Saturday, March 09, 2013

Growing Roselle/Rosella

Roselle or rosella has been making a rousing come back lately. It was a popular household plant in the 70s and 80s. I remember during my childhood days, there was a house near to the seaside which has a couple of roselle plants growing in its garden. Each time I tagged along my Mom to her friend's place, we had to walk pass this house and we would stop for a few seconds to admire the many dark red buds on the stem. My Mom told me it was ribena. Apparently, it is, till today, conveniently referred to as ribena. However, roselle and the store bought ribena syrup are two different things although similar in taste. Roselle is in actual fact, a wild hibiscus cultivar. 

It is easy to grow from seeds. I currently have 4 plants all grown from seeds. The first germinated seed has grown into a really bushy plant and is now producing more than a hundred roselle fruits/buds.The other 3 plants are scrawny but still producing roselle fruits, although lesser in number.

The ideal growing condition for roselle is warm and ample of sunlight. Sow a seed and lightly water it once a day. It will germinate within a few days. When the plant was about a foot in height, I fed it with some fertiliser once every 3 weeks. Stop fertilising once it starts to bear fruit buds. Do not over fertilize as roselle can still grow well in not-so-fertile soil. 

The plant can grow to a height of more than 7 feet tall and send branches out to 3-4 feet wide. The plant can get rather bushy but do not prune it as fruits will grow all along the stem right to the tip of each branch. Tiny buds that appear will first bloom into flowers somewhere along its mid-life cycle before forming the fruits. Each fruit is made up of conjoined calyces with pointed tips which enclose inside it, a pod that contains many black seeds when mature. The calyces can be used for making jam and drinks that is rich in vitamin C. 

A single large plant can yield many many many roselle fruits, could even be enough to yield a few small bottles of jam. Roselle drink itself is already delicious and is a great thirst quencher on a warm day!