UCCE Master Gardeners of Sacramento County
University of California
UCCE Master Gardeners of Sacramento County

Cistus Are Doin' It For Themselves

If you live in California, you have seen Cistus. Cistus, or Rockrose are amazingly self-reliant in our Mediterranean climate. They are so good at growing independently, that they resist being manipulated and controlled. 
photos by Nanelle Jones-Sullivan

I saw a well-manicured Cistus ‘Victor Reiter' (picture 2) at a hotel in Carmel! My own two-year-old Cistus Victor Reiter(picture 1) still looks like a “diva”, but when my other Cistus started looking tired, the older leaves yellowing, bare branches underneath, I researched my options.  I learned, “It should never be pruned heavily. Like many drought-tolerant plants, a heavy pruning can kill it or leave it misshapen.”  -1

There are few resources recommending pruning; most resources say expect to replace it after 5-7 years. On the other hand, you can always find something on the Internet telling you what you want to hear. 

While Cistus ladanifer ‘Gum Rock Rose'(picture 3), with the reddish or dark brown blotch at the base of each petal, appears to be a “no go” for pruning, at least one brave soul, Helen Yemm author of Gardening in Pajamas has had success with Cistus purpureus (Picture 5)Cistus ‘Alan Fradd', Cistus corbariensis, Cistus x scanbergii,  and  Cistus criticus (Cretan Rock Rose). 

Last year, I cut back Cistus ‘Sunset' (picture 3), which is a naturally occurring hybrid between Cistus albidus, and Cistus crispus (Curled Leaf Rock Rose).  I cut after flowering, looking for tiny new buds lower down the stem or branch, and trying to avoid anything lower than two new pairs of buds.  This year I am cutting back Cistus salviifolius (picture 3), orSageleafRockrose, which went from 4 inches to four feet in three years!

Posted on Thursday, June 13, 2024 at 3:49 PM

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