Friday, March 09, 2007

Friday Flowers: Hibiscus

Each spring, I treat myself to a small hibiscus plant for my deck similar to the one above that was in my brother's garden in Mexico. These showy flowers are a delight, each vivid bloom lasting only a day, but with the assurance of a new blossom or two to replace it. I have tried bringing them indoors in the fall, but they do not do well in our dry, heated air.

There are over 200 species of hibiscus, or rosemallow. They have five petals and a prominent, trumpet-shaped stamen. I took the picture above in the garden at the home of one of my patients. The bloom of this hybrid perennial giant hibiscus was at least a foot in diameter.
I have this hardy Rose of Sharon shrub in my backyard which is also a type of hibiscus. It flowers in the late summer and fall until the frosts come. The flowers are only two to three inches in diameter.

Jamaica (pronounced ham-I-ca) is a popular drink in Mexico. My mother buys bags of the dried calyces of roselle flowers (Hibiscus sabdariffa) and makes the refreshing drink like this.

Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Flower Drink) recipe

2/3 cup dried hibiscus blossoms
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup granulated sugar or simple syrup

In a saucepan, bring the blossoms and water to a boil over high heat and continue boiling for 3 minutes. Add enough water to bring the total liquid to 4 cups; add sugar.
Set the mixture aside for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Strain the liquid into a glass pitcher.
Add more sugar, if necessary.

Serve chilled over ice with lime wedges as a garnish.

Roselle flowers are used in the middle east and north Africa to make a tea called Karkade (KAR-kah-day). This tart, fruity tea can be served hot or cold and with or without sugar. Similar beverages are also found in other African and Asian countries.

I am not a fan of sweet drinks and prefer a robust cuppa black tea to herbal infusions. But I can admire the beauty of a fresh hibiscus blossom, whether it is a showy tropical import in a pot or a native perennial species such as swamp rose mallow in a garden or marsh.


  1. Anonymous7:19 am GMT-5

    Much needed breath of spring and beautiful flowers..thanks. I love hibiscus too.

  2. You do Friday Flowers justice. It's very beautiful, Ruth. I enjoy hibiscus also. Thanks for the springtime visit :o)

  3. I just love your Friday Flowers! I wonder if that tea is aspretty as it sounds? I prefer my tea unsweetened too, although I like a bit of sugar in raspberry iced tea.

  4. I think Friday Flowers are wonderful. Much more uplifting than my Saturday Soups.
    But we need to feed both SOUL and BODY!
    Thanks for the touch of beauty today.

  5. One of my aunts on my mom's side has a terribly bad allergy to hibiscus, she still thinks they are beautiful though. So do I of course, my daily tea has some hibiscus in it.

    I remember when we were in Mexico once I got what I think was a hibiscus popsicle..

  6. The hibiscus are lovely. My mom and dad grow several varieties along their fence line each year. Some get as large as dinner plates! Never knew you could steep them into a drink though!

  7. Some of my favorite flowers also. I love the great big ones that grow in the garden and beside the pond, but my husband prefers the chinese hibiscus like in your first pic because they come in so many colors.

  8. LauraO- Thank you too. It was interesting to find so many varieties of this beautiful flower.

    Mary- There are so many flowers that brighten our world, enough for many Fridays!

    Lynne- The tea is pretty, but I am not fond of it (shhh...I drink it politely if offered)

    KGMom- Keep your Saturday soups coming. We cannot make a meal of flowers. I made your pumpkin mango soup Friday night. Yum! I always have to have a special food at the end of the week and the soup was full of colour and flavour.

    Jaspenelle- One of your cousins claims to have an hibiscus allergy too, but I think he really doesn't like jamaica. I wouldn't be surprised if there were popsicles too.

    Jayne- I love looking at the giant flowers in the late summer. I have never tried growing one though.

    Laura- They do like moist soil. I was interested in the native swamp rose mallow and will have to look for it in the wild. I never heard the term Chinese hibiscus, but it fits.

  9. Hibiscus allergies are real! I was searching for "hibiscus allergies" when I found this blog. If I brush up against one, which isn't hard to do in SouthWest Florida, it's steroid shots for me, the last set was in the throat. I caught a branch of the neighbor's bush with my leg while mowing their yard and I have nickel sized blisters on my shin now, and being diabetic, shin blisters worry me any way.


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