A Confederate Rose In A Yankee Garden

Nutley, NJ(Zone 6b)

Beginning in 2005 there has been a long running thread on the Hibiscus Forum which discusses Hibiscus mutabilis.

This was too die for, a must must must have

In the fall of 2009 this thread became active again and there were a number of discussions on the various cultivars of Hibiscus mutabilis including Singles, Doubles and a new mutation known as Alma’s Star.

Alma's Star

Alma’s Start was originally rated to Zone 6 as the following plant tag shows but in 2011 the grower changed the rating it to Zone 7 but indicated that it could survive in colder Zones with protection.

Alma’s Star Plant Tag From 2009

In the fall of 2009 I purchase Hibiscus mutabilis Doubles and Hibiscus mutabilis Alma’s Star. Through the winter of 2009-2010 I managed to keep these Hibiscus alive indoors under artificial light in spite of multiple whitefly and black-fly infestations. In the spring of 2010 I planted three Hibiscus mutabilis Doubles and one Hibiscus mutabilis Alma’s Star outside in a location with good southern exposure. All through the summer I battled whiteflies which found all Hibiscus mutabilis quite tasty resulting in large holes in the leaves. The only effective treatment was Bayer’s Imidacloprid based products. Forget about the once a year treatment recommended by the manufacture, because Hibiscus are fast growing the new leaves will not be protected unless you treat Hibiscus mutabilis monthly during the growing season.

By late October 2010 all four Hibiscus mutabilis reached a height of four feet and Alma’s Star actually started forming small buds with a hint of red but it was too late, killer frosts arrived and all four Hibiscus mutabilis began to wilt from the cold. I covered the four Hibiscus with a foot of salt hay for protection and hoped for the best. During the winter of 2010-2011 northern New Jersey was snow covered all the time and we had to dump shoveled snow into the garden areas with reached depths of 5 feet.

In the spring of 2011 all four Hibiscus mutabilis at first appeared dead but then Alma’s Star began to re-grow from the roots and now stands at a height of over 7 feet. By July I have given up on the three Hibiscus mutabilis Doubles when the largest plant surprised me and sent up and a few shoots which now stand at 3 feet. I many take some cuttings but I don’t know if this Hibiscus will make it through the next winter even with protection.

By early October Alma’s Star had begun to develop large buds which show their red color early. Alma’s Star is a chimera stem mutation where each bud contains five flowers. Alma’s Star was assigned plant patent PP21383 which is available here.

Hibiscus plant named ‘Alma's Star’ (PP21383)


The following represent the distinguishing characteristics of the new Hibiscus cultivar 'Alma's Star'. The distinguishing feature of 'Alma's Star' is its unusual bloom. 'Alma's Star' exhibits buds of unusual size at the tips of its flowering stalks. These buds open up to present a flower that is a bundle of five distinct flowers, four outer and a central cluster that produce a bundle similar to a quartered rose.

The botanical description of Alma’s Star contains some useful information but the reference to Hibiscus moscheutos is irrelevant and the claim of “natural root graftings” is frankly impossible and may have been added to embellish the patent which is unnecessary because such natural mutations are fully covered under US plant patent law.


The new cultivar is a product of an effort by the inventor to propagate garden variety Hibiscus mutabilis, in Alabama, United States of America. The objective was to restock the garden with new plants without going through seed harvesting. The new cultivar developed when natural root graftings, of rooted stalk cuttings from a Rose mallow Hibiscus moscheutos and a Confederate rose, Hibiscus mutabilis, were planted together. Two mutated "sports" (mutated sprouts) appeared and produced unique pink flowers, each containing four or five small and separate flowers, which were sterile and produced no viable seed. The new cultivar, 'Alma's Star', was discovered and selected by the inventor in 1997 in a cultivated area in Ala., United States of America. Asexual reproduction of the new cultivar, by top cuttings, stem cuttings and divisions in Alabama, United States of America, has shown that the unique features of this new Hibiscus cultivar are stable and reproduced true to type in successive generations.

