December Plant of the Month: Hibiscus
Latin name: Hibiscus sabdariffa, H. acetosella, Malvaceae
H. sabdariffa: Hibiscus, Jamaica, Roselle, Florida Cranberry, native to India and Malaysia
H. acetosella: Cranberry Hibiscus, Red Maple Leaf Hibiscus, False Roselle, African Rose Mallow Hibiscus, native to South Central Africa
Parts Used: Leaves are edible, and cooked with chiles and garlic to make a chutney in some Indian and SE Asian cultures. Calyces are collected for a tart beverage. Calyces are a collection of sepals, at the base of the flower. Once the flower has fallen off, the calyx will close and then you can harvest. Inside the calyx is a mucilaginous seed – it’s up to you whether you include that or not. Herbalist Juliet Blankespoor leaves some of them in. Stalk can be used for fiber, similar to jute.
Growth: Since it’s used for fiber and cordage, you can expect this plant to get tall and woody unless kept pruned. Forms a gorgeous hedge, especially the red leaf variety, H. acetosella. Will grow aimlessly and sprawl unless kept pruned.
Preparation: Leaves-potherb Calyces: tea, tincture, syrup, vinegar, elixir, food preparation
Recipes: Juliet Blankespoor’s Hibiscus Pomegranate Fire Cider
a few Christmases ago I made a hibiscus, cranberry, cilantro, jalapeno, orange juice sort of slaw with a tiny bit of brown sugar and it was a big hit! I wish I remember the measurements, but I just chopped everything fine and threw it in a serving dish!
Hibiscus is a good ally to us in Florida because it will grow year round, and flowers in the winter months! It is a profuse fruiter, and if you have the patience for harvesting and garbling, is a great economical addition to the garden. Drinking hibiscus tea has been shown to lower blood pressure , as if you needed a reason to drink this delicious tart beverage beyond its refreshing flavor.
!!! Important to note, from herbalist Juliet Blankespoor, “Please only use this species of hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa), as other species aren’t necessarily edible and definitely aren’t used in the same fashion. (This is why proper identification and understanding of scientific names is important if you’re going to harvest your own medicine!)” !!! 
Hibiscus here in Central Florida is commonly found with mealybugs – look out for white spots on the plant! Check this link out for information on how to deal with mealybugs.