Roselle, Hibiscus sabdariffa
Who wants tea? Not only is the roselle a pretty plant with cranberry red stems and fall season blooms, but the dried flower can be used to make tea. Also, at the base of each flower is the calyx, which is harvested about 10 days after the bloom opens for use in teas, juices, and jellies. Like many hibiscus, the roselle, sometimes called Florida cranberry, has several medicinal properties and it’s used in herbal products.
Native to Africa, roselle does well in South Florida and is rated for zones 8 and higher. It is an annual that can regrow easily from seed. In zones 10 and 11 roselle may even survive a few years if the winters are mild. The plant will continue to produce flowers during October and November as long as the flowers are harvested regularly. False roselle, H. acetosella, is similar to roselle but has maroon-colored leaves. Both species may sucker and can reach ten feet or more if not kept pruned.
We have a few roselle plants for sale in the Estates Garden Shoppe for just $4 – most are blooming and ready for your recipes! If you buy yours before November 1, you can save 10% on ALL your Garden Shoppe purchases by telling the cashier the secret discount phrase.
Desert Rose, Adenium obesum
Don’t let this plant’s common name fool you. It is not a “rose” and although native to sub-Saharan Africa and the deserts of the southwestern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, this interesting plant grows well in South Florida’s humidity. It has a beautiful bright red, pink and white flower, but many enthusiasts grow desert rose for the caudex, or base, which can be manipulated to form unique shapes.
Desert rose is suitable for container gardening or will thrive in your yard if planted in full sun and well-drained soil. Plants should never be in standing water and should not get much water at all in the cooler months, as this species is prone to root rot. If temperatures regularly fall below 35°F in your area, it’s best to grow desert rose in a container so the plant can be moved inside during cold snaps. Leaves may drop during winter but the plant should recover nicely each spring, providing months of beautiful blooms in the summer. All parts of the plant are toxic if ingested and the sap may irritate skin, so use caution when planting.
We have a desert rose growing in a container in front of the Caretaker’s house at the Estates. We also have several for sale in our Garden Shoppe. Don’t forget, garden blog readers save 10% off their Garden Shoppe purchases by mentioning the phrase of the month at check-out!
Congratulations to Colin Brenner for correctly identifying this week’s mystery plant!
Lipstick Tree, Bixa orellana
If you’ve eaten cheddar cheese, you’ve eaten the product of this plant. The seeds of the lipstick tree, or achiote tree, are used to make annatto, a common food coloring. It was once used as body paint, insect repellant, and ink for hundreds of years by people living in the Caribbean and Tropical Americas. Today it is mostly used to add a reddish yellow color to food and you can find annatto in the spice aisle of your local supermarket.
The seeds from the lipstick tree grow within a bright red hairy seed pod on the branches of the lipstick tree. The tree may reach a height of 20 feet if left untrimmed. It is rated for zones 9B-11 and does best in full sun. Although the pink flowers are quite pretty, it’s the seed pods that will really attract attention to your garden. And if you’re a chef, the seeds can easily be processed at home for use in your recipes. The Estates recently lost a large lipstick tree in the severe January freeze but two small ones managed to survive and are behind the large bougainvillea on the Edison property. We also have a few lipstick trees available in our Garden Shoppe.
Be the first to identify this plant and win it! The correct answer will be announced next Wednesday.
Contest Rules: Leave a comment on Facebook or the Garden Blog with your answer. The person with the first correct answer may choose to receive the mystery plant (if available) or a peace lily. The winner will be announced on the Estates Garden Blog and on Facebook. Plants must be picked up from the Edison & Ford Winter Estates within 7 days of contest end (and, no, we can’t ship them!). Previous winners are not eligible.