Gongura Farming(Roselle); Cultivation Practices

Gongura farming or Roselle Farming

Today we are detailing about how to grow Roselle plants or Gongura farming.


Roselle or Gongura belongs to the family Malvaceae and is an important annual crop grown successfully in tropical & sub-tropical climates. The commercially important element of the plant is the fleshy calyx or sepals surrounding the fruit. The whole plant can be used as a beverage, or the dried calyces can be soaked in water to arrange a colorful cold drink or may be boiled in water and taken as a hot drink. It has some medicinal properties (National Biodiversity Action Plan (N.B.A.P.)). The seeds contain 17.8 to 21% non-edible oil and 20% protein and are sometimes used for animal feed. Are Roselle and hibiscus the same? Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa), also called Roselle or Gongura, is a short-day plant usually grown in tropical and subtropical areas.

Roselle or Gongura is a flexible plant with a number of uses. It is intercropped with crop staples such as sorghum & sesame or planted along field margins. It requires slight care. Its leaves, seeds, capsules & stems are used in traditional medicines. In rural areas, women are generally responsible for growing Roselle. Gongura leaves are medium to large in size & are broad, flat, and pliable. The vibrant green leaves are deeply lobed with 3 to 5 serrated, finger-shaped leaflets. Gongura leaves come from a dense shrub-like plant that typically reaches heights of 2 to 3 meters. It has reddish-purple stems with dark green foliage & trumpet-shaped flowers. The flowers have 5 creamy yellow petals that fade to deep maroon in the center. Smaller Gongura leaves offer a mild green & tangy flavor, whereas more mature specimens are robust and acrid. Warm temperatures affect the taste of the leaf because the hotter it gets, the sourer the leaf will taste. Gongura farming in India is very easy and affordable.

Applications of Roselle/Gongura:

The applications of Roselle are as follows;

Gongura leaves may be pickled, steamed, blanched, or ground into a paste & combined with garlic, chilies, and salt to make chutney. The sour leaves heighten the rich flavor of legumes & fatty meats, therefore making them a perfect complement to dishes with lentils, goat, or mutton. Gongura leaves can be cooked with shrimp, mussels, and fish & are also used raw in salads. Gongura leaves are normally prepared with the flavor profiles of tamarind, red and green chilies, turmeric, cumin, onion, garlic, sesame, and curries. They will keep up to 5 days when unwashed, wrapped in a damp paper towel and stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.  Can Roselle be eaten raw? Yes, the Roselle leaves can be eaten raw in salads or cooked as greens either on their own or with other leafy vegetables & meat. The Indians often add the leaves to curry to impart a sour taste.

Varieties of Gongura or Roselle:

Gongura or Roselle comes in two varieties, green stemmed leaf and red stemmed. The red stemmed leaf variety is sourer than the green stemmed variety. Gongura is popular in the state of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Manipur, Tripura, and Mizoram. A baby Gongura leaf is a complete leaf. As the leaf grows older, the leaf splits into 4 or more parts.  Is Roselle annual or perennial? Although a perennial, Roselle is usually grown as an annual & propagated from seed. It grows best in loamy, well-drained soil, mostly in tropical climates, and requires rainfall averaging about ten inches each month during the growing season. Whatever variety is grown, the Gongura farming practices would be the same.

Read: Beekeeping Training Centers In India.

Gongura/Roselle plant characteristics:

Roselle or Gongura Plants.
Roselle or Gongura Plants.

Roselle is naturally a perennial plant but is normally cultivated as an annual. The Indian Green (IG) which is kenaf flowers readily after 12 to 14 weeks in the field, but the Indian Red (IR), African Red (AR), and African Green (AG) types take much longer to flower due to their sensitivity to day length. IR, AR, and AG types begin to flower as the day length becomes substantially shorter; generally from late September to early October month. The plant is in full bloom from mid to late October and the fruit matures in November or December. Due to this late flowering IR, AR, and AG may be propagated to full maturity only under warm temperature & therefore are more appropriately adapted to tropical or subtropical climates. Where is the Gongura plant grown? For thousands of years, people in South India, particularly in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Kerala, and the several North Eastern States have realized the health benefits of a leafy green vegetable called Gongura. It is also grown in Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh and some parts of the Chittagong Hill Tracts region in Bangladesh (which is mainly a tribal people region).

Nutrition value of Gongura/Roselle:

The nutritional analysis of Roselle plant by the proximate process found the carbohydrate content (68.7%) was highest, followed by crude fiber (14.6%) and ash content (12.2%) and others. The plant is also found to be rich in minerals, particularly potassium and magnesium. Vitamins (ascorbic acid, niacin, and pyridoxine) were present in appreciable amounts.

Roselle requires minimal management & production inputs. Fertilizer application (usually compost or other organic inputs at the rate of 0.5 to 1.0 kilograms or kg/ per square meter) can be done as basal or side-dressing once or twice during the vegetative stage & once during the reproductive stage.

Soil requirements for Gongura farming or growing Roselle:

The Roselle plant is found under cultivation on large types of soils varies from sandy to heavy clays. However, well-drained loamy soil with a good amount of organic matter is ideal for growing the crop.

Climate requirements for Gongura farming or growing Roselle:

Roselle requires a monthly rainfall ranging from 130 to 250 mm in the first 3 to 4 months of growth. Dry weather is well tolerated, & is desirable in the latter months of growth. Rain or high humidity at harvest & drying times can downgrade the quality of the calyces and reduce the yield.

It prefers a warm, humid or dry climate with even rainfall of 150 to 200 cm per year & about 25 cm per month during the growing period. It can grow as a dry rain fed crop or also as an irrigated crop, but it does not stand heavy & continuous rains, water logging, winter cold, and frost. It is known to do well from locations at sea level to an elevation of 600 to 780 m.

