Useful information

Maple-leaved hibiscus Mahogany, aka sour hibiscus

Recently, the seeds of the maple-leaved hibiscus Mahogany (in the English version - Mahogany Splendor) have appeared on the shelves of flower shops. It is named maple-leaved only for the structure of the leaves, reminiscent of the Japanese palm-shaped maple. Its correct name is sour hibiscus. Because of this confusion, gardeners are unable to figure out how to grow this plant. We decided to clarify the situation.

Sour hibiscus (Hibiscus acetosella) - short-lived semi-shrub of the malvaceae family (Malvaceae), grown in tropical and subtropical regions of all continents, winter-hardy up to -12оС (zone 8-11). In our cold climate, it is grown as an annual.

Sour hibiscus

Specific Latin name of the plant acetosella given by analogy with the names of common oxalis (Oxalis acetosella) and sour sorrel (Rumex acetosa), with which he is united not by kinship, but by the pleasantly tart sour taste of young leaves, which can be used for food. It is also sometimes called red-leaved for its decorative purple-red foliage of varying depths.

This is a slender dense shrub, during the season in a favorable climate it can grow up to 0.9-1.5 m in height and up to 75 cm in width. Stems are upright, glabrous or sparsely pubescent. Leaves are alternate, simple, mostly 3-5-lobed, about 10 cm in diameter, on petioles 3-11 cm long, with 5 radial veins. They have linear stipules 1.5 cm long. The color of the leaves is from green with a reddish tint to maroon. Flowers 5-10 cm in diameter, located singly in the axils of the leaves at the tops of the stems on short (1 cm) pedicels. The color of the flowers is different. In forms with a dark vein on the leaves, it is wine-red, in others it may be pink, with a bright purple center. Numerous stamens about 2 cm long serve as an additional decoration for bisexual self-pollinating flowers. Seeds are reniform, dark brown, 3 × 2.5 mm in size, provided with small spiny hairs.

As you can see, the plant is very changeable, it has many forms. It is allotetraploid. This is explained by its hybrid origin - there is an assumption that this is a hybrid Hibiscus asper and Hibiscus surattensis, which appeared in the process of co-cultivation of these plants. The species was first discovered in 1896 by French botanists. It grew in nature in the southern regions of South Africa (Congo, Angola, Zambia), and received the common name African mallow.

Now the plant is a popular vegetable crop in Congo and Cameroon, in local markets it is sold in bunches of shoot tips up to 40 cm long.But it is even more in demand in Southeast Asia and especially Brazil, where, as it is assumed, it used to serve as cheap food for slaves, and now grown as a spinach crop. It is used raw (in mixed salads) or cooked (in combination with meat, in gravy, which gives a beautiful color). The leaves are somewhat fleshy, have a slightly slimy consistency and sour taste, they are stewed or fried, but for a very short time. They are good because they do not lose either color or mass during cooking. Due to the high content of oxalates and acids, greens are recommended to be consumed no more than once a week, and people with diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and kidneys should observe moderation.

In African countries, the plant is better known as a false hibiscus - the flowers are a little sweet, when brewed they give a drink that resembles hibiscus tea (although fleshy suds of the Sudanese rose are used to obtain hibiscus tea - Hibiscus sabdariffa, which sour hibiscus does not have). Tea is good in color rather than taste. In Central American countries, the so-called purple lemonade is made from them, flavored with sugar, lemon or lime, and drunk with ice. Even the roots of the plant are edible, although they are fibrous and tasteless.

Leaves have a high content of vitamins C, B2 and in3, A, antioxidants and iron. A bit like the taste of cranberries, for which the plant in English-speaking countries received another name - Cranberry Hibiscus. In terms of health benefits, tea made from hibiscus leaves mixed with hibiscus or cranberries is much more effective. In Angola, tea from the leaves is effective in treating anemia.

Cm. Homemade lemonade with sour hibiscus flowers, sour hibiscus in champagne.

Maple-leaved Hibiscus Mahogany (Mahogany Splendor)

In the English version, this variety of sour hibiscus (as we already know, maple-leaved is only a commercial name, in nature there is no such name), is called Mahogany Splendor ("Magnificent mahogany").

