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Rockrose Care: How To Grow Rockrose Plants In The Garden

Rockrose Care: How To Grow Rockrose Plants In The Garden


By: Jackie Carroll

If you’re looking for a tough shrub that thrives on neglect, try rockrose plants (Cistus). This fast-growing evergreen shrub stands up to heat, strong winds, salt spray and drought without complaint, and once established it needs very little care.

What is Rockrose?

Native to the Mediterranean, rockrose plants have soft green foliage that varies in shape depending on the species. Large, fragrant flowers bloom for about a month in late spring and early summer. Each blossom lasts only a day, and may be pink, rose, yellow or white, depending on the species.

Use rockrose shrubs in dry areas as a xeriscaping plant or in coastal areas where they tolerate sandy soil, salt spray and strong winds. These 3- to 5-foot shrubs make an attractive, informal hedgerow. Rockrose plants are particularly useful for erosion control on dry banks.

Rockrose Information

There are about 20 species of rockrose that grow in the Mediterranean, but only a few are in cultivation in North America. Here are some great choices:

  • Purple Rockrose (Cistus x purpureus) grows 4 feet tall with a spread of up to 5 feet and a compact, rounded shape. The large flowers are deep rose or purple. The shrub is attractive enough to use as a specimen, and it also looks great in groups. This species is sometimes called orchid rockrose.
  • Sun Rose (Cistus albidus) grows 3 feet tall and wide with a dense, bushy habit. The dark lilac-pink flowers have yellow centers. Older plants may become leggy and it’s best to replace them rather than try to prune them into shape.
  • White Rockrose (Cistus corbariensis) has cheery white flowers, usually with yellow centers and sometimes with brown spots near the base of the petals. It grows 4 to 5 feet tall and wide.

Rockrose Care

Nothing could be easier than growing rockrose. Plant the shrubs in a location with full sun and deep soil where they can put down spreading roots. They grow in almost any type of soil as long as it drains freely, including poor soils where other shrubs struggle to take hold. Rockrose plants are hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 8 through 11.

Water rockrose plants regularly during their first growing season. Once established, they never need watering or fertilization.

They resent heavy pruning, so it’s best to limit routine trimming to the minimum necessary to repair winter damage and correct the shape. As the branches age, they become weak and stop bearing flowers. Remove older branches by cutting them away at the base. Prune soon after the flowers fade to preserve the buds that will form next year’s flowers.

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Rock rose

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Rock rose, (Cistus), any of a genus of 18 species of low to medium-sized shrubs, in the rock rose family (Cistaceae), native to the Mediterranean region and long known to horticulture. There are a number of garden hybrids useful in warm areas (mostly including C. ladanifer as one of the parents), where they are often grown in rock gardens. The large flowers are single and roselike, in white, pink, or rosy-purple, often with a yellowish or dark blotch at the base of the petals. The foliage is scented, often containing highly flammable resins.

C. ladanifer has white petals, red-brown at the bases, and yields a resin, called labdanum, used in perfumery. C. albidus, up to 2 metres (6 feet) high, has lilac- to rose-coloured flowers. C. palhinhae, a low shrub, reaching about 45 cm (1.5 feet), bears large white flowers up to 10 cm (4 inches) across. C. incanus, growing to about 1 metre (3 feet), has rose-pink flowers up to 6 cm (2.4 inches) across.

The so-called sun roses, related plants of the genus Helianthemum (family Cistaceae), are also sometimes referred to as rock roses (see sun rose).

This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.


Plant characteristics and classification of rockrose

Plant order, origin and occurrence of rockrose

Rockroses (Helianthemum hybrids) belong to the family of rockrose family (Cistaceae). The small shrubs have a perennial character and are particularly at home in the Mediterranean and Asia Minor.

Characteristics of rockrose

Plant

The Helianthemum hybrids are dwarf shrubs because the thin shoots become woody and do not pull in in winter, as is typical for perennials. The rockroses reach a maximum height of 30 centimeters (12 in), but over time they form broad, blooming polster.

Leaves

The delicate rockroses have wiry, slightly woody shoots with narrow, elongated, dark or gray-green leaves. These sit opposite on the stems. The subshrubs are usually evergreen or semi-evergreen.

