Sunday, July 25, 2010

Growing Roselle Hibiscus & Mint

Roselle and Peppermint

Roselle is a type of hibiscus that's very easy to grow in Kihei. Roselle tea is popular in Florida, Jamaica, Mexico and Thailand. Roselle is one of the main ingredients in Red Zinger tea - it's also called Red Hibiscus or Florida Cranberry.

Roselle is commercially grown in sub-tropical and tropical areas of the world. In addition to being grown for tea and beverages, the plants are used for making rope, twine, baskets and a course fabric.

In the sub-tropics, Roselle is moderately sensitive to increasing and decreasing daylight but it can be grown year round. Regardless of the month it's planted, it will take close to 3 months before the plant begins to flower and produce calyxes. I've planted Roselle at different times of the year and I think the best months to plant seeds are February through April. When planted in the spring, the plants grow larger, fuller and produce good size calyxes all summer long.

The calyxes should be cut when they're a bright, shiny cranberry red and about 1.5 to 2 inches long. If left on the branches too long, they begin to dry and turn a dull, dark red but these can be harvested for the seeds. The calyxes can be used fresh cut from the branches or dried. If you're growing Roselle for tea , after the calyxes are harvested the seed capsule should be removed.

Fresh Roselle can be chopped and added to salads or ground in a food grinder and made into chutney or marmalade. Fresh or dried Roselle can be used for making tea - it has a citrus like flavor and it's a good source of vitamin C.

In Early July
At 3 months - growing in a container

I've grown Roselle in the ground and in containers - it grows into a large bush - up to 5 ft. tall and 5 ft. wide. The plant above was grown from seed that was planted during the first week of April and is growing in a 20 gallon container. Roselle is a plant I've been able to grow successfully in the acidic Kihei soil but it does require a generous amount of compost and organic all-purpose fertilizer mixed into the soil in order to thrive.

In Early July
At 3 months - growing in the ground

Whether planted in a garden bed or planted in a container, I recommend adding a generous amount of an organic all-purpose fertilizer at least once per month. Mature plants require a significant amount of water in our hot, dry climate especially during the summer months.

The seeds that were planted in April produced an abundance of calyxes all summer long. By October there were significant changes as the plants began losing leaves and producing calyxes that were 50% smaller. These calyxes went to seed much faster than those produced during the summer.

In Late December
Looking Very Twiggy at 9 Months

In December, the plants began dying back. A 9 month growth cycle has been typical when planted in different months of the year.

In general, Roselle is pretty hardy but it can be damaged by powdery mildew when there's a large presence of spores in the air. Sometimes the beetles (there are several including the rose beetle) eat holes in the leaves but they don't seem to bother the calyxes.

(published in 1907)

Roselle seeds can be purchased from
Baker Creek Heirloom SeedsHorizon Herb Farm,
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Recipes for Roselle

A wonderful salt product:
And a home made version that works best with a finely ground salt:

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm is a member of the mint family - it's easy to grow from seed in a container and can be grown all year. Like most mints, it's a perfect cut and come again plant. I normally don't let it grow tall enough to flower as I like to cut it and use it fresh to make sun tea. Lemon Balm seeds are widely available.

Arabian Mint

Arabian Mint is one of the mints I've grown from seed. It's a beautiful variety of mint and I use it when I cook Middle Eastern and Moroccan recipes. It has a spearmint flavor and it makes delicious Moroccan mint tea.

Mayan Mint


Orange Mint

Peppermint, Orange Mint, Chocolate Mint and Pineapple Mint can be grown from cuttings. They can also be purchased as seedling plants at local garden centers. I've not been successful at having peppermint seeds grow as true peppermint. So far, all the peppermint seeds I've trialed have grown spearmint flavored plants.

When planted in the ground or in a raised bed, mint is very invasive. Mint can be grown all year in Kihei but it germinates best from seed during the cooler months. Mints grow well in containers and can be grown as a cut and come again plant. I fertilize the mints with fish emulsion once a month.

Recipes for Mint:

Roselle Sun Tea

I like to make sun tea with fresh or dried Roselle adding Lemon Balm, Orange Mint or Peppermint and fresh sliced ginger. Sometimes I add the dried peels I've save from my tangerine trees instead of ginger.


