Growing Gongura in Containers from Seeds, and Cuttings

Introduction to Growing Gongura (Roselle) in containers/pots from seeds and cuttings

The Gongura plant is popularly known in India as Gongura is from the family Malvaceae, and known as Hibiscus sabdariffa in Botanical terms. Gongura (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is also called Florida cranberry, red sorrel, Gongura or Jamaica sorrel, The Gongura plant is a member of the hibiscus family grown for its flavorful calyxes (part of the flower). It is not as showy as ornamental hibiscus varieties but it is extremely useful. Gongura is a wonderful herb or leafy greens to grow at home. The leaves have a tart lemony taste similar to sorrel and used in dals and chutneys especially in the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh famous for Gongura Chutney.

A step by step guide to growing Gongura in containers

Growing Gongura plants is also possible in pots, planter, flowerpot or containers;

Yes, when growing Gongura plants in a pot need 50% bigger than the roots ball, every time that switches the container to bigger switch some of the soil to new soil until arrive at the desirable container size. After that every few years better to switch part of the soil and cut some roots, no need to take the plant out just from the side of the container. It can grow in a container of 10-20L (2-4 gallons) and can grow in bigger, soil can be potting soil, a mixture of peat soil and perlite or other light mixed soil, water it regularly and care when putting bottom for the pot be aware not to let the water stay there too many days, need to add humus, organic matter, fertilizer and mulch to cover the soil to keep it moist.

Different varieties of Gongura

The Gongura plants are two varieties, a red-stemmed and green stemmed. The red-stemmed plants are sore whereas the green stemmed ones are mild in taste. Gongura is a hibiscus related plant but its flower is not big and will bloom for just a couple hours in the morning, so it’s not a very attractive plant to have for its beauty.

There are a few varieties in cultivation, the Thai Red Gongura plant; however, is the most common one. A striped one that has shown up for some gardeners and it is referred to as peppermint striped Gongura.

Plant Gongura at the right time

Gongura germinates at soil temperature ranges between 23 – 29°C and does well directly sown in the garden. In cooler climates, start Gongura from seed indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost. When seedlings are 3 to 4 inches high, transplant them into a spot in the garden that gets full sun.

The Gongura growing instructions for containers

Planting Depth – 1/2 inches

Seed Spacing – 36 inches

Plant Spacing – 60 inches

Days to Germination – 10-21 days

Germination Temperature – 23-29°C.

Gongura plant is a low-maintenance; easy-going plant that pretty much looks after it. Gongura plant grows to about 2 meters in fairly rich, well-drained soils. Gongura plants can be started early and transplanted, much like tomatoes, or it can be direct-seeded during hot weather. It requires temperatures between 23 – 29°C to germinate but germinates readily outdoors making it an ideal candidate for direct seed sowing.

Gongura plant will do best in well-drained, fertile soil. Compost amendments are fine but beware of over-fertilizing and too much nitrogen can cause it to put energy into growing a very large plant instead of many calyxes. Be sure to keep Gongura plants well weeded until they’re established and can shade out weeds by themselves.

Gongura plants will grow in almost any type of soil but do best in a well-drained soil prepared with lots of organic matter and in full sun. The Gongura plant is a perennial but for optimum harvests, it is grown as an annual. While the Gongura plant is usually grown from seed they can be grown from cuttings. Seeds can be planted directly into the garden or into seed trays, 1/2 cm deep (seed trays in a warm protected position will give an earlier start to plants in cooler regions). It can help to soak seeds for about an hour before planting then water in with a mixture of 1 tea. Epsom Salts to 5 liters of water. Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate and this is the time of the year to plant some rosella seeds. Plant out seedlings 90cm apart when they have at least 4 leaves.

Gardening Tips for direct sowing of Gongura seeds for growing in containers

Plant extra seeds and thin later choosing the best looking Gongura plants to keep. This will ensure you get a good crop of healthy and hardy plants.

Do not forget to water your Gongura plant especially while the seeds are germinating. Watch the weather and make sure your area has warmed up enough.

If you’re going to direct sow and thin your Gongura plants (or have plants ready to set out) it’s important to give Gongura a lot of space. Plants should be thinned to 3 feet apart in rows 5 feet apart. It sounds like a lot but plants with less space will produce fewer calyxes.

Garden planting tips for Gongura plants

If you live in a cooler climate and don’t have a greenhouse or an adequate place indoors, you need to adjust the time of planting described above accordingly to ensure there will be no temperatures that are too cold. Gongura plants can die at temperatures below 4°C. If you live in an area with frequent frosts, planting in-ground could not be an option.

When planting outside, select an area that will be in full sunlight. If you live in a consistently warm climate, this is not as critical. They thrive best with as much sunlight as possible. The soil needs to be made to not retain water. If you don’t have any well-drained soil on your property, you will want to adjust the area where you decide to plant by adding a few inches worth of a combination of sand and peat moss. The ideal ratio must be 2:1:1 of soil, peat moss, and sand, respectively.

Plant Gongura in the best location

Gongura plant prefers well-draining fertile soil. Overly rich soil or extra fertilization leads to a large plant with fewer calyces. A sunny spot is best for growing Gongura plants successfully.

Steps for Gongura seed sowing (seed starting) in a container

First, select a container with uniform drainage holes at the bottom. Then, fill the container with a selected growing medium.