Blossoms

In early summer, the cup-shaped flowers appear arranged in racemes. They have five wide open petals, which can be colored white, yellow, orange, pink or red, and numerous yellow stamens in the center of the flower. The flowers open in the early morning and only bloom for one day. For this, flowers are formed en masse: New buds open every day for weeks. Helianthemum hybrids with double flowers can now also be found on the market, but double flowers don’t serve as food for insects or bees.


How to Take Care of Rock Rose Plants

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Rock roses (Cistus spp.) are easy-care shrubs commonly used as a ground cover. This evergreen produces masses of white, pink or purplish-pink flowers from spring until summer. The rock rose plants form a creeping mound in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 10. This fast-growing plant tolerates drought conditions, poor soil, cold winds and salty spray.

Plant the rock rose plants in a site with good drainage and full sun exposure. These plants do not grow well in shade. Cut the circling roots with a sharp knife once the plant is removed from its container. This prevents the roots from staying in the planting hole.

Water the rock rose once a week for the first year after planting to encourage the establishment of a deep root system. After the first year, provide water every three weeks. Soak the soil until the root ball is wet.

Feed the rock rose once a year in the spring with general-purpose, slow-release fertilizer designed for flowers. Sprinkle the granules under the shrub and scratch into the top inch of soil with a hand cultivator. Water the soil to start the fertilizer working its way down to the roots.

Pinch back the stem tips after the flowers are finished. Remove the top couple of leaves with your fingers to shape the plant and encourage bushy new growth.

Prune away damaged stems with pruning shears in the spring after winter weather has passed. Do not cut back the rock rose severely. Cutting into the woody portions of the plant retards the growth on that branch to the point of it not sprouting again.


Cistus Shrubs Flower: Easy Tips to Grow at Your Garden

Cistus a drought-resistant, disease-resistant, versatile plant, requires little maintenance. Commonly known as rockrose, you can grow this plant in poor soils, seaside locations, drought-prone environments and in hot, unforgiving climates.

This makes rockrose a smart choice for gardeners who sometimes forget to water, or who may not be around enough to care for more demanding plants. Rockroses don’t need much pruning, which makes them low-maintenance plants.

There are about twenty species of Rockroses, and they come from a variety of Mediterranean settings including the Caucasus mountains, the Mediterranean basin, and the Canary Islands.

Rockroses genus name, Cistus, comes from the Greek word kistos, which means “evergreen shrub.“

Rockrose is so-called because the blooms resemble old-fashioned, single peddled roses and they prefer growing in rocky settings.

HOW TO GROW CISTUS

Nothing could be easier than growing rockrose. Plant the shrubs in a location with full sun and deep soil where they can put down spreading roots. They grow in almost any type of soil as long as it drains freely, including poor soils where other shrubs struggle to take hold. Rockrose plants are hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 8 through 11.

The plant does well in poor soil and tolerates very dry conditions. Gravelly, well-draining soil is preferred.

Watering

It takes about a year for Rockrose to establish itself. During this time, you should water weekly.

Provide deep watering to encourage the development of deep roots.

In the plants’ second year, reduce watering to one thorough watering every third week.

Be sure to soak the soil completely and drench the entire root ball. Be careful not to overwater as this may encourage excessive growth, as well as fungal diseases.

Limit feeding Rockrose to once per year. Use a slow-release, general-purpose fertilizer intended for flowering plants. Granulated fertilizer works best.

Sprinkle it on the ground underneath the plant and rake it into the top of the soil to a depth of about an inch.

Deadwood Pruning

You may periodically prune deadwood on a rockrose without causing negative effects. Use sharp, sterilized pruning shears to cut away growth on a plant that displays no leaves or flowers. Do this once a year to keep the plant looking healthy.

Propagation

This can readily be achieved by seed or cuttings. Not all forms of cistus set any seed and cuttings of this plant are easily rooted. The cuttings are best taken in late summer and rooted in mild heat.

Seeds should be collected and sown in a cold frame as soon as they are ripe in the autumn. They can also readily be stored over winter and sown in the spring. If you grow several varieties of cistus in your garden do not expect the seedlings to all come true!