  1. The roselle plant is really attractive and that tea looks delicious!

  2. Hi Julie! The bush in the photo will grow a lot bigger - in a another month the branches will be about twice as long. The plants produce a lot of calyxes once they get growing and the tea is so ono! Dried red hibiscus (it's sold in the bulk spice/tea section) is expense at Mana or Down to Earth.

  3. I think that roselle is a very pretty plant,and I think I'll try making a self-irrigating planter to try it next year. I love the flavor of Red Zinger tea!

  4. Hi Pomaika'i! If you would like some roselle seeds, email a mailing address to me at and I'll send them to you.

  5. Thanks for the informative tips for growing roselle.
    I'm growing roselle in containers, I didn't know how big it would grow so I stuck them into a medium size pot, wonder they would set flowers in such cramp quarters. Do you think they will sulk if I transfer them to a bigger pot? Would it mind if the roots are disturbed?

    I just want to see some flowers and calyxes.

    BTW I'm drying the red shishito peppers now, I'll send the seeds to you when they are ready.

  6. Hi Mac! Until I grew roselle last year I had no idea they were so large. If your plants are well rooted you should be able to pull the plant and soil out together without a problem and then replant the whole thing in the ground or in a larger container. The plants I grew last year I started in a 1 gallon black plastic plant bag and then transplanted the whole thing into the ground. This year I planted in 20 gallon size containers and the plants are growing really well. I'm not sure if a 15 gallon container will be large enough but I haven't tried it so I don't know.

    The shishito peppers looked great in your photos!

  7. I hadn't heard of Roselle until Mac sent me some seeds. I think it is really too much of a long season plant for me to grow where I am though. It sounded like a very interesting thing to grow though.

  8. Hi Daphne! I didn't know anyone growing roselle until Mac's post and I couldn't find much information about growing them. According to what I'd written down on the seed pack, the plants were suppose to be 3 ft wide and bloom in Sept/Oct. By 3 months, my plants were full of mature calyxes and producing them non-stop regardless of the month. But my citrus trees also produce blooms most of the year here too. So I don't know how they grow in a 4 season climate.

    They do require a lot of space. Right now the 2 I planted on April 3rd are more than 3 ft wide. They're doing well so far in the large containers - I have them in containers large enough to grow a patio lemon tree.

  9. Where can I get some good Roselle seeds?

  10. Hi Bobby - Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Horizon Herb Farm - the links are on my sidebar.

  11. Hey Jane, I need to learn more about growing Lemon Verbena, It droops during the day and comes back at night. Spearmint is so weird it grew tall and then it dried up then it shoots came out and rotted. Rosemary fries well. Thyme grows well but then dies back and rots as well. What I'm doing wrong? I live in Miami Zone 10b


    1. Hi Jose! I haven't grown lemon verbena so I don't know how it grows at this lattitude. Some of the mints and many of the herbs die in the summer due to the heat. Arabian mint (a type of spearmint) grows well here all year but orange mint, chocolate mint usually die and I have to replant them in the fall. Due to the tradewinds, the humidity is lower here than in south Florida and the rotting might be due to the humidity plus the heat.

  12. I would like to obtain a Roselle plant. Where can I purchase it on Maui?

    1. I can mail some seeds to you. If you would like some seeds email your mailing address to me at

  13. For years I've grown a red leaved hibiscus with very dark red flowers thinking it was red zinger tea. I've used the leaves in salads and made tea. Curiosity and the Internet search has proven me wrong. I just found your blog. Thanks for your info! Would your plant grow in wet Haiku? Don't understand why I can't log in as : instead of unknown.

    1. Roselle should grow in Haiku. It needs full sun and can be affected by powdery mildew. The best time to plant the seeds is in the spring - I usually plant them in March or April.

  14. Argghh. I guess my post didn't work. So here goes again. Would your roselle grow in Haiku? I've been growing, drying, making salad/tea with the leaves of what I thought was red zinger tea hibiscus. My plant has dark red leaves and really dark red flowers. Thanks for the info.

    1. I apologize for the delay in publishing your comments - I don't check my blog that often. I have the comments on moderation as I get quite a bit of spam. Do you want some roselle seeds?

    2. Thank you. I will send my address. Would you like some seeds from my hibiscus? It is not Hibiscus Sabdariffa but it is beautiful.

    3. Sorry I haven't been checking my blog. I didn't get your email - send your address to me again at