Cranberry Hibiscus ( (a.k.a False roselle, African rosemallow – Hibiscus acetosella) is a striking and colorful plant with red leaves that resemble a maple leaf. It can be grown as a border or hedge plant – its dramatic purple leaves contrasting nicely with plants that have paler green leaves.
Zones: 8-11 Mature Height/Spread: 4-6 (10) feet
Mature Form: Wild & rangy, a dense bush if well pruned
Growth Rate: Rapid
Sun Exposure: Full Sun
Soil Requirements: 6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
Soil Type: All kinds of soil as long as it is well-drained
Water: Fairly drought tolerant
Leaves: Burgundy to bronze-green
Flower Color: Pink
Bloom Time: Late Fall/Early Winter
Propagation: Cuttings or seed. Seeds can be dried on plants and collected (wear gloves to protect hands when handling seeds)
Pests/Diseases: It is nematode and insect resistant It does best in full sun to light shade and has rose pink hollyhock-like flowers that open for a few hours at midday mostly in the fall. It tends to grow so tall it straggles all over the place because its slender branches bend right over from the weight of its leaves. Prune it when it is young by pinching out the growing tips to encourage it to form a dense bush. Cut it to the base after it has finished blooming and it will usually grow a second year. If kept well pruned, it makes a lovely hedge or shrub. Hibiscus sabdariffa is a sister species whose calyx (the sepals of the flower) is widely eaten throughout Africa. The calyx of cranberry hibiscus is not fleshy and is not eaten.
In Central America the flowers are blended with ice, sugar, lemon or lime juice and water to make a delicious, purple lemonade. The leaves are pleasantly tart and can be eaten in salads and stir fries. They retain their red color even after cooking. Because the leaves are a bit mucilaginous (slimy), they are best cooked in small-ish quantities and cooked only for a short time.
Hibiscus Drink: Collect about thirty blossoms at dusk after they have folded. The petals add a bright red color rather than any special flavor. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil and remove from heat. Add 4 oz. dried hibiscus flowers and allow to steep, covered. When cool, add sugar to taste, and ½ cup fresh squeezed lime or lemon juice. Serve chilled.
More photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/search?sort=relevance&text=Hibiscus%20acetosella