Originating from the coastal regions of the Mediterranean, rockrose (Cistus) is a genus of flowering evergreen shrubs that is characterized by dense green foliage; delicate, papery flowers; and aromatic leaves. Among the most ornamental of all Mediterranean flowers, rockrose are hardy shrubs that are drought-tolerant, deer-resistant, and can withstand extreme heat. They grow well in poor quality soils and often survive in locations where other plants can’t. They make great additions to rock gardens, exposed garden beds, coastal areas, and dry banks alike. Looking for an easy-to-grow, ornamental shrub to add to your garden this year? Rockrose might just be the shrub for you!
|Mature Size||3 to 5 feet tall|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Well-drained, rocky|
|Soil pH||5.6 to 7.5|
|Flower Color||Pink, rose, yellow, or white|
How to Grow Rockrose
Rockrose (Cistus) is a genus of about 20 species of flowering, evergreen shrubs in the family Cistaceae. The name "rockrose" alludes to some of the genus’ most distinctive characteristics - the rose-like appearance of the flowers and their ability to grow in rocky, poor quality soils. Depending on the variety, plants may grow in a spreading, ground cover habit, or in large mounds reaching several feet high. Native to the Mediterranean region, rockrose are able to withstand severe heat, strong winds, drought, and salt spray - making them an effortless addition to most North American gardens. They are commonly used in informal hedgerows, as ground cover plants, or for erosion control.
Shrubs in the rockrose genus are hardy and low-maintenance plants that reward you with a show of beautiful, delicate flowers throughout the early spring and summer. Each flower only blooms for a couple of hours before dropping and making way for the next group of flowers which is a distinctive characteristic of the rockrose genus. While the flowers are unscented, the foliage of rockroses is aromatic much like other Mediterranean herbs such as lavender and rosemary.
Plant rockrose shrubs in a location that receives full sun for several hours a day. They will not survive in shady locations.
Rockrose plants grow well in poor quality soils as long as they are well-draining. When choosing a location for your rockrose, try to choose a spot with deep soil so that the rockrose can establish deep and spreading roots. Rocky and sandy environments are fine for rockrose plants.
Generally, rockrose are drought-tolerant plants that do not require watering outside of regular rainfall. However, during the first growing season rockrose plants should be watered weekly to help them mature and establish healthy roots. When watering your rockrose be sure to provide a deep, thorough watering that drenches the entire root ball to encourage strong growth
Temperature and Humidity
While rockrose can tolerate heat and high temperatures, they do not do well in cold climates and cannot survive heavy frost. They should be planted in areas that are protected from cold winds and heavy frost as these conditions can damage the plant, impacting the following growing season. Moderately cold, dry, and short winters are ideal for rockrose plants as it the Mediterranean winters they are accustomed to. They are hardy in zones 6 to 10.
Rockrose plants do best in dry conditions but can survive in moderately humid conditions as well as long as they are not overwatered. They often do not do well in tropical humidity
Rockrose plants do not require regular fertilizing, except during the first growing season to help them get established. Fertilize once in the early spring with general-purpose, slow-release fertilizer to kick start growth. After they are established they never need fertilizing.
Varieties of Rockrose
There are approximately 20 species of plants in the rockrose (Cistus) genus as well as a large number of hybrids. The following are some of the most popular varieties:
- Purple-Flowered Rockrose (Cistus x purpureus)
- Sun Rose (Cistus albidus)
- White Rockrose (Cistus x corbariensis)
- Pink Rockrose (Cistus creticus)
- Crimson-Spot Rockrose (Cistus ladanifer)
- Magenta Rockrose (Cistus x pulverulentus)
Rockrose plants have a dense, bushy growth habit and require occasional pruning in order to keep them compact and healthy. They cannot tolerate heavy pruning so maintenance should be kept to a minimum where possible. Rockrose plants should be lightly pruned after they have finished flowering to help preserve the buds for next year’s bloom. In the spring they may need pruning to help remove winter damage and correct the shape but this should be done conservatively. Branches on a rockrose plant should never be pruned below the last leaf as they will be unlikely to recover.
Being Grown in Containers
Rockrose plants can be grown in containers as well as in gardens. Because they prefer dry conditions, they generally don’t do well when planted in small containers that require frequent watering. Instead, choose a larger container so that the soil can stay more evenly moist and the plant can be watered less often. Rockrose plants do well when transplanted from containers to the garden (as long as there is minimal root disruption) but usually don’t survive when they are transplanted from the garden into a container.