These descriptions, reported in the gardening press, are much more plausible and believable.

ALMA's STAR: A Confederate Rose By Any Other Name Takes Its Place In The Sun

Master Gardener Alma Bodiford Registers New Variety of Confederate Rose

Here is the original application for the plant patent, note where the changes were made; very sloppy lawyering and quite unnecessary.

Application For: Hibiscus plant named Alma's Star

For me the most disheartening statement in the patent is “each containing four or five small and separate flowers, which were sterile and produced no viable seed”. If Alma’s Start is both pod and pollen sterile it is a very interesting Hibiscus but a genetic dead-end. I will be checking the flowers with care until first frost to see if there are any genetic loopholes.

The Alma’s Star in my garden now stands at over 7 feet in height. The buds which had begun to form in early October bloomed for the first time on Friday October 21, 2011 and the attached picture was taken on Saturday October 22, 2011. Until we get our fist killer frost I will continue to photograph and post pictures of Alma’s Star. It is starting to look like the flowers of Alma’s Star can last for many days. In New Jersey all of my native and non-native Hibiscus are going dormant and this rebel for the Southland is a most welcome guest before enviable return of the snows. The good news for gardeners in Zone 6 or warmer is that this Confederate Rose just might survive in a Yankee garden.


Thumbnail by Michael_Ronayne
Nutley, NJ(Zone 6b)

Here is what the unopened bud of Hibiscus mutabilis Alma’s Star looks like.


Thumbnail by Michael_Ronayne
Nutley, NJ(Zone 6b)

Here is a picture of Hibiscus mutabilis Alma’s Star in early August 2011 when the plant was already over 5 feet in height. I was winning the whitefly battle in this picture.


Thumbnail by Michael_Ronayne
Lee's Summit, MO(Zone 6a)

Mine are all blooming now, too. How is Alma's Star different?

Nutley, NJ(Zone 6b)


The “Summary Of The Intention” in the Plant Patent touches on all the high points.

The distinguishing feature of 'Alma's Star' is its unusual bloom. 'Alma's Star' exhibits buds of unusual size at the tips of its flowering stalks. These buds open up to present a flower that is a bundle of five distinct flowers, four outer and a central cluster that produce a bundle similar to a quartered rose.

To that I would add the Alma’s Start is obviously more cold tolerant than the typical Hibiscus mutabilis. That would not be an important issue for Florida gardeners but critical for anyone in Zone 6 which I suspect is about the limit for this Hibiscus.

The flower is also seedless which means that there is no seedling dispersal issues to worry about and seedless flowers tend to last longer and bloom with greater abundance although that has yet to be proven in the case of Alma’s Star.

One of the flowers has been open for four days now and appears to grow a little larger each day. I have not observer any profound color change yet although the oldest flower appears to be a little less pink. I am planning to dissect a few flowers to ascertain the condition of the reproductive structures but there is so little color in my garden that I can quite bring myself to sacrifice a flower just yet. One interesting observation is that honeybees, which tend to ignore my Hibiscus, find Alma’s Star irresistible.

Attached is a picture of three of the flowers which greeted me this morning. A small but welcome benediction before the onset of winter,


Thumbnail by Michael_Ronayne
Lee's Summit, MO(Zone 6a)

Thanks for that information. I have about 8 very large C.R. trees in my yard and seeding has never been an issue - wonder why?!

Nutley, NJ(Zone 6b)


In my Zone, if it survives at all, Hibiscus mutabilis is a perennial which re-grows from the roots each year. I suspect that my Alma’s Star will never get much taller than the 7 foot plus height it now has for that reason. Some hardwood Hibiscus which can form trees in a particular Zone have the reputation for becoming invasive. The most notorious example is Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon) which is considered an invasive weed in many localities. I my Zone 6 garden I will never see Hibiscus mutabilis set seeds but it is useful to learn that you don’t have a seedling problem in Florida.

