Huge red blooms, attractive foliage, value for wildlife, adaptability in the garden, nice fall foliage color — all of that and more describe the Southeastern native plant known as scarlet rosemallow (Hibiscus coccineus).

Scarlet rosemallow’s flower is the typical hibiscus shape; however, it is a bit more interesting, for when fully open, the five petals separate out from one another, which gives it another common name, Texas star. As with other hibiscus species, the blooms only stay open for one day, but they open in quick succession, giving a good, long display.

The blooms are large enough, at 6 to 8 inches in diameter, to make an impact even at quite a distance. Upon closer inspection of the plant, you can appreciate the elegant, deeply cut, palmate leaves; the delicate pink cast on the stems; and the long, dramatic stamens. Adding to the dramatic appeal is the stately height of 5 to 7 feet. An extra bonus is nice fall foliage color, with the leaves turning a lovely shade of yellow.

The bloom time is another benefit, for scarlet rosemallow typically puts on its show during the months of July, August and September, when many garden plants are flagging in the heat.{span class=”print trim”}


An extra bonus is nice fall foliage color, with the leaves turning a lovely shade of yellow.

H. coccineus has an open, airy nature, giving it a somewhat delicate look, despite its size. This openness prevents the foliage from obscuring the blooms and makes the plant easy to incorporate into a mixed border. There it can mingle comfortably with other plants, and the loose, open structure of this hibiscus keeps it from overshadowing or overtaking its companions. It will bloom best with ample sun, so don’t let it get shaded too much by nearby plants. If you prefer less airiness and more mass, plant a grouping. Each specimen will not take up much room, so they can be planted fairly close together.

Scarlet rosemallow serves as a wonderful addition to the wildlife habitat garden. Its bright red blooms attract the ruby-throated hummingbird, and the plant is in bloom during the height of the hummingbirds’ appearance in my yard. In my garden, even the songbirds make use of it; it is planted in the bed near my bird feeder, and its loosely spaced stems provide numerous perches for the birds as they approach the feeder. The cardinals seem especially fond of the plant, as if they know that the scarlet blooms match their hue and enhance their beauty. I purposefully leave the dried stalks when the plant dies back in winter so the birds continue to have their resting places.

Hibiscus coccineus is usually found in damp, sunny areas in its natural habitats, hence another common name, swamp hibiscus. Most references say it is hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 6 or 7 through 9.{span class=”print trim”}


Scarlet rosemallow typically puts on its show during the months of July, August and September, when many garden plants are flagging in the heat. For more photos, see

Given its tolerance for moisture, this plant is perfect for rain gardens, sunny ditches, and areas with drainage problems. However, I’ve seen it growing fine in gardens that get little supplemental water. It has a fairly deep, thick root, so that may account for its adaptability (though this also makes it difficult to move once it has grown significantly).

Note that H. coccineus is slow to emerge from the ground in spring, so don’t be alarmed and think you have lost the plant. It’s a good idea to leave at least part of the stalk so you won’t accidently harm it when installing other plants early in the growing season.

If you want to see scarlet rosemallow in person, visit the Cherokee County Master Gardener Demonstration Garden at the Cherokee County Senior Center at 1001 Univeter Road in Canton; it’s planted in both the bog garden and the pollinator garden. And if you want to grow it yourself, you can usually buy plants or seeds at the plant sales the Master Gardeners periodically hold.

Mary Tucker is one of many UGA Master Gardener Extension Volunteers of Cherokee County. For more information or questions, contact the Cherokee County Extension Office at 770-721-7803 or for upcoming seminars follow us on Facebook at or on our website at

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