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Cistus ladanifer (photo courtesy of Laura Dunkin-Hubby)
Cistus ladanifer (photo courtesy of Laura Dunkin-Hubby)

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Zones 4-9, 14-24, 28-31
Full Sun
Minimal Water

Cistus x purpureus

Orchid Rockrose
Evergreen, Ground covers, Shrubs


Mediterranean natives; hardy to 15°F/–9°C. Grown with borderline success in Zones 4 and 5. In their favored dry-summer climate, they are carefree shrubs bearing a profusion of showy flowers for a month or more from spring into early summer; may also bloom sporadically at other times. In some rockroses, leaves are coated with a perfumed resin; others have foliage covered with gray wool. When plants are out of bloom, their soft green, silver, or grayish foliage and mounded form add subtle color and texture to the landscape.

Sun loving, fast growing, tolerant of aridity. Accept poor soil, cold ocean winds, salt spray, desert heat. Often planted in fire-hazard areas. Good erosion-control cover for dry banks. Useful in big rock gardens, in rough areas along drives, in wild plantings. Taller kinds make attractive informal hedges. Give plants well-drained soil if they will be watered. When locating in an area that won’t be irrigated, take particular care not to plant root-bound plants; cut circling roots and spread out the mass so roots can grow down to lower soil levels.

Most rockroses resent hard pruning. To keep plants vigorous and neat, periodically cut out a few old stems. Tip-pinch young plants to thicken growth, or give a light overall summer shearing to new growth and stems that have not become woody. If plants become woody and sparse after several years, it is often easiest to replace them.

Cistus x purpureus (photo courtesy of Linda Lamb Peters)
Cistus x purpureus (photo courtesy of Linda Lamb Peters)

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Cistus x purpureus

Compact grower to 4 ft. tall and wide, often shorter and wider when subjected to constant ocean winds. Leaves are 1–2 in. long, dark green above, gray and hairy beneath. The 3-in., reddish purple flowers have a red spot at each petal base. Very fine where cool winds and salt spray limit the choice of plants.

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