Propagate this plant with wood cuttings.

  • During the summer months, trim new growth shoots 3” – 4” inches long.
  • Dip the cutting into the rooting hormone and poke it into a clean potting medium in a small pot.
  • Place the cutting in a warm, still, sunny area.
  • Water it once a week during the summer, autumn and winter months.

Pests

If overwatered or kept in a low light area, Rockrose may suffer from aphids.


Rock Rose Cistus Collection

Also known as the rock rose this Mediterranean native of dry, rocky soil enjoys dry and sunny conditions and is perfect for gravel gardens and dry, sheltered areas of the garden.

A plant that comes into its own in early summer, the single, saucer-shaped flowers around 5cm across are produced around the same time as peonies which makes them an ideal plant to bridge the gap between spring bulbs and summer roses. Each crepe-paper flower lasts only a day, but the bushes are smothered in buds, giving a display that lasts for many weeks.

Easy to grow and relatively trouble free, Cistus are quick growing and perfect in pots being relatively smaller, semi-evergreen shrubs. Ideal too for the front of the border where they will happily mingle with other Mediterranean shrubs such as Rosemary, Salvias, Santolina and Lavender. Fully hardy to around -10°C, plants benefit from winter protection to avoid frost damage.

Supplied as three plants in 9cm pots, ready for planting into warm soil. 1 each of:

Cistus x pulverulentus 'Sunset' AGM - Award-winning cistus with rose-Pink blooms with yellow centre. 50cm x 100cm.
Cistus x purpureus 'Alan Fradd' - White flowers with a crimson blotch in the centre. 100cm x 100cm
Cistus 'Silver Pink' - One of the hardiest of the cistus varieties with blooms up to 8cm across. Peach-pink blooms. 100cm x 100cm


How to Take Care of Rock Rose Plants

Rock rose (Cistus spp.), an evergreen shrub native to the Mediterranean, tolerates drought, poor soil and high temperatures, making it an ideal plant for warmer areas of the country. Most varieties thrive in USDA hardiness zones 8 through 10. Some types, such as purple rock rose (Cistus purpureus), may survive winter up to zone 6, but always check the hardiness for your individual variety before purchasing. In early summer, the shrub produces numerous white, pink or purple blossoms that attract butterflies for several weeks. Each bloom, however, lasts only a single day before fading.

Plant rock rose plants any time from May to September. Choose a planting location that receives at least 6 hours of full sunlight throughout the day and consists of well-drained soil with relatively low fertility.

  • an evergreen shrub native to the Mediterranean, tolerates drought, poor soil and high temperatures, making it an ideal plant for warmer areas of the country.
  • Some types, such as purple rock rose (Cistus purpureus), may survive winter up to zone 6, but always check the hardiness for your individual variety before purchasing.

Apply a 1- to 2-inch layer of gritty sand over the planting site and use a garden tiller to amend the soil with the material, which increases drainage to the required levels. Space rock rose plants at least 2 to 4 feet apart.

Spread a 2-inch layer of mulch over the soil surrounding rock rose plants to improve moisture retention and deter weed growth. Start the mulch at least 3 inches from the plant's crown to allow vital air circulation and reduce the risk of disease.

Water the plants generously once per week during the first season of growth to help establish the roots. Reduce watering frequency thereafter to once every 10 to 14 days, or once every 7 days during periods of drought or extremely high temperatures.

Feed rock rose plants once per year during early spring, just before active growth resumes, using an all-purpose 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer. Check the instructions on the label for proper application and dosage information.

  • Apply a 1- to 2-inch layer of gritty sand over the planting site and use a garden tiller to amend the soil with the material, which increases drainage to the required levels.
  • Feed rock rose plants once per year during early spring, just before active growth resumes, using an all-purpose 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer.

Remove faded or spent rock rose blossoms to increase the plant's health and encourage the formation of additional flowers. Pinch off the old flowers at the area where they meet the stem to minimize damage to the plant.

Rock rose plants thrive when mulched with coarse gravel. Do not use organic mulch.

Young rock rose plants may be pruned lightly to encourage branching. Mature plants do not respond well to pruning and should never be cut back.


Watch the video: Cistus Sunset - Magenta Rockrose