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How to Take Care of Rock Rose Plants

cistus image by Alison Bowden from

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.

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.

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.

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