully. The last two years, we've had record heat and drought and it hasn't bloomed at all. Should I blame the weather?

Grumpy's Totally Correct Answer: Blaming the weather always makes us feel good and in this instance is absolutely justified. So don't feel bad. It wasn't your fault.

Confederate rose isn't a rose at all. As I wrote in an earlier post, it's actually a species of hibiscus (Hibiscus mutabilis) native to China. Where Grumpy lives in north-central Alabama, it grows into a large shrub about 6 to 8 feet tall that dies to the ground in winter and comes back. Farther south, it becomes a small tree. Showy flowers appear atop the foliage in fall. They may be solid white or pink, but the most prized form, 'Plena,' (shown above) sports double blooms that open white, change to pink the next day, and then darken to red. You can order one from Woodlanders.

Why didn't yours bloom? Like you said, extreme heat and drought. Confederate rose blooms on new growth. If it's too hot and dry, there isn't much new growth to bloom on. Another common cause (though not in this case) is a hard frost in fall that kills the flower buds.

Grumpy's on Vacay!

emIsle of Santorini. Photo by HBarrison./em

That's right! For the next couple of weeks, Grumpy will be cruising to exotic locales all over the known world as he seeks to recharge his gardening batteries. He will not be able to check email during this time, so either wait until October 29 to post a gardening question or wait patiently for an answer.

Don't think Grumpy has abandoned you. In the time I'm away, I will be answering a gardening question sent in by a faithful reader right here every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday.

Now could I please have another glass of red?


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