Rockrose Plant Profile

This flowering shrub is as low-maintenance as it is pretty

Cistus albidus pink flower with a crimson spot at the base of each leaf.

 Tom Meaker / Getty Images

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!

Botanical Name Cistus
Common Name Rockrose
Plant Type Shrub
Mature Size 3 to 5 feet tall
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Well-drained, rocky
Soil pH 5.6 to 7.5
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Pink, rose, yellow, or white
Hardiness Zones 6-10
Native Area Mediterranean
Pink Rockrose (Cistus creticus). A photo of two pink flowers with bright green foliage behind them.
Pink Rockrose (Cistus creticus).  ffaber53 / Getty Images

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.

Light

Plant rockrose shrubs in a location that receives full sun for several hours a day. They will not survive in shady locations.

Soil

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.

Water

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

Fertilizer

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)
A close up photo of a white Cistus ladanifer (Crimson-Spot Rockrose) in the garden.
Crimson-Spot Rockrose (Cistus ladanifer).  johncopeland / Getty Images

Toxicity of Rockrose

Rockrose plants have no toxic effects reported and are believed to be non-toxic to both animals and humans. Nevertheless, they should not be consumed by people or pets.

Pruning Rockrose

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.