Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Easily Grow Vitamin C and Add Vivid Colour to Your Garden with Rosella

For vivid colour, intense flavour and health benefits, plant Rosellas in the garden. The striking colour of the red flower calyx  (the ‘fruit)  adds such a beautiful contrast in the garden.  The petals, the flower calyces, and the leaves are all edible and delicious too!

Benefits of Rosella (Hibiscus sabdariffa)

  • Rosella is high in vitamin C (9 x stronger than orange)
  • Easy to grow
  • Fast growing
  • Hardy and pest resistant

How to use Rosella:

  • eat the leaves - also known as Pacific Sorrell or Red Sorrel. It has a lovely lemony taste like sorrell - a little in a salad, mostly I use it in stir fry and curry.
  • eat the yellow flower petals - add to a salad
  • eat the fresh flower calyx (quite tart like rhubarb) - nice added to a salad
  • add the red calyx when cooking up stewed fruit for added colour and flavour
  • make a tea from the fresh calyx - similar to rosehip - fabulous colour! Blend with other herbs. 
  • make and iced tea too
  • dry the flower calyx for tea throughout the year
  • make jam from the flower calyx
  • mame a cordial from the flower calyx
  • roast and grind the seeds into a flour
  • make an edible hedge
  • use as an in-garden windbreak for a summer garden

NB: The calyx is the the protective layer around a flower - the Rosella 'fruit'.

Maia and WWOOFer Nicole removing the Rosella seedpods for drying.
After removing the seedpods, we open out the rosella calyces to dry
The Rosella calyx will shrink a lot when dried and become crispy. I store these in a jar on the shelf and use in teas. As much as I can I dry them in the sun, and just finish them in the electric drier if needed (powered by solar).

One of our favourite teas with rosella also has a couple of lemon myrtle leaves, or a squirt of lime and a slice of fresh ginger. The kids love it iced.

A plunger is perfect for brewing up Rosella teas. Fresh or dried, it is a lovely refreshing and flavourful tea - with such an amazing colour.

Hugh and Maia enjoying their own brew of iced rosella, ginger and lime tea.  

How to grow Rosella

Rosella is a low-maintenance, easy-going plant that pretty much looks after itself.  I love these types of productive hardy plants!

Rosella grows to about 2 metres in fairly rich, well-drained soils. Here in South East Queensland I usually plant Rosella in Spring as the weather warms up and mulch them well for a good start. I am now harvesting lots each week in March/April. 

They start flowering from 3 months and if I look after them and keep harvesting, they produce for months until the frost comes. I find the best time to harvest the ‘fruit’ is nice and plump - around 3cm diameter and the tip is just starting to open (before they start to dry out and get ants inside).

I plant around 5 or 6 of these shrubs, each year to provide enough calyxes ('fruits') to make a good amount of tea, which I love, and sometimes I make jam or cordial too.

Rosella grows in a wide range of climates - from tropical to subtropical, arid to dry temperate.  I get frosts here so they die back in winter. In frost free areas though you can get a couple of years from them - trim them back in winter and let new growth flourish again in the second spring.

Rosella has edible leaves, flowers and calyces (the red 'fruits').
You don't need to wait for the 'fruits'. Start harvesting the leaves once the young plant becomes established. Tip pruning actually helps to keep the plant in a bushy form.

Where is rosella from?

Rosella is originally from West Africa, but has also been grown for centuries in India and the Pacific, and popular in Jamaica, France, Indonesia and many parts of the world. A Brisbane community gardener told me of an Indian family that come to collect as much Rosella leaves that they can to process and eat through the year. 

Most people in Queensland usually just grow them for their calyx and do not know that their leaves and petals are edible too. If you take the tips off, it helps them to become bushier too - more leaves to eat.

I grow at least 5 hardy Rosella plants each year. 

Saving Rosella seed

Inside the red calyx you will find the seed pod. Let some of the pods mature on the plant until they are dry and save these seeds for next warm season.

Mature Rosella seedpods will open and release their seeds when ready.


  1. Thanks Morag, for reminding me of these plants, mum used to grow them to make jam out of them. A very versitlie plant. Adding that to the wish list for my garden. Have a great day

  2. Thankyou - now I know what to do with them- sooo versatile ..

  3. Great article, we drank this usally on the big holidays and it was and is still the best drink to be had. Love Sorrel