Roselle hibiscus, red sorrel, Jamaican sorrel, and Florida cranberry are a few of the many names for “Hibiscus sabdariffa”, which is a tasty and stunning addition to the garden. Learn how to grow roselle hibiscus, and enjoy the season-long color, beautiful blooms, and red flavorful calyces it produces.

How to grow Roselle Hibiscus: Growing Jamaican Sorrel

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8 Tips for How to Grow Roselle Hibiscus

1. Plant roselle at the right time

Roselle germinates at soil temperatures between 75°- 85°F, and does well directly sown in the garden. In the low desert of Arizona, plant roselle from seed or transplants once temperatures warm up in mid-March through the end of May.  

In cooler climates, start roselle from seed indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost. When seedlings are 3-4 inches high, transplant them into a spot in the garden that gets full sun.

How to grow Roselle Hibiscus: Growing Jamaican Sorrel
Roselle hibiscus seeds

2. Plant roselle in the best location

Roselle prefers well-draining fertile soil. Overly rich soil or extra fertilization leads to a very large plant with fewer calyces. A sunny spot is best for growing roselle successfully. In the low-desert of Arizona, some afternoon shade is fine. 

How to grow Roselle Hibiscus: Growing Jamaican Sorrel

3. Give roselle plenty of moisture

Roselle hibiscus prefers humid, warm conditions and does not tolerate frost. It is grown as a short-lived perennial in zones 10 and 11, and as an annual in cooler zones.

In the low desert of Arizona, the roselle plant begins to thrive when the more humid monsoon weather begins. Keep the soil evenly moist as roselle grows. Take care not to overwater as roselle can be affected by root rot if the soil is not well-draining.

How to grow Roselle Hibiscus: Growing Jamaican Sorrel

4. Give roselle hibiscus room and support to grow

A roselle plant is very large and needs plenty of room. Space plants 3-6 feet apart in rows at least 5 feet apart. One or two good-sized plants may be all you need for a bountiful harvest of the beautiful calyces. 

How to grow Roselle Hibiscus: Growing Jamaican Sorrel

Provide support for roselle hibiscus. I normally use a length of rebar pounded into the ground (about a foot) as a support. The branches can get very heavy, especially after a rain or once branches are loaded with blooms and calyces.

How to grow Roselle Hibiscus: Growing Jamaican Sorrel
Rebar support for growing roselle hibiscus

5. Understand that roselle is day-length sensitive

What does that mean? When a plant is “day-length sensitive”, the light cycle affects when the plant will bloom. The stunning blooms (similar to okra blooms) are triggered as the days get shorter in the fall. 

Although the plants don’t bloom until fall, planting roselle earlier in the season ensures a large plant with plenty of blooms and calyces to harvest. Roselle planted in August would (probably) still bloom, but the resulting plant and harvests would be much smaller.

How to grow Roselle Hibiscus: Growing Jamaican Sorrel

6. Harvest roselle calyces at the right time

How to grow Roselle Hibiscus: Growing Jamaican Sorrel
  • After the beautiful roselle bloom fades, the flower withers and falls off.
  • Between 7-10 days after blooming is the best time to pick the calyces.
  • It is time to harvest when the pointy red calyx around the seed pod is just over an inch wide. The seed pod is fully grown but still tender.
  • • To avoid damage to the branch it’s best to remove the calyx with clippers
  • Harvesting roselle calyces early and often increases the overall yield of the plant.
How to grow Roselle Hibiscus: Growing Jamaican Sorrel
How to grow Roselle Hibiscus: Growing Jamaican Sorrel
How to grow Roselle Hibiscus: Growing Jamaican Sorrel

7. Use roselle hibiscus in several ways

The flavor of the roselle calyx is similar to cranberry, but less bitter with lemon undertones. To use the calyces, cut open the calyx, remove the white seed capsule, and rinse before using. 

Use the calyces to make jellies, juice, tea, pies, and even this recipe for “mock” cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving

One of the most popular uses, especially in Jamaica, is as a seasonal drink, “Rosa de Jamaica” at Christmas time in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. In Mexico and in Mexican restaurants in the United States, the beverage is known simply as “Jamaica”. 

The blooms, leaves, and pods of roselle hibiscus are also edible. The leaves taste like spicy spinach, and are used in many cultures around the world. Use the leaves in salads, cooked greens, tea, and jams. Both the leaves and calyces contain natural pectin. 

How to grow Roselle Hibiscus: Growing Jamaican Sorrel
Dehydrated calyxes

Looking for recipes to use roselle hibiscus? In this article I share my 5 favorite. 

8. Save seeds to plant and share with others

Leave a few calyces on the plant so you can harvest the seeds at the end of the season. When the seed pods dry, they will crack open easily. Shake out the seeds, and store them in a dark, cool location.

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How to grow Roselle Hibiscus: Growing Jamaican Sorrel
How to grow Roselle Hibiscus: Growing Jamaican Sorrel

7 comments on “How to grow Roselle Hibiscus: Growing Jamaican Sorrel”

  1. I grew my first Roselle last year and I’m totally hooked. I’d like to plant several more this week along with a bunch of other stuff. I want to try to pack in as much stuff as I can to help keep the soil cool. My question is, does Roselle grow well with others? Maybe, sweet potato growing near by can stretch it’s vines under the Roselle like a living mulch or particular herb or flower that makes the Roselle happy?

    • Good question. Roselle gets quite large and can shade other plants, but it takes a while to grow that large. I like the idea of trying sweet potatoes underneath. Make sure to allow plenty of room around the plant for the potatoes as well. You may need to prune some of the lower branches on the roselle to give the sweet potato room. I grew roselle near zinnias last year and they both did well. Sunflowes and beans would also make good companions. Happy planting. Let me know how it goes.

    • I’m glad it’s helpful. You can buy seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds or Southern Exposure Seeds

  2. HI,

    I just purchased some seeds and will plant this Spring. Just curious can you grown them in grow bags?

    Thank you

    • The plants get large and will need staking. Use a large grow bag (at least 10 gallon) and try to give the plant some support.

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