Rock Rose - Cistus

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Cistus purpurea 'Brilliancy'Cistus purpurea 'Brilliancy'No other flowering shrubs will tolerate such tough dry conditions yet continue to produce blossoms for so long and with such impact than Rock Roses. In the Mediterranean, they grow wild on rocky, sun-baked hillsides, hence their common name. Rock Roses originate from North Africa, the Canary Islands and through the Mediterranean, from Corsica and Italy, eastward. The flowers resemble old-fashioned single roses and the delicate flowers appear in profusion in spring and summer and are available in white and pale pink to bright pink, reddish-purple and mauve. Some are attractively blotched and all have bright yellow stamens.

These water wise plants thrive in dry climates and are ideal to secure soil on dry, rocky slopes. They grow quickly and soon make a spreading, ground-covering bush that looks great if mixed with silver-leaved plants and other sun loving Mediterranean natives such as lavender and rosemary. Use them as low windbreaks or in the mixed shrub or flower border.

These evergreen plants grow well in coastal regions that are not humid. They flourish on poor well-drained soils, especially chalky soil and are perfectly adapted for the winter rainfall regions of the country. They will grow in the summer rainfall areas if the soil drains well. They are wind resistant, heat and drought tolerant, once established. Many varieties are hardy to frost but their tolerance to cold varies from species to species; so check with your local nursery for the best varieties for your region. Rock Roses vary slightly in height and spread but they all love to grow in full sun. Water regularly until the plants are established and judiciously thereafter, during dry spells, for best results in the garden.  Pinch out the tips of young plants to encourage bushiness. Prune lightly after they have flowered to keep them neat; avoid heavy pruning. Propagate from semi-hardwood cuttings in spring or autumn.

(Cistus x purpureus 'Brilliancy') grows about 70cm tall and produces large, orchid-pink flowers with a red spot at the base of each of the petals; freely in summer.

(Cistus ladaniferus) is upright, growing to about 2m tall. It produces pure white flowers with a crimson spot on each petal, in summer.

(Cistus crispus 'Silver Queen') is low growing to 70 or 80cm tall, with silvery-green foliage and has soft pink flowers.

(Cistus x pulverulentus 'Sunset') has sticky leaves and seldom grows over 1m tall. It produces large, deep mauve-pink flowers freely in summer.

(Cistus 'Silver Pink') forms a compact bush, seldom more than 50cm tall. It has dull grey leaves and produces clear silvery-pink flowers throughout summer.

Additional Info

  • Common Name: Rock Rose
  • Latin Name: Cistus