Hibiscus mutabilis (Confederate Rose), in changeable colours

Hibiscus mutabilis (Confederate Rose, Cotton Rose)

Hibiscus mutabilis Confederate Rose, Cotton Rose) with white and pink colours, a double bloom formFloral colours change almost like colour-changing handkerchiefs in a magic show! However, unlike that magic trick, the stunningly large flowers do it very gracefully over a period of a day. They open the purest of white in the morning, then very gradually change to light pink in the afternoon and darken to rose-pink towards end of the day. One-day bloomers that flop and drop dead the next day.

 (Confederate Rose, Cotton Rose) shrubs, seen at Siloam House, Karak in PahangThis changeable beauty is a large perennial flowering shrub or small multi-stemmed tree that grows vigorously and blooms abundantly. Truly a remarkable plant that usually present as many as three different floral colors simultaneously as the delicate flowers create their magic show with their ever changing hues.

John and I have got to admire them at Siloam House in Karak, Pahang, a family home for intellectually-challenged children, during our very recent visit there with our BEC friends as part of our Lenten Season project.

Hibiscus mutabilis (Confederate Rose, Cotton Rose): floral colours change from pure white to pink and rose-pinkWe were enraptured by the gorgeously large snow-white flowers that adorned 3 large bushes whose identity we didn’t know then. Pity though that I didn’t photograph their remarkable white beauty that morning because by the time we were briefed by Ms. Lim Saw Gaik, the Home’s director and toured its extensive farm, the stunning flowers were already clothed in fabulous pink hues a couple of hours later.
Frankly, John and I had totally forgotten about their changeable characteristic since we last saw this plant many moons ago when we were youngsters. Otherwise, adding a couple of photos with the spotless white flowers here would have completed the show, huh!

Plant Profile, Culture and Propagation :

  • Botanical Name: Hibiscus mutabilis
  • Common Name: Confederate Rose, Cotton Rose, Cotton Rosemallow, Changeable Rose
  • Family name: Malvaceae (Mallow family)
  • Etymology: The species name or epithet, mutabilis, meaning ‘variable or changeable’, aptly describes the flowers notable characteristic of changing colours with age. The common name, Confederate, came about because at one time it was very common in the area of the Confederate States of America.
  • Origin: China
  • Plant type: Flowering perennial shrub or small multi-stemmed tree
  • Features: Hibiscus mutabilis (Confederate Rose, Cotton Rose, a large flowering shrub or small multi-stemmed treeHibiscus mutabilis is one of the notable species of the rather large genus, Hibiscus, that consists of several hundred species.
    An old-fashioned perennial shrub or small multi-stemmed tree with lax branches that grows vigorously to 15 ft (4.6 m) tall and spreads to 10 ft (3 m) wide.
    Truly a large flowering shrub that needs a large space in the garden to showcase its spectacular beauty.
    It is evergreen in the warm tropical and subtropical regions, and produces buds and flowers abundantly throughout the year.
    Hibiscus mutabilis (Confederate Rose, Cotton Rose, with focus on its numerous flower buds Gorgeous Hibiscus mutabilis (Confederate Rose, Cotton Rose), a double flower form
    Hibiscus mutabilis: final colour change to rose pink before dropping off!An enthusiastic and prolific bloomer that produces showy flowers that are large, 3-5 inches (8-13 cm) in diameter, mostly double with rose-like blooms though some are single, and having changeable colours or otherwise. Typically, the flowers will open snow-white in the morning, and change gradually to pink in the afternoon and deepen to rose-pink by evening, withering and dropping off the next day. Hence, not at all surprising to see the various hues on the shrub at any one time. Some specimens have flowers that start off pink instead and then turn to white or darker pink as it ages.
    However, there are some varieties with other variable forms, such as H. mutabils ‘Rubrum’ (Red Confederate Rose), a single with deep-pink or raspberry-pink flowers that does not change colour at all and other varieties with entirely white, pink or red flowers that remain unchanged too.
    Deeply lobed foliage (maple-like leaves) of Hibiscus mutabilis (Confederate Rose, Cotton Rose)As attractive too is the plant’s foliage. The bright green leaves are large, measuring 5-7 in (13-18 cm), deeply lobed and distinctly veined like the maple leaves, and have hairy undersides. They’re held on long petioles arranged alternately along the slender stems.
    Flowers will eventually set fruits which are round and hairy capsules containing fuzzy seeds.
  • Culture (Care): Hibiscus mutabilis is an easy to grow flowering shrub that requires very little care.
    Light: Grow best in full sun or light shade.
    Moisture: Average water needs. It is drought tolerant in good soil. Leaves wilting or drooping indicates insufficient water.
    Soil: Prefers rich, well-drained soil, though not particular as the plant is tolerant to most soil types as long as well-drained.
    Others: Prune when necessary. It can take to hard pruning. Susceptible to white flies, aphids, weevils and caterpillars, so be on the alert to nip problems in the bud.
    For subtropical and temperate regions: Hardiness: USDA Zone 7a-11. Blooms from late summer through fall or until frost but blooms through winter in frost-free areas. Shrub becomes deciduous in areas with light frosts but returns to life from undamaged stems in spring. In regions with prolonged freezing temperatures, shrub will die back to the ground but spring back from the roots in early spring when warm weather returns. Hence, recommended to grow H. mutabilis as a container plant in colder regions to easily overwinter indoors. To propagate, take stem cuttings before the first frost, place them in a bucket of water and let them sit in until next spring when they can be planted directly into the ground. Read the gardeners’ experiences and care of the Confederate Rose at Dave’s Garden
  • Propagation: By cuttings that root easily in water or soil. Can be propagated by seeds too though cuttings is a lot faster than seeds that take longer time to mature and bloom.
  • Usage: Hibiscus mutabilis, an overall view of its stunning flowers, buds, maple-like foliage and laxly stemsConfederate Rose, with its huge bushy form and adorned with an abundance of big leaves and attractively multi-coloured flowers, will definitely make excellent specimen or landscape plant in the garden. Showy and impressive, it’ll be ideal in a border, giving shade to ground-covers planted below, or in a mixed shrub border or grown en masse as informal hedge or screen.
    H. mutabilis is known to be widely used in China as a traditional medicine – flowers and leaves are used as expectorant, analgesic and antidote to poison, or applied to swellings and skin infections. Read more of its traditional uses at StuartXchange – Philippine Medicinal Herbs.

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Last edit: June 7, 2016

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4 Responses to “Hibiscus mutabilis (Confederate Rose), in changeable colours”

  1. Nicola Says:


  2. Autumn Belle Says:

    This is the hibiscus I’ve been longing to see for a long long time but still haven’t seen the real one yet. It is really beautiful.

  3. Jacqueline Says:

    Nicola: Thanks!

    Autumn Belle: Thank you. For us this beauty was last seen more than half a century ago and definitely brought back some sweet memories. John said that he remembered the shrub being known as ‘Jealousy flower’ when he was young, with a sad story attached ….a man gave his girlfriend a white flower before going off to work but saw her having a dark-coloured flower on his return in the evening. He apparently killed the girl out of jealousy with the assumption that she was unfaithful.

  4. Marlena Drufner Says:

    is this toxic to dogs?


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