You probably have not heard of the Kenaf plant.

Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus L.) is a fiber plant native to east-central Africa where it has been grown for several thousand years for food and fiber. It is a common wild plant of tropical and subtropical Africa and Asia.

Kenaf is cultivated for its fibre in India, Bangladesh, United States of America, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Africa, and parts of Africa, and to a small extent in southeast Europe. The stems produce two types of fibre: a coarser fibre in the outer layer, and a finer fibre in the core. The bast fibres are used to make ropes.

How to grow Kenaf from seed?

This annual hibiscus blooms two to three months after planting or when the day length shortens to 12 1/2 hours per day, depending on the cultivar. The funnel-shaped flowers feature red or pale yellow to off-white petals. Kenaf hibiscus grows to a height of 6 to 22 feet and may or may not develop branches, depending on the cultivar, seed spacing and growing conditions. Choose a sunny planting area where the kenaf hibiscus will be exposed to at least six hours of direct light daily.

  1. Remove all of the weeds growing at the planting site. Spread a 2 to 4 inch-layer of leaf mold, peat moss, well-aged organic manure and compost over the soil along with 1/2 pound of 15-8-12 fertilizer per 50 square feet of planting area. Use a shovel or tiller to turn the soil and mix the amendments in thoroughly to a depth of eight to 10 inches
  2. Clear away large clumps of dirt and stones. The soil must be loose with a fine texture. Kenaf hibiscus grows best in sandy or sandy loam soil that drains quickly. Add perlite to improve the draining capabilities of clay soil or build a 4- to 5-inch high raised planting bed.
  3. Sow the seeds 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep. Plant them 5 to 6 inches apart . Space multiple rows 3 to 4 feet apart. Water the freshly planted seeds thoroughly to ensure good soil contact.
  4. Continue to water the seeds as often as necessary to keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate and for the first month or so until they become well-established. Kenaf hibiscuses grow long taproots and are drought-tolerant but grow best with supplemental water.
  5. Reduce watering frequency to once or twice per week after the first month but water them generously.
  6. Spread a 2- to 3-inch depth of organic mulch around the plants after they germinate to help keep the soil moist.
  7. Prune the plants back by as much as one-third to one-half with sharp pruners to maintain smaller plants and encourage branching. Cut them above a growth bud or eye. Leave them un-pruned to promote flower production; only older branches will produce flowers

Interesting fact: First grown in Egypt over 3000 years ago, the leaves of the kenaf plant were a component of both human and animal diets, while the bast fibre was used for bags, cordage, and the sails for Egyptian boats. This crop was not introduced into southern Europe until the early 1900s.

Contact us to learn more!