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What Is the Hibiscus Sorrel?

Hibiscus sorrel (Hibiscus sabdariffa), also called Jamaica sorrel and roselle, is indigenous to India, but can grow as a yearly as in most climates. The plant has fleshy, red calyxes that encircle the foundation of its yellow blooms. The red calyxes possess a flavor similar to cranberries or currants and are used to make tea, jellies and used in salad dressings, drinks and frosting.


Hibiscus sorrel can grow up to 7 feet tall using 3-inch-long oval, three- to five-lobed leaves. The stalks and leaves are thin using a reddish-green shade. The calyxes are green when immature and turn into a bright red when ripe. Calyx size may vary and range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. The yellowish flowers are 5 inches wide using a rose-colored or maroon center that fade into a pink as blooms fade at day’s end.

Climate and Soil

Hibiscus sorrel needs long, hot summers for fruit to ripen and the plant is frost-sensitive. An early frost may prevent a harvest. Rainfall is vital, as blooms thrive in places that receive at least 72 inches of rain each growing season. Hibiscus sorrel grows best in loamy, sandy soil. Necessary growing states are similar to those for tomatoes and the plants need spacing of 18 to 24 inches apart in rows. The plant begins producing blooms since the days shorten during the growing season.

Propagation and Planting

Hibiscus sorrel is usually propagated by seed, but you can also propagate the plant from cuttings. Propagation from cuttings often results in shorter plants and fewer calyxes. The plant may reseed itself, therefore it has the potential to become invasive in some places. You can start seeds indoors and transplant seedlings when they grow to approximately 4 inches tall, or direct sow the seeds at the expanding region, planting in hills with three to six seeds per hill.

Harvest and utilize

When ripe, the fruit is plump and tender and should be harvested before woody tissue grows on the calyxes. Fruits can easily be snapped off the plant by hand early in the day; when harvesting is delinquent the stems toughen and you’re going to need clippers to eliminate fruits. The fruit has many uses other than teas and frosting. After washing, you can chop the fruit and then apply in fruit salad, or cook to make into syrup, marmalade or pie fillings.

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