How long do your blooms last? I have flowers which are now going on 6 days and are showing no sign of stopping. With most of my Hibiscus it is 24 to 36 hours and the show is all over.

Attached is a photograph I took of Alma’s Star on the morning of October 25, 2011. It looks about the same this morning. The temperatures have been in the low 40’s at night and the unopened buds appear to be on hold for now.


Thumbnail by Michael_Ronayne
Lee's Summit, MO(Zone 6a)

My blooms last one or two days, turning from white to dark pink.

Mesilla Park, NM

oh how beautiful your flowers are . The one double CR from plantsdelights is about 7 ft tall and is just now blooming. I have a couple of questions regarding this plant. One - can I take cuttings now for this one and TWO - how do I root it? It has been in the ground since this past April as a rooted cutting. We have gotten some really cold nights and I didn't think I'd see flowers open fully, but what a surprise this morning. From what is happening now, it is almost like it is syncronized in its bloom time in several areas. I'll go take some photos of the flowers in a bit.

I fell in love with this flower, it is so astonishing and to me looked like a giant double poppy. The buds on this started looking like they were going to have trouble opening and were pink right off the bat, but now I realize that is just one of many characteristics it has.

Thank you for the information you have provided for this forum, it truly helps any newbie trying to learn more about hibiscus in general.

Nutley, NJ(Zone 6b)

The North-East New Jersey/New York City region has been hit by the earliest snowstorm in the last 150 years and we have only been keeping records for the last 190 years. We have 4 plus inches on the ground and the forecast is for 8 to 12 inches. If you look at the attached picture, which features what is left of Hibiscus mutabilis Alma’s Stat, it would be safe to conclude that the Hibiscus blooming season is over for me. I am attempting to salvage a few more seeds from late blooming Hibiscus hybrids. I recovered most of my seeds but not everything. Hibiscus mutabilis Alma’s Star is on the ground but the stems didn’t break. I can’t say the same for my Hibiscus grandiflorus which was over 7 feet tall; the stems snapped like toothpicks. There is one more pod I want off of H. grandiflorus and I will see if I can find it under the snow, assuming the tag held.

I was able to obtain additional information about Alma’s Star before disaster struck. The bloom time for Hibiscus mutabilis Alma’s Star is five days and there are no color changes as the flower remains pink throughout the bloom cycle. I found the central flower referenced in the plant patent but I am not sure if that structure is sounded by 4 or 5 flower like structures. I examined the flowers and found the reproductive structures were highly deformed. The pistil was almost unrecognizable and clearly non-functional. I did find structures which resembled anthers but they contained to visible pollen. The anthers were connected to the petals and not the pistil as in normal Hibiscus. The pistil will never produce seeds and it is extremely unlikely that the anthers will ever yield viable pollen. Short of advanced genetic engineering manipulations, Hibiscus mutabilis Alma’s Star is a beautiful dead-end.

All of our trees in New Jersey are in full leaf and they are coming down all over the place and taking power lines with them. I lost one branch of my Magnolia grandiflora Bracken's Brown Beauty because I assumed that as the tree was always in full leaf I had nothing to worry about; I was wrong. Fortunately, one of my daughters heeded my warning, which I ignored, and was able to save her recently planted trees. The extendable aluminum painting poles are ideal for knocking snow and ice off tall trees.

I was able to get my must-save semi-tropical Hibiscus in the house but others, which were a summer experiments, are lost. I was hoping to harvest seeds from some semi-tropical Hibiscus but that is unlikely now but I will check anyway. I have been expecting the climate to turn a lot colder for some time now and was not surprised by last winter but had continued to hope that I would have a few more warm weeks in the fall to harvest seeds from more cold tolerant hybrids; it looks like I am running out of time. If the Livingston and Penn Event continues to progress on the Sun, I will not live long enough to see the end of it. I should have known better, time to start working on Plan B. There are two categories of semi-tropical’s Hibiscus, one group are summer bloomers and the other fall bloomers; and yes, there are a few in-betweens. It appears that I will have to focus on summer bloomers or move south.


