This spring I did a small foray into AliExpress to see what interesting products I could find. I ended up ordering three products: kozo (Broussonetia Papyrifera) seeds, Abelmoschus Manihot gum powder, and tororo-aoi (Abelmoschus Manihot) seeds. The gum powder was disappointing (I hope to post on this later) and the seeds just arrived in the last few days. The tororo-aoi seeds arrived after the AliExpress 60-day warranty period so I am applying for my money back on those. Due to their late arrival, I also purchased some seeds for the same plant from Richter’s, a specialty plant supplier just outside the Toronto area. The tororo-aoi seeds from AliExpress and from Richter’s arrived the same day.
First, the seeds from Richter’s Herbs:
The common name they use on the packet is “Sunset Hibiscus”, and the latin name is Abelmoschus manihot. Their web page for this plant also identifies it as Huang shu kui or Yellow sichuan mallow. Other sources also identify this same plant as being tororo-aoi, the source of neri formation aid used for Japanese papermaking, and as aibika, sunset muskmallow, or hibiscus manihot. This packet contained about 28 seeds, and cost me $3.25 plus $6 shipping plus 13% sales tax, and arrived within a week of ordering.
I think the “sunset” in some of the common names refers to the yellow colour of the flowers, distinct from the usual pale blue, pink, or violet hues of most of the mallow family.
Next, the seeds purchased from Miss Flower’s Store through AliExpress:
The common name on the packet is “Golden Treemallow”, and the latin name is Lavetera arborea. The seller’s web page identifies them as “Abelmoschus Manihot Seeds Golden Treemallow Flower Seeds” and shows a description and photos that match Abelmoschus Manihot so I’m not entirely sure what seeds I actually have! I received 5 packets with nominally 15 seeds in each (I counted 20 in the packet I opened) for $2.56, shipping included, but because of the late arrival I’m asking for a refund (aren’t I cheap?).
Fortunately their web site also decrypts the pictorial information on the back of the seed packet:
- Sowing Temperature : 15-30°C
- Growing Temperature : 20-36°C
- Spacing: 20×20cm
- Grow up / Flower days : 60days
- Height when grow up : 30cm
The seeds from both suppliers look like mallow-family seeds but are substantially different in size:
I have now planted five of each seed in peat pellets, and placed them on our porch where hopefully daylight will keep them in that 15-30°C range for germination. I may also seed some directly into my garden.
The Richter’s packet identifies the plant as perennial in zones 8-11; we’re in zone 5b so we grow it as an annual and I think we just about get 60 days in the 20-36°C range so we should get some flowers. In any case, although the flowers are quite pretty, they are not essential to producing neri in the roots. Getting a few mature pods for seeds for next year would be nice, though.
I also wonder if removing spent flowers to prevent formation of seed pods would result it larger roots. I don’t think I will have enough plants to tell with any statistical certainty.
This plant is also generally held to require good soil moisture, something that is not reliable here in the summer, so I may have to keep them watered.
I still have 4 unopened packets of the suspect seeds from AliExpress, so if you’re interested in trying them out yourself and you can figure out how to pay me $1 for the postage I can send you a packet. Please note I don’t want to try shipping seeds across the border so this offer is only available to Canadian addresses.