In keeping with my native plants manifesto which you can read about here, I’m celebrating Texas Native Plant Week by profiling some of the native plants in my own gardens. The information reflects what I’ve learned from the transformation of my traditional maintenance-heavy “yard” to a no-lawn, water-wise garden, featuring beautiful Texas native plants– which were the drivers and are the stars of that metamorphosis.
I grow lots of Rock Rose, Pavonia lasiopetala, in my gardens.
I say “grow”–Rock Rose grows itself and mostly, I let it.This small “evergreen” perennial blooms late spring, throughout summer, and into fall and is a Texas tough plant. Rock Rose flourishes in a variety of light situations, from shade, to dappled shade,
to full sun, though it blossoms more in full sun.
The pretty-in-pink flowers open early in the mornings and close for business by 3 or 4pm during the heat of summer. The closing of those blooms is the plant’s response to heat and is a natural conservation measure.
As cooler autumn months arrive, the blossoms will stay open until sundown.
Rock Rose will seed out–really seed out, so if you don’t like that, it may not be the plant for you. I simply yank up the seedlings I don’t want and give them away, compost them, or transplant them.
Rock Rose is one of those plants that I pop in difficult situations where I’m having problems figuring out what would work; it’s a staple plant in my gardens–good in so many situations.
Rock Rose flowers on new wood, so after bloom cycles (which start in May) you can “deadhead” or prune the stems (6-8 inches) and the plant will flush out with new growth to start the next bloom cycle. If you object to pruning, you can let Rock Rose continue to grow and it will bloom, but slightly less because it’s placing its energy toward seed production. If left unpruned, the branches arch over, heavy with seeds and blooms. Rock Rose is evergreen, though not a lush evergreen–green leaves remain on the shrub during winter; the plant is more woody than green.
When I prune my Rock Rose plants, I tidy and shape them a bit,
…but Rock Rose is loveliest in its casual form, meaning that this is a perennial you don’t want to shape too much–let Rock Rose, be Rock Rose.
Rock Rose attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds but isn’t a specific host plant to any particular critter. It is moderately deer resistant and very drought resistant. Native to Central to South Texas, I wouldn’t guarantee winter hardiness in the northern parts of Texas. It probably acts as an annual.
Don’t worry if it croaks during the winter though, I’m sure it will seed out.
Common names: Pavonia, Rose Mallow, Rock Rose, Wright Pavonia
Botanical name: Pavonia lasiopetala
Shrub-like perennial with small pink, hibiscus-shaped flowers. Native to Texas’ Edwards Plateau and the Trans Pecos area. Texas rock rose is very drought tolerant and not too picky about soil.
Size: 1.5 – 4 feet tall, 3 feet wide
Flowers: Deep rose pink miniature flowers, which open in the morning and close up by early afternoon during summer’s sustained heat
Bloom time: Spring through fall
Leaves: Light green, velvety, heart-shaped leaves
Pests and Disease Problems: None
Growing in North Texas
Pavonia is a popular garden accent plant throughout Texas. Minimal bed preparation is required for this native plant. The Texas rock rose has a woody base and an open-branching form, which may be kept more compact by pruning. Although Pavonia may live only 3 to 6 years, it will self sow seeds or may be propagated with saved seed or softwood cuttings. Grows in sun or part shade. Protect the plant with a layer of mulch in the winter.
Texas AgriLife Extension
“Plants of the Metroplex”; John Howard Garrett; University of Texas Press; 1998; page 72
Keywords (tags): Texas Native, Perennial, Drought Tolerant, Full Sun, Flowering Shrub, Deciduous, Semi-evergreen
Cistus x purpureus (Orchid Rockrose) – A tough evergreen shrub that forms a 4 to 6 foot tall mound that is usually slightly wider than tall – plants near beach tend to be shorter and even wider. It has narrow wavy-edged leaves up to 2″ long that are dark green above and grey-green below with a nice resinous scent. In the spring, and sometimes well into the summer appear the 3 inch wide dark magenta-purple flowers with a red spot at the base of each of the petals and with dark yellow stamens in the middle. Plant in full sun in a well-drained soil and irrigate only occasionally if at all – this is a drought tolerant plant. This is the best rockrose for seaside conditions as it can survive with salt spray, wind and sandy soil. It is also one of the hardiest of rockroses, tolerating temperatures down to around 15 degrees F. In cold tolerance tests conducted by Oregon State University, Cistus x purpureus showed little or no damage during the trial that ran from 2006 to 2009 where the coldest temperature recorded was 17° F. This plant is a hybrid between Cistus ladanifer and C. creticus. It is an old garden hybrid that was listed in 1819 in Syndenham Edward’s Garden Register of exotic plants cultivated in British Gardens (V.5:408) with the remark 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.” Liberty Hyde Bailey called it “one of the most beautiful rock roses” in his 1928 The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It trims back well and is useful as a low screening plant, mixed with other mediterranean-climate plants or as a bank planting, where stems often layer and root. The name Cistus is from the Greek word ‘kistos’ which was the name originally used to describe the plant in ancient Greece. The information on this page is based on research conducted in our nursery library and from online sources as well as from observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in the nursery’s garden and in other gardens that we have observed it in. We also will incorporate comments received from others and always appreciate getting feedback of any kind from those who have additional information, particularly if this information is contrary to what we have written or includes additional cultural tips that might aid others in growing Cistus x purpureus.
- You may also like
- Cistus, Orchid Rock Rose, Sun Rose
- Cistus Plant Care
- How To Propagate Rockrose
- Rockrose Pest or Diseases
- Suggested Cistus Plant Uses
- Cistus – Growing Guide
- Rockrose Care: How To Grow Rockrose Plants In The Garden
- What is Rockrose?
- Rockrose Information
- Rockrose Care
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Shrubs are deciduous or evergreen woody plants, and often provide fragrant flowers, berries and foliage. They are good for structural framework, and they can provide a wonderful shelter and food source for wildlife.
Planting and Conditions
Container grown shrubs can be grown at any time of year. It is a little known fact that shrubs planted in the autumn and winter will be easier to look after than those planted in the spring and summer, because they will have time to establish and become hardy in the cooler months.
Plant the shrub at the same depth as it was in its original pot. Planting too deeply can result in root and stem rot.
One of the biggest causes of death in new shrubs is drought stress, so keep it well watered until it’s established.
Make sure you loosen the soil prior to planting. Most shrubs are tolerant of most soil types as long as it is fairly well draining.
Most shrubs will grow happily in containers, but they will be much more demanding on feeding and watering than shrubs in the ground would be. They will also need potting on every couple of years so that they don’t suffocate or become stunted in their pot.
Aftercare and Pruning
Once established, shrubs generally do not require much water. However, at first they need careful, frequent watering and should not be left to dry out.
Shrubs in the ground are generally not demanding and in most cases, annual feeding with general purpose fertilizer will suffice. Shrubs in containers may need more feeding; usually from early spring until late summer.
Shrubs also benefit from mulching in order to supress weeds, conserve moisture and provide vital nutrients. Mulch also greatly improves soil conditions. Shrubs can be mulched in late winter, after fertiliser has been applied, but it can be mulched through autumn to late spring as long as the ground is damp.
All shrubs benefit from dead-heading once spent flowers become apparent. Rhododendrons and Lilac especially benefit from the removal of dead flowers.
Some