Thumbnail by Michael_Ronayne
Mesilla Park, NM

Oh my lord...!! I can't believe it, well, I guess I do since you have a photo up. Did you get more snow last night?
Let me know if you want cuttings of mine, I don't know if it is anything close to what you have but, mine is big and I can try to root some for you too.

Here is mine as of yesterday, today there were more flowers open and they were even darker pink today they almost had reddish streaks. There must be at least 50 buds on this plant.

Thumbnail by Gourd
Mesilla Park, NM

After looking at your first photo there, mine look very light colored.. that dark one you posted is astonishing.

Nutley, NJ(Zone 6b)

After the disastrous early snow storm of October 29, 2011, I didn’t know what to expect of my Hibiscus mutabilis Alma’s Star in 2012. As expected for Zone 6b, Alma’s Star died back to the ground for the winter but started sending up new shots in the spring of 2012.

In my location, whiteflies are a vey big problem for Hibiscus mutabilis and I had been successfully treating whiteflies with frequent applications of Bayer’s Tree and Shrub with the active ingredient Imidacloprid because each new growth of leaves had to be protected. Back in 2009 DG member Ardesia suggested that I try worm casting but I was happily formulating new chemical concoctions and was skeptical that worm poop would be a deterrent to whiteflies but I didn’t forget the suggestion either and when I look for worm castings locally, couldn’t find a source and shipping costs were ridiculous.

Through 2009, 2010 & 2011 I became very skilled at killing whiteflies using Bayer’s Tree and Shrub but was tired of the constant applications to protect new leaves. Remembering the suggestions about worm castings, I did some research on the subject and found that prominent tropical Hibiscus breeders were recommending worm castings. The chemistry behind the use of worm castings appeared to be creditable. I purchased a 10 pound bag and applied about 5 pounds to Alma’s Star and the rest on other Hibiscus and the holes stopped.

All went well for about 8 weeks and then I began to notice holes in some of the new leaves of Hibiscus mutabilis, so I purchased another 10 bag of worm castings which stopped any additional holes. For now I would say that the use of worm castings as a treatment for whiteflies is plausible but more testing is required. If chitinase is the active ingredient in worm castings and you grown your own worms, you may want to try feeding the pulverized exoskeletons of crustaceans to your worms to encourage chitinase production.

George Hahn, the man who promoted the use of worm castings to control whiteflies, is now in trouble with the California EPA for promoting the idea. Will the last company to leave California, please remember to turn the lights off!

Cal EPA: Kills Businesses Dead

Businessman fined for selling worm poop fertilizer

Say good bye to worm poop in California

The product is still available at http://www.wormgold.com/ and http://max.wormgold.com/ , but I don’t know what the resolution to the California legal case is. Note that I didn’t use Worm Gold this year but may give it a try it next year if I can find a reasonable priced source such as http://www.amazon.com/Worm-Gold-10010-Castings-20-Quart/dp/B008JSP9PQ/ this one.

Irrespective of the effectiveness of worm castings to control whiteflies, the growth of Hibiscus mutabilis Alma’s Star has been spectacular this year. My Hibiscus “tree” now stands 10 feet tall and 10 feet wide and is 4 to 5 times larger compared to last year; this is from a Hibiscus which died back to ground level last winter. In the American South, where the stems can survive the winter, Hibiscus mutabilis will grow into a tree but that should not happen in Zone 6b. Next to Alma’s Star is a Hibiscus mutabilis double which is just hanging on, with one thin stalk standing about 6 feet tall and a second one 4 feet tall. While the stalks on the Hibiscus mutabilis double are a half inch in diameter, some of the stalks on the Hibiscus mutabilis Alma’s Star are almost two inch in diameter. Both Hibiscus have flower buds and the Hibiscus mutabilis Alma’s Star should be blooming in about thee weeks but the flowers will be sterile. It is going to be a horserace between my Hibiscus mutabilis double and old man winter and the old man usually wins but not always.

