Dorothy is a Master Gardener, former newspaper reporter, and the author of several books. Michael is a landscape/nature photographer in NM.
The Beauty of Low-Maintenance Plants
I love to work outside in the garden, but there are days that I have countless other things to do. So when I'm able to find a plant that requires little of me, I consider that a plus when deciding which ones I want in my garden.
The rockrose (cistus and halimiums) shrub, native to the Mediterranean, is such a plant. The shape of the evergreen foliage on the plant varies depending on the species, and the beautiful, fragrant flowers will bloom for approximately a month during late spring and early summer. Although each blossom only lasts for a day, that's a day for you that will be much brighter. The blossoms open early in the morning and drop their crepe-paper-like petals by mid-afternoon, carpeting the ground below. Different species of the plant produce flowers that are either pink, white, yellow, or rose (orchid) color.
Rockroses Love Sunshine
If you are planning to add this shrub to your garden, you can expect it to grow approximately 1–3 feet tall, so you might want to consider using it as a groundcover, as a lot of people do. You will need to plant it where it receives a lot of sunshine in well-draining soil. Rockroses are considered hardy in USDA zones 8–10, although I can attest that they grow very well and bloom prolifically in zone 7.
Rockroses will adapt well to almost any type of soil and are drought tolerant. Once you have them established, they need minimal care. So they are often used in areas designed to use very little water.
Pruning Rockrose Plants
I think these shrubs look their very best when they are encouraged to grow bushier and fuller, as opposed to taller. So these instructions describe in detail how to do just that.
Things You Will Need
- Pruning shears
- Disinfecting solution
- The first step in any pruning project is to disinfect your pruning shears. Put them in a solution of one part bleach and four parts water, or equal parts of 70% isopropyl rubbing alcohol and water. Soak them in the solution for 5–10 minutes, then remove them and allow them to air dry.
- Once your shrub is in the ground, cut the stem back about 2/3 and make your cuts angled, which will prevent moisture from accumulating on the pruned area that could delay the healing.
- Young plants: Pruning of young plants should be done every year in the spring, right before they begin to grow.
- Young plants: Remove crossing stems and any that are broken or dead.
- Young plants: The growth from the prior year should be pinched (trimmed) very lightly—just enough to stimulate growth and shape it nicely. This removes the tender part of the stem before it gets woody.
- Mature plants: Remove damaged or dead branches on mature shrubs every spring and lightly trim the shrub.
Lightly trim the shrubs, removing tender new growth from the year before to maintain shaping and a neat appearance. Avoid heavy pruning of older plants, since rockroses do not tolerate pruning once they have matured.
- Disinfect pruning tools before pruning any plants and after cutting any limbs that show signs of disease. This helps prevent spreading disease organisms to healthy branches or to other plants.
- Plant rockrose shrubs in areas that are large enough to accommodate their projected mature size. This eliminates the need to prune plants just to maintain a small size.
- Avoid overwatering these plants. According to San Marcos Growers, rockroses that are only watered occasionally during summer tend to live longer than the projected lifespan of 8–10 years.
Various Species of Rockrose
We only have a few species of rockrose here in North America; in the Mediterranean regions, however, there are over 20. Here are a few that are available on our continent:
- White rockrose (Cistus corbariensis) has bright white flowers, usually with yellow centers and occasionally brown spots near the base of the petals. It grows 4–5 feet tall and wide.
- Purple rockrose (Cistus x purpureus), with its deep rose or purple flowers (also called the orchid rockrose), grows to about 4 feet tall with a spread of up to 5 feet with a compact, rounded shape. Use it in a group and display it as a specimen shrub.
- Sun rose (Cistus albidus) grows 3 feet tall and wide and has a dense, bushy pattern of growth. They are beautiful with the yellow centers inside the dark lilac pink flowers. Once these plants get more mature, they may become leggy, in which case it always easier to replace them than to try to prune them into shape.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Mike and Dorothy McKenney