Cistaceae: Roses That Rock
Hot, dry summers are a reality for many container plants throughout the world. In these locations, plant maintenance is easier when you choose plants that can tolerate drought and high temperatures. Rock roses are a prolific blooming plant that require very little moisture to thrive. They are attractive bushes that are an easy addition to container arrangements.
There are about twenty different species within the Cistus genus. They produce white, purple, pink and multicolored flowers. They range in habit from mounding to trailing. Some only grow about a foot tall while others reach upwards to four or five feet.
While many of the species are called rock roses, one of the most common Cistus species, albidus, produces a simple, brilliant pink flower from late spring through midsummer. The name rose refers to the resemblance of the flower to old fashioned single roses. Each flower only lasts one day but the plant produces plenty of flowers. Deadheading the flowers will help the plant stay attractive and promote the production of more blooms. This particular type of rock rose is a dense, evergreen shrub that grows between one and three feet tall. The bush has an attractive mounding habit and silvery colored leaves.
To encourage a thick, bushy shrub pinch back the plant while it is young. You can pinch back the plant again each fall. Rock roses live up to their name and prefer dry, slightly acidic, nutrient poor soils. Make sure your soil allows plenty of drainage. You may need to stir some coarse sand or perlite into your potting medium to make sure water runs through quickly. Do not use organic material or compost in your potting medium for rock roses.
This bush requires full sun. They are perfect for open sunny spots that other plants cannot tolerate. They also tolerate drought very well. Take care not to over-water rock roses because they can be extremely susceptible to root rot. Over-watering can also cause the plant to send out new, lanky growth during the summer making the plant appear leggy.
Place rock roses in their own large container or pair them with other plants that prefer sunny, dry locations. Rock roses work well with other Mediterranean plants such as lavender and rosemary. Salvia and solanum are also colorful, heat loving and drought tolerant plants that will thrive in similar conditions as rock roses.
The rock rose can survive as a perennial from year to year in a large container. The plant will tolerate temperatures as low as 15 degrees. If you live in a mild climate, you can leave the container outside. Those who use the plant in colder climates will need to store it in a sheltered area if you want to use it multiple years. Rock roses perform the best in places with hot, dry summers. They are well suited to the short, but warm and dry summers of the Pacific Northwest. They will also do well in the temperate, dry climates of southern California.
If you are looking for a plant that will tolerate a dry and sunny spot, rock roses will thrive and produce simple, bright color.
Have you had success growing rock roses in containers? What other container plants do you use in sunny spaces?
“Cistus albidus.” Fine Gardening. <http://www.finegardening.com/plantguide/cistus-albidus-rock-rose.aspx>
“Rock Roses.” LoveToKnow Garden. <http://garden.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Rock_Rose>
“Heat Loving Container Garden Plants” Better Homes and Gardens. <http://www.bhg.com/gardening/container/plans-ideas/container-garden-plants-that-take-the-heat/#page=14>
“Rock Roses for Northwest Gardens” Pacific Horticulture. <http://www.pacifichorticulture.org/articles/rockroses-for-northwest-gardens/>
Image: Cistus (Rock Rose) by John Stafford
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