Irrigation and intercultural operations in Gongura farming:

The field is irrigated directly after the sowing if there are no rains. Later, the irrigation is given at a regular interval of four days until the seedlings emerge and are well established. Later, weekly irrigation through the dry period is enough. Two weedings through the early period of growth are enough to suppress the weeds.

Cultivation practices of Gongura:

Gongura farming requires a permeable soil, a friable sandy loam with humus being preferable; however, it will adapt to a variety of soils. It is not shaded tolerant & must be kept weed-free. Roselle will tolerate floods, heavy winds or stagnant water. Roselle is tolerating annual precipitation of 64 to 429cm, an annual temperature in the range of 12.5 to 27.5°C. This species is not hardy in Britain, but it can be developed as a half-hardy annual, flowering in its first year from seed. Plants are sensitive to the length of daylight & do not flower if there are more than 13 hours of light in the day. Roselle is widely cultivated in the Tropical and Subtropical zones for its fiber & edible calyx, there are some named varieties. Roselle is best suited to tropical climates with a well-distributed rainfall of 1500 to 2000 mm yearly, from sea-level to about 600 m altitudes. It tolerates a warmer & a more humid climate than kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus) but is more susceptible to damage from frost and fog. Plants show marked photoperiodism, not flowering at shortening days of 13.5 hours, but flowering at 11 hours.

The soil pH level for Roselle or Gongura:

The pH level of Roselle will be 5.5 to 6.8. Roselle plants grow well in sandy loam to loamy sand soils.

Propagation and planting of Gongura/Roselle:

Roselle can be propagated through seeds and stem cuttings. For leafy vegetables, seeds can be directly sown or transplanted two weeks after sowing in 5meter or m x 1m plots with 50 centimeters or cm x 20-40 cm planting distance and 2 to 3 plants/hill.

Planting distance from calyx production must be wider, up to 100 cm apart. It is important to note that the timing of planting is a critical aspect, especially in calyx production. Since Roselle is a photoperiod sensitive plant, planting must be done by October so that flowering will commence during the cold months. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July or August in a frame. Overwinter them in a warm greenhouse & plant out after the last expected frosts.

Roselle is relatively easy to grow from seed. Germination takes 5 to 10 days depending on type and temperature. For maximum success planning in the field, it is advisable to raise plants in flats in the greenhouse, and after 4 to 6 weeks transplant seedlings in the field. Organic matter level must be >1%. It is prudent to carry out a soil test long before crop establishment to confirm the suitability of the location selected for crop cultivation. Plants can be grown under conventional tillage or no-till practices. Space plants about 36″ x 18″ in the field and, at 2 to 4 weeks after planting, apply fertilizer based on the results of a soil test. Closer spacing is suggested where early vegetative growth is desired.

Read: Vegetative Propagation Methods.

If planted on bare ground, weed control is crucial in the first 6 to 8 weeks after planting. Chemical or manual weed control practices should ensure minimum weed interference with the newly planted Roselle at this early growth stage. Once fully established, the plant canopy of the Roselle will contain future weed interference. Roselle is generally tolerant of insect attacks, but one must scout the field regularly for leaf-feeding insects and control them with recommended treatments as soon as they appear. Disease problems are rare in Roselle plants. However, it is always important to be vigilant & take note of any unusual symptoms, so one can take appropriate control measures. There are currently no pesticides registered for pest or disease control in Roselle, so physical removal and disposal of affected plants are recommended. Nutrient deficiencies, chemical damage, or other abiotic disorder can be confused with disease problems.

Pest management in Gongura farming:

Diseases normally observed in Roselle include leaf spot, caused by Cercospora hibiscus, and powdery mildew. Roselle or Gongura with green leaves appears to be more susceptible than the red leaf types. Spraying Roselle with compost tea can reduce downy mildew infestation & other diseases.

Insect pests can damage the leaves; these contain the flea beetle, calyx, cotton stainer & stem. Spraying the Roselle plants with a soap solution infused with hot pepper can help reduce insect pests.

Harvest and storage of Roselle:

Roselle is harvested from late November onwards. The harvest is timed based on the ripeness of the seed. The fleshy calyces are harvested after the flower has dropped, but before the seed pod has dried & opened. The longer the capsule remains on the plant after the seeds begin to ripen, the more susceptible the calyx is to disease & sun cracking. The calyces ripen about 3 weeks after the start of flowering, which is 100–160 days after the plants are transplanted outdoors. The fruit ripens gradually from the bottom of the plant to the top.

Harvesting is carried out by intensive hand labor, the calyces being picked singly at the appropriate stage. The fruit may be harvested when fully grown but still tender when they can be simply snapped off by hand; Later harvesting requires clippers. The Roselle fruit is easier to break off in the morning than at the end of the day. On average, each fruit yields about 7 to 10 g of sepals. Drying is the traditional process for preserving foods. Roselle drying is done in one of two ways: by harvesting the fresh fruit & then sun-drying the calyces, or by leaving the fruit to partially dry on the plants & harvesting the dried fruit,  keeping the crop well protected during the process. Dehydration depends on the two fundamental processes of heat transfer (heat is transferred into the fruit) & mass transfer (subsequent removal of moisture from it.

The yield of Gongurs/Roselle:

A good crop of Roselle generates 6 to 8 lbs fresh leaf weight or plant at 12 to 18 inches spacing in seedbeds spaced 36 to 48 inches apart under plastic mulch, with good weed management between the plastic rows. The total leaf, fresh weight is estimates based on 3 to 5 harvests over a 12-week period. If the conditions are ideal, a higher yield is possible.

Read: How to Compost from the Kitchen Waste.


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