Dumbarton House Featured Flora: Rose of Sharon

Written by: Kathy Clare, Garden Volunteer

Hibiscus syriacus ‘Red Heart’

Rose of Sharon is a hardy deciduous shrub that is native to Asia. It was introduced to Europe in the 16th century. By the 18th century the shrub was common in English gardens and the American colonies. Thomas Jefferson grew Rose of Sharon from seed and planted them at all three of his houses. Rose of Sharon is easily grown in full sun to part shade in average, medium moisture well-drained soil. It can reach a height of 7-13 feet, and flowers prolifically over a long summer blooming period, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. The ‘Red Heart’ variety features white trumpet shaped flowers with a ruby red center.

Fine Gardening suggests harvesting some of the flowers to use as serving bowls for cottage cheese or dips. The flowers should be collected as soon as they are fully open and the pistols and stamens removed. Or, you can stuff the flowers with herbed goat cheese, press the petals closed, dip in beaten egg and breadcrumbs, and bake them. Petals can also be used raw in salads.

The Chinese used the flowers and leaves for food. The Koreans brewed the leaves for tea and ate the flowers. It is the national flower of South Korea.