Rosella 'Red Drops'
Photo by Invertzoo (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Scientific Name: Hibiscus sabdariffa
Common Names: Rosella 'Red Drops', Roselle 'Red Drops', Queensland Jam Plant
Rosella plants are a small annual bush native to Western Africa. Red Drops is a heirloom, open-pollinated variety of Rosella, meaning you can save the seeds from year to year and they'll grow true to type.
Rosella is primarily grown for the bright red, fleshy calyx that surrounds each seedpod. The ripe calyces can be combined with sugar and made into jams or cordial. To prepare the calyces simply core out the seedpod from the middle of each one. If you don't have enough calyces to make a whole batch of jam or cordial at once you can either freeze the them as they ripen or dry them in a food dehydrator or in the oven at the lowest temperature with the door pried open. You can also pour boiling water over a few of the calyces to create a vibrant red tea. Rosella leaves are also edible but are sour raw and best eaten cooked. Rosella seeds can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute.
Rosella grows best in a location that receives full sun but it will also tolerate light shade. Rosella plants will produce less fruits when grown in the shade so take this into account when choosing a site to grow Rosella. Ensure your garden soil is free draining or else your Rosella plants may suffer from root rot and die. Grow Rosella plants in a raised vegetable bed if your soil is too compacted or heavy in clay. Dig plenty of pelleted organic fertiliser, worm castings, compost and/or well-rotted animal manures through the soil prior to sowing. Fertilise again once your Rosella plants begin to flower. Mulch around Rosella plants well to retain moisture, keep their root systems cool and reduce competition from weeds. Prune the branch tips off of young Rosella plants to encourage them to become bushier and produce more fruits. Picking Rosella fruits regularly as they ripen will encourage your plants to produce further flowers.
When To Sow:
In cooler regions of Australia sow Red Drops Rosella seed from October to December, making sure any chance of frost has past before sowing. In temperate regions of Australia sow Red Drops Rosella seed from September to January, making sure any chance of frost has past before sowing. In subtropical regions of Australia sow Red Drops Rosella seed from September to February. Rosella seeds can be sown all year round in tropical regions of Australia.
How To Sow:
Soak Rosella seeds overnight in warm water before sowing to help penetrate their hard seed coat. Sow Rosella seeds 1cm deep spacing plants about a metre apart to give them room to grow. Rosella seeds can have a lower germination rate than seed of other vegetables so be sure to plant more seeds than you'll need. Five or six plants should be enough to make a large batch of Rosella jam.
Rosella seeds take 5 to 10 days to germinate once sown.
Time To Harvest:
Your Rosella fruits will be ready to pick 5 to 6 months after sowing the seeds.