Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 498 Hibiscus sabdariffa

Common Names: roselle, Florida cranberry, Indian sorrel, Jamaican sorrel Family: Malvaceae (mallow Family)

Florida cranberry's red stems and red petioles are pretty, but it's the pointy-tipped calyces at the base of the flowers that are harvested for juice.


Roselle is a robust many-branched shrub-like annual that gets 4-7 ft (1.2-2.1 m) tall and almost as broad. The dark green leaves are about 6 in (15 cm) across and deeply dissected into 5 narrow lobes. The stems, branches, leaf veins, and petioles (leaf stems) are reddish purple. The hibiscus-like flowers, appearing in October, are yellow and about 3 in (7.6 cm) across. At the bottom of each flower, enclosing the bases of the five petals, is a fleshy bright red cup-like structure called a calyx, The calyx is about 1 in (2.5 cm) in diameter. The calyces of roselle are used to make juices, sauces, jellies, wines and pies.


Originally native to tropical Africa, Hibiscus sabdariffa is grown in the subtropics and tropics worldwide and has escaped cultivation and become naturalized in tropical America and Asia.


Roselle is susceptible to root knot nematodes, so you may not be able to grow it in the same place year after year. Mulch well to punish the nematodes and to conserve water in the soil. No matter when you plant it, roselle will not bloom until days begin to shorten in October. Light: Full sun. Moisture: Roselle does best with regular watering. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 11. Seeds can be planted outdoors in USDA zones 8-11. Farther north (to zone 6), start seeds indoors and transplant outside after all danger of frost. Roselle can be a short-lived perennial in zones 10 and 11. Propagation: Roselle is an annual propagated from seed.
roselle shrub
Roselle grows into a large dense shrub by the end of summer.


Roselle is an interesting and beautiful plant in the home landscape. Fifty years ago it was widely grown in Florida as a summertime hedge and for its edible calyces. The dark green leaves contrast nicely with the red stems and petioles, and the yellow flowers are a rare treat in October and November. The edible calyces are a bonus. Place roselle where it will have plenty of room. This is a large annual, so thin plants to about 3 ft (0.9 m) apart. Feed and mulch well. In Florida, roselle is often planted in rows where it forms a dense hedge by late summer. If grown just for juice production, roselle is cultivated much like tomatoes, peppers or eggplants.


Roselle juice is similar to cranberry juice, but not as bitter. The calyces are harvested while they are still tender and juicy, about 10 days after the flowers appear. The plants will continue to flower and produce if kept picked. Remove and discard the seed pods from the calyces. Bring 2 quarts (1.9 l) of calyces and 1 quart (1 l) of water to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes, then strain and use the juice with sugar to make a refreshing cranberry-like drink, or make jelly or wine as you would with any fruit juice. The strained pulp can be used for jam or pie.

Steve Christman 8/23/00; updated 10/7/03

Master Plant List

Click here to find plants in our Encyclopedia using the Master Plant List grid. Use this widget to search, sort and filter Floridata's plant database to easily locate Plant Profile pages. Use the dropdown menus to filter the grid to display items matching the selected Plant Type and Feature tags.

Plant Type Tags

tree icon
shrub icon
perennial plant icon
aquatic plant icon
cactus and succulents icon
grass icon
vine icon

Feature Tags

Attracts Birds
Attracts butterflies
Attracts Hummingbirds
Edible Plants
Cutting and Arranging
for pots and containers
drought tolerant plants
grows in wet soils
ornamental fruits
fall color
foliage plants
easy to grow plants
fast growing

Site Search

Use Google to search all of the pages on Floridata including the Plant Profile pages

Hibiscus species profiled on Floridata:

Hibiscus coccineus

( scarlet hibiscus, scarlet rose mallow )

Hibiscus grandiflorus

( giant rose mallow, swamp hibiscus, velvet mallow,giant hibiscus )

Hibiscus laevis

( halberdleaf marshmallow, halberd-leaved marshmallow, halberd-leaved rose mallow, smooth marshmallow )

Hibiscus moscheutos

( swamp mallow, swamp hibiscus, swamp rose mallow )

Hibiscus mutabilis

( confederate rose, cotton rose )

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

( Chinese hibiscus, rose-of-China, Hawaiian hibiscus )

Hibiscus sabdariffa

( roselle, Florida cranberry, Indian sorrel, Jamaican sorrel )

Hibiscus syriacus

( rose-of-Sharon, althea )

Hibiscus tiliaceus

( Mahoe, Sea Hibiscus, Cotton Tree, Majagua )

More Floridata:

Copyright 2015 Floridata.com LLC