You may also know Florida cranberry (Hibiscus sabdariffa) as Roselle or Sorrel. While not native to the state, growing Florida cranberry in Florida is very easy.
The best time to plant Florida Cranberry in Florida is April and May. The plant grows through the warmer months of the year and is ready for harvest around October. Florida Cranberry grows to about 6 feet tall and enjoys full sun and regular watering.
Roselle has a unique looking edible fruit that has a tart and sweet flavor, which can also be used to make tea or jam. The leaves are also edible!
Planting Florida Cranberry
In most parts of Florida the best time to plant Florida cranberry is in April or May. You want the weather to be warm and humid. Florida cranberry does not enjoy cool weather at all.
Florida cranberry is rated to grow in zones 9-11, Those in the northern parts of Florida will have the toughest time growing this plant up until the point of harvestable fruit.
This plant is an annual, This means that this plant will die after one growing cycle. For this reason, it’s important to save seeds and cuttings after each season in order to have a continuous supply of this plant.
Florida cranberry can grow up to 7 feet tall but typically you can expect a plant anywhere from 3-6 feet tall. When planting Florida cranberry be sure that you choose a spot in full sun that can support a plant that will grow that large.
Growing Florida Cranberry
Florida cranberry enjoys plenty of water. Florida cranberry grows during our warmer and wetter months so with regular rains you might not need to water every day but, on the days that it doesn’t rain, your plant will benefit if you do water it.
Tip: Pruning when young can promote more branching which increases your fruit production.
The biggest pest you will probably battle but not see are the nematodes. They affect the roots of the plant and eventually lead to death. Nematodes are difficult to handle if your soil has them. You can combat them by planting in containers of fresh soil.
You may also encounter the regular summer pests like aphids and mealybugs. These can be handled in extreme cases with neem oil or other insecticidal soap. If caught early, removal by hand is effective and so is a strong jet of water.
Fertilizing Florida Cranberry
Florida cranberry will benefit if you added compost and organic matter to the soil when planting. They don’t require regular fertilizing to grow healthy and produce fruit but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give them extra fertilizer.
A good organic option is fish fertilizer or kelp fertilizer, although it is pretty smelly, so be prepared for that. If you don’t really care about an organic option This southern ag fertilizer has a good mix of nutrients to produce green leafy growth but also a high amount of phosphorus to promote heavy flowering and fruiting.
Harvesting Florida Cranberry
Flowering and fruiting begin to happen 4-6 months after planting. In Florida you can expect to harvest fruits in October and November.
The fruits form just beneath the flower head, the part of the plant is called the calyces. They are at their juiciest after the flower has shriveled up and been swallowed by the calyces.
The fruits are so uniquely shaped. They almost look like little balls of fire to me.
The edible parts of the fruit are the pedal looking parts. You can peel them apart and in the center is a seed pod that you can save for next year.
Using Florida Cranberry
The pedals of the fruit can be eaten raw as a sweet and sour tart treat, similar to cranberries.
You can also use the fruit to make a lot of interesting things to diversify your cabinet! Things like jam, syrup, and other drinks. Ill put a some links below for some of these different recipes.
Can you eat the leaves of Roselle
Yes, the leaves of Roselle are edible. You can eat them as a cooked green like a sauteed spinach or the such. You can eat the young leaves raw in salads and they will add a nice texture and flavor to your snack.
Is Roselle and Cranberry hibiscus the samething
No, They are not the same thing. They are both part of the same Hibiscus family but the two plants look very different. Roselle has grean leafy growth and produces a tart fruit.
Cranberry hibiscus grows rich red leaves and and bright pink flowers, which are both edible. but it does not produce a sweet and tart fruit.