Attached are photos on Hibiscus mutabilis Alma’s Star and its developing buds. You can find a picture of last year’s plant here:

At the request of management, I am going to have to find Hibiscus mutabilis Alma’s Star a new home next spring. There is a nearby nature park where a sterile cultivar would be a nice addition; normally I only put native Hibiscus species specimens in the park. Even I will admit that a 10 foot plus Hibiscus tree is a little over the top. If the flowers were capable of producing seeds or even viable pollen I might have fought harder but Hibiscus mutabilis Alma’s Star appears to be genetic dead end and on a 50x100 foot lot I just don’t have the room. In three weeks I should be posting pictures of the flowers.


Thumbnail by Michael_Ronayne Thumbnail by Michael_Ronayne
Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I think there's a bit of journalistic license going on in the "say goodbye to worm poop in CA" title. Regardless of who wins the legal battle, it only applies to the claims that the CA EPA considers to be pesticidal (repelling whitefly, etc), not the ability to sell the product. So even if the WormGold folks lose, they'd be free to continue selling it as long as they stop making the claims that the CA EPA didn't like.

Nutley, NJ(Zone 6b)

Quote from Gourd :
Oh my lord...!! I can't believe it, well, I guess I do since you have a photo up. Did you get more snow last night?
Let me know if you want cuttings of mine, I don't know if it is anything close to what you have but, mine is big and I can try to root some for you too.


My apologies for not responding sooner but after the snows I didn’t want to think about Hibiscus mutabilis for awhile. There was a question I wanted to ask you. Will your Hibiscus mutabilis produce viable pollen and/or set seeds? I still have hopes for my Hibiscus mutabilis double. If your Hibiscus mutabilis do set seeds, when do they ripen? Or to but in another way, will I run out of summer?

Yes, I know I am gardening at the extreme limits for some of the species I have but like the cat in Robert Heinlein’s Door Into Summer I keep looking for that magical doorway to a warmer climate or a loophole in reality.


Lee's Summit, MO(Zone 6a)

LOL, Mike - we are all looking for that loophole!

Nutley, NJ(Zone 6b)

Quote from ecrane3 :
I think there's a bit of journalistic license going on in the "say goodbye to worm poop in CA" title. Regardless of who wins the legal battle, it only applies to the claims that the CA EPA considers to be pesticidal (repelling whitefly, etc), not the ability to sell the product. So even if the WormGold folks lose, they'd be free to continue selling it as long as they stop making the claims that the CA EPA didn't like.


I am extremely skeptical of organic gardening, even though my Mother was a true believer and a much better gardener than I can ever hope to be. If you read some of my posts, I am busily reformulating pesticides in ways the manufacture or the EPA ever intended. While I usually ignore the advice in organic gardening posts, I do read them, and once and awhile I come across a bit of information which I find interesting, such as this post on the organic use of Bacillus thuringiensis which works spectacularly well for Mosquito control in my artificial Hibiscus bogs (AKA cement mixing tubs).

I have known about the reported use of worm castings to control whiteflies for three years now but was skeptical because no metabolic pathways were suggested in the reports I had read. This spring I researched the issue and decided to give it a try. As I reported above, worm castings appear to work or every whitefly in Nutley NJ went on vacation this summer. I am still not completely sold on worm castings with only one summer of testing but I will be trying it again next year. I would be much happier with fewer anecdotal success stories and more peer reviewed research papers, which hopefully are coming.

The only reason people are using Bayer’s Imidacloprid, which is a synthetic Nicotine-sulfate analog, is because the only approved organic insecticide Nicotine-sulfate was band. Bayer couldn’t sell Imidacloprid at a profit if Nicotine-sulfate were legal.

Organic gardening is being regulated to death. There is a mistaken believe that large corporations dislike regulations which is not true, just as long as they get to buy the politicians who write the regulations. Government regulations have a number of advantages to large corporations, a few of which are:

1. Startups and small corporations are kept out of the market.
2. Products can be sold at higher prices.
3. Innovation by new players is suppressed.
4. The cost of doing business is increase, which increases profits.
5. Corporations are shielded from monopolistic trade practices.