The seed spacing of Gongura
  • Make shallow holes (1 cm) at a distance of about 3 x 3 inches.
  • Sow 2 to 3 seeds per hole.
  • Push the seeds a little into the soil medium with your fingers and cover them completely with the surrounding soil.
  • Water the sown seedbed immediately by a light shower by using a watering can.
Gongura plant propagation

Gongura is propagated by seed but grows readily from cuttings. The latter way results in shorter plants preferred in India for interplanting with tree crops but the yield of calyces is relatively low.

Growth stages of Gongura (Roselle) plant

Germination – Seeds will germinate within the first 6 days, or even earlier and tiny seedlings will be visible with first leaves.

Thinning – If more than one seed has germinated per hole, cut off the smaller seedlings and keep only one seedling per hole.

Baby Gongura plants will be visible in 10 to 15 days.

Mature plant leaves will be ready to harvest in 30 days.

The process of growing Gongura from seed in containers

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The process of growing Gongura.
The process of growing Gongura.

Step 1) Plant Gongura in a full sun location. In colder areas, start Gongura seeds indoors and transplant outside after the danger of frost is past. Place transplants at least 3 feet apart, or thin seedlings to that distance so that plants have plenty of room to grow. New plants are easily started from cuttings.

Step 2) Gongura is not particular about soil pH level, but it requires a permeable soil. Sandy soil amended with humus is preferred; though, it adapts to a variety of soils. It appreciates frequent watering and it is even tolerant of floods and stagnant water. Plant them anywhere an attractive shrub is needed during the summer season. Scatter them in a mixed border, or plant in rows to make a dense hedge by midsummer and they also perform well in large containers. Since it is susceptible to root-knot nematodes, the Gongura plant should not be planted in the same place every year. A good mulch will help to control the nematode population, conserve water, and inhibit weeds.

Step 3) Gongura seeds need higher temperatures to germinate, between 23 and 29°C. Sow seed from March to April. They can be started earlier as seedlings and transplanted or they can be direct sown. Presoak Gongura seeds overnight before planting for best results. If starting seeds indoors, a heating mat is recommended as the seed will germinate best in warm soils.

Step 4) Gongura plant prefers well-draining soil but does like plenty of water. Do not add high nitrogen fertilizers as this causes fewer calyxes to form but plant with some compost. The Gongura plants can get quite large, plant at least three feet apart, and note that they may need to be supported with some staking. They can reach up to seven feet tall.

Step 5) Gongura plant requires a long season to grow, so plant as early as March, but note that it will not bloom until fall. It will take about 6 months to mature.  Gongura is a day light-sensitive plant, meaning the maturity of the plant (in this case the blooms), are triggered as the days get shorter, towards the end of September and in October. It is closely related to okra, with similar-looking blooms that are smaller. As the blooms set pod, and the red calyxes will start to form. Calyxes must be harvested when the pods are still tender; normally this is around 8 to 10 days after the calyxes start to develop.

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Gongura plant care

The Gongura plant has few pest and disease problems. Occasionally mealybug and scale insects can be found on stems, caterpillars and beetles may eat leaves or calyxes and at times aphids can take up residence inside the calyx. Most of these plant problems can be solved with soap spray or a molasses spray. If you have root node nematodes these can affect the Gongura. Hibiscus beetles can sometimes be a problem in these plants. If they are they can be controlled by placing white ice cream containers with detergent and water among the Gongura plants, empty and replace with fresh water and detergent when necessary.

Harvesting procedure of seeds from Gongura plants

Gongura seeds are usually harvested 10 days after the flower blooms. Inside each calyx is a pod of seeds and these calyces are harvested by carefully snipping them off the stems with sharp pruners or scissors. It is very important for repeat blooming not to rip or twist the calyces off the plant. After they have been harvested, the seed pod is pushed out of the calyx with a small hollow metal tube. The Gongura flower seeds are then dried to be planted later and fleshy red calyces are dried or eaten fresh.

Harvest Gongura at the right time

After the beautiful Gongura bloom fades, the flower withers and falls off. After a few days, the pointy red calyx around the seed pod is about an inch large and then ready to pick. The Gongura seed pod is fully grown but still tender. At this stage, the calyx can be popped off by hand and the calyx gets larger, the stem hardens and needs to be removed with garden clippers. About 10 days after blooming is the best time to pick the calyces. Harvesting Gongura calyces early and often increases the overall yield of the plant. About 25-30 days after sowing, Gongura can be harvested by cutting the mature leaves using a scissor and leaving the fleshy base of the plant for the next harvest. In this way, you can harvest Gongura 4-5 times in intervals of 20 to 25 days.

Commonly asked questions about growing Gongura plants in containers

How long do Gongura seeds take to germinate?

Gongura plant cannot tolerate frost and requires a lot of moisture to grow happily. Gongura flower seeds take about 6 months to mature.

How long does it take to grow Gongura?

Gongura flower seeds take about 6 months to mature. A mature Gongura plant can grow up to 6 feet wide and 8 feet tall.

Is Gongura good for health?

Gongura leaves are an excellent source of folate and a good source of vitamin B6, both of which are needed to maintain low homocysteine levels. Apart from this, it is also a rich source of iron, vitamin C, antioxidants, calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin A.

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  1. Strawberries make a good companion plant for Gongura. Other companion plants for Gongura are onions, lettuce, and spinach.


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