Maple-leaved hibiscus Mahogany (sour hibiscus Mahogany Splendor)

This variety is grown in our country as an annual from seeds, although it is a semi-shrub by nature. Able to reach 1.5-1.8 m in height and 60-90 cm in width. It has really magnificent maroon lobed leaves with crenate wavy edges, for which it is grown. Flowers are few, wine-red, large, but usually the plant does not bloom here. The variety combines sun-loving and high heat resistance and, at the same time, can grow on the shore of a pond and even in small shallow water. Suitable for urban landscaping, resistant to atmospheric pollution. See below for sowing seeds. Seedlings grown in a greenhouse or indoors have bronze tones; after planting in the sun, they acquire a rich burgundy color.

Other varieties

There are other highly decorative varieties of sour hibiscus, but they are not widespread in our country. They are thermophilic, can only be grown from cuttings with overexposure in the winter in the basement.

  • Red Shield (syn. Coppertone) - with purple-burgundy leaves and deep red flowers (zone 8).
  • Panama Red is a more thermophilic species (zone 9) with plum-colored foliage and red flowers.
  • Panama Bronze - with dark green, bronze tinge, leaves and individual red flowers. Also for hot but humid regions (zone 9).
  • Garden Leader Gro Big Red - deep red leaves and burgundy flowers (zone 8).
  • Jungle Red - with deeply dissected palm-shaped red leaves.
  • Maple Sugar - burgundy black leaves, burgundy flowers.


In order for sour hibiscus to bloom at the end of the season, it is sown for seedlings in containers 6-8 weeks before planting in the ground. It is recommended to soak the seeds in warm water overnight before sowing. It has a positive effect on germination and scarification - damage to the outer shell of the seed, for example, by a blade. However, even without any pre-sowing treatment, the seeds germinate well.

Sow them at a shallow depth, slightly covering them with soil. Germinate in a greenhouse, keeping the soil moist, but not wet, otherwise the seeds will rot. Seeds sprout quickly, within 3-4 days (sometimes up to 2 weeks). The first cotyledonous leaves grow round and green, and the first true leaf already matches the characteristics of the variety. At this moment, the plants dive into individual containers. Seedlings are planted in late May - early June, with the end of spring frosts, without deepening the plants.

Seedlings develop quickly. It is recommended to prune the plants once so that they do not develop into one stem, while the tops can be used for cuttings that easily root in water or substrate at a temperature of + 25 ° C. Cuttings are cut into a length of 10-20 cm and half buried in the soil, which is kept constantly moist.

But pruning delays the onset of flowering. This is important, because during cold summer, the plant in the middle lane may not have time to bloom, or form only individual flowers (this applies to the species sour hibiscus, the Mahogany variety practically does not bloom in the middle lane).

By the way, cuttings rooted at the end of summer can be stored indoors, in a greenhouse or in a basement, the flowering of these plants will be guaranteed next year.

Growing conditions

Sour hibiscus needs moist but well-drained soil, although it tolerates drought well.Container plants need to be watered daily. The location in our area requires a sunny one. Weakly acidic loams (or better sandy loams) of the Moscow region are well suited for this plant, especially fertilized ones. An important point is protection from winds that can ruin the stems.

The plant blooms in August, when the days get shorter, and is able to bloom for several weeks. Flowers are open for several hours during the brightest time of the day, from noon. Each flower lives for one day. But still, we should consider it more as a bright decorative deciduous plant for mixborders, since some varieties are not capable of flowering at all.

The plant is resistant to nematodes, so it can be safely planted where ornamental and vegetable crops susceptible to this pest previously grew - for example, tomatoes and other nightshades. In hybridization, this species is often used to impart nematode resistance to other hibiscus.

Landscape use

Maple Hibiscus Mahogany in the design of the exhibition garden

Sour hibiscus goes well with silvery and green plants. Decoratively adjacent to cannes, bright zinnias, Buenos Aires verbena, molucella, milkweed, lofant (agastache), dimorphoteka, scabiosa, ankhuza, kotula, thyme. Can be used in large containers and colorful borders, but in both cases, you need to pinch the plants and check the soil moisture daily. The problem of maintaining moisture will be removed if you plant this hibiscus in combination with green-leaved plants in an auto-irrigation container. The effect will be amazing and the content will be low maintenance.

And most importantly, this annual plant is capable of successfully imitating the capricious palm-shaped maple in Japanese gardens in the summer season - in sunny places or on the banks of a reservoir.

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