Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Plant Profile: Cistus purpureus (Orchid Rockrose)

Latin name: Cistus purpureus ("SISS-tuss purr-purr-EEE-uss")
Common name: Orchid Rock Rose
Originally from: throughout the Mediterranean region, from Morocco and Portugal through to the Middle East, and also on the Canary Islands.
Blooms: Bright magenta flowers 3" across blanket the plant in spring and summer
Light: Full sun.
Water: Winter rain is enough.
Height x width: 4' x 6'
Zones: 8-11
Where to find in P. Garden: Three at the top of PG

A tidy, compact, sun and heat-loving evergreen shrub. In spring it's covered in outrageous 3" wide rose-purple blooms with maroon spots and a gold center. Tolerates drought, poor soil, and total neglect, and the leaves have an interesting resinous scent. Yep, you need a rockrose in your life!


This is the best rockrose for seaside conditions as it doesn't care about salt spray, wind and sandy soil. It is also one of the hardiest of rockroses, tolerating temperatures down to around 15 degrees F.

This plant is an old garden hybrid between Cistus ladanifer and C. creticus. Listed in 1819 in Syndenham Edward's Garden Register of exotic plants cultivated in British Gardens, the author wrote that it was universally known at the time as Cistus creticus "from which however it has been well distinguished by the industrious and sagacious Chevalier de Lamarck in his excellent Encyclopaedia Botanique."

I am sure the sagacious Chevalier would also tell you that you can cut it back as you like, and it forms a nice solid screening plant mixed with other Mediterranean climate plants. Stems often layer at ground level and root, and I would expect they're pretty easy to start from cuttings, though I haven't tried.

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