close up of harvested rosella calyxes

Rosella Romance

It was Easter Eve when I embarked on making my Rosella jelly and oh how I wish there was such thing as smellavision so that I could share with you the wonderful smell swirling around my kitchen from the rosellas and sugar cooking away on the stovetop.

Claire with a Rosella bush
I love growing Rosellas, they bring back so many childhood memories

For me the fragrance of jam or jelly cooking away is something that takes me back to my childhood where I would spend my school holidays with my Great Aunt in Toowoomba. Besides long nights of playing canasta and scrabble,  jam/jelly making were high on the list of things to be done whilst visiting.

I now love to grow every spring/summer period my own rosella plants and find that not only are they a productive plant but a very ornamental one as well. This means you will find me popping them in all over the place as backdrop plants to annual flowering beds and in amongst the salvias and daisies too.


Rosellas in a Snapshot

  • Botanical name:   Hibiscus sabdariffa
  • Origin: Tropical Africa but has naturalised in other places such as India and Pacific region.
  • Cultural requirements: Happy growing in a range of climate zones from, dry temperate, arid to more tropical and subtropical locations. Grow in throughout the warmer months and harvest it autumn.
    They need full sun, free draining soil (they hate wet feet) high in organic matter. I barely fertilise ours, they are very forgiving but you could use an organic fertiliser of sorts or side dress as they are growing along with some well rotted manure and apply some potassium in a liquid or powered form (liquid potash or sulphate of potash) to encourage better flowering and fruiting.
    Either, sow from seed or plant as seedlings. Seeds will benefit from a soaking in warm water for a short period of time for better germination
  • Height: An annual fast growing bush to 1.5-2m tall
  • Flowers/Fruit: The beautiful lemon coloured small hibiscus like flowers are soon followed by the bright red calyx/seedpods. You will have several harvests from your Rosella plants, the first one is not so big but second and third flowerings produce the larger crops as plants mature.
  • Uses: these fruit can be used to make jam, jelly, cordial, tea, dye, sauce and more.

How to make Rosella jelly

I prefer making jelly to jam.
I find you will need around 6 plants to ensure enough fruit for jam or jelly making, I always plant 10-12 just in case of any losses.


Rosella calyxes simmering in a stainless steel pot
Simmering away on the stove top

1. Wash whole rosellas, and place in cooking pot with one grated green apple add enough water to cover it all. Bring to the boil and simmer until Rosella are tender and soft without having fallen apart.


Pile of spent rosella calyxes
The left over pulp I pop into the worm farm or compost bin.

2. Strain and throw away the pulp (I pop this in the worm farm or compost bin).




Rosella liquid after the calyxes are strained out
The strained liquid is just the most delicious colour

3. Place the juice of one lemon into the liquid. Then for every cup of liquid add a cup of sugar.





Boiling Rosella and sugar
Sugar added, back on the stove top to bring to the boil

4. Place back on the heat and bring to a rolling boil until the jelly starts to set. Then bottle in dry sterile jars and seal.

How do you know if it’s set?
Place a saucer into the freezer so it is cold and bring out and drop a few drops of rosella liquid onto the saucer, let it sit there for 40 seconds and then run your finger through it. It needs to crinkle when you do this for it to be ready. If not keep boiling and retry as many times as needed.

It’s not setting!!!!!
What happens when my jelly stays runny?

This is usually because there is not enough pectin. You can add more lemon juice make sure you’re not using Meyer lemons as they are not true lemons and don’t have high enough levels of pectin in them to help with setting. Or you can buy jam setter and add following instructions.

Don’t panic you have time; you can leave your runny rosella jelly liquid in jars for days even weeks before re-doing the batch with the jam setter.

But wait that’s not all!!
You can also make;

  • Rosella syrup
  • Rosella cordial
  • Rosella Tea – yep that funky new tea called Red Zinger Tea uses the good Rosella as the primary ingredient.

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