Given the support for organic gardening in California, one would expect the State of California to encourage a local startup company, with a green insect control solution which just may work, to do everything they could to insure the success of the company but apparently they are not. Once chitinase can be produced in commercial quantities via genetic engineering by the Agricultural-Industrial Complex it will be interesting to see what the position of the CA EPA is. I am very sure that all the paperwork will be correctly filled out in triplicate.

For now, I have several ways to control whiteflies while I watch California’s newest reality entertainment show.


Williamstown, NJ(Zone 6b)

Thanks Mike it is nice to know that we can grow these this far north. I saw one when I was in NC and fell in love, but knew I had not chance of getting one to live. Now I know I could if I wanted to. I am guessing that it does take full sun?

Nutley, NJ(Zone 6b)

Quote from marie_kap :
Thanks Mike it is nice to know that we can grow these this far north. I saw one when I was in NC and fell in love, but knew I had not chance of getting one to live. Now I know I could if I wanted to. I am guessing that it does take full sun?

Attached are two photographs which I took on 2012-10-21 of buds which are showing color and just about to open. I expect the first flowers in the next few days weather permitting. This year, my Hibiscus mutabilis Alma’s Star is covered with hundreds of buds which are all in the process of opening. It should be some show in a week or two.

In comparison the Hibiscus mutabilis Double has a few small buds which I don’t believe will bloom this year. Actually this past spring, I thought I had lost this Hibiscus only to have it make a surprise late appearance but it is living on the edge. As the size of the root ball increases it may do better but it is not looking promising.

While we both live in a New Jersey Zone 6b environment, I am still inside the New York City Heat Island Effect and can cheat Old Man Winter sometimes, but in the end the Old Man wins. You are 90 miles south of my location so that should count for something. Please remember that this Hibiscus is a sterile stem mutation of Hibiscus mutabilis, which I strongly suspect is a polyploidy with an unknown chromosome count.

It is incredibly easy to root stem cuttings of Hibiscus mutabilis. Because of the bug infestations problems the first winter indoors I had to clone the Alma’s Star several times to keep it alive. If you try to grow Alma’s Star in your location, I would protect it for the first winter but it should be OK after that. Alma’s Star likes a lot of sun and needs a lot of room to grow. The size of the Hibiscus this year was totaling unexpected and may need several pruning during the summer to keep it under control. But if you want to astound your neighbors with a flowing tree in November this is the Hibiscus for you. If it didn't die back to the ground every winter, Hibiscus mutabilis Alma’s Star would become a tree.


This message was edited Oct 21, 2012 11:10 PM

Thumbnail by Michael_Ronayne Thumbnail by Michael_Ronayne
Las Vegas, NV(Zone 9a)

Oh my goodness, that is one large plant...Please post a photo when it is full bloom. Thanks in advance.

Mesilla Park, NM

Oh my goodness... mine is also about 12 feet tall and blooming right now. I didn't find any seedpods on mine last year, but it has lots of pollen and all the right parts. Lots of carpenter bees and different bees in there. Maybe this year it will make a seedpod, but we are getting a freeze coming this next week...so I don't know if it will let the flowers survive.

I tried to root several cuttings last year and couldn't root a one. What is the trick to this particular hib. I just put the cuttings into a bucket of water for the winter in my studio and changed the water regularly..

I want to try again to root a couple of these. Some of the stems are like tree stems, can we root those?

or are they too thick. I hate to cut it down..darn.

Lee's Summit, MO(Zone 6a)

The stem cuttings need to be about pencil-thick and green. They root best in spring, but can be rooted now - you just have to place them in a sunny window, where they will get the warmth and bright light they need to root.

Mesilla Park, NM

I should have started them in spring then... will try a couple indoors and keep them warm.

Thank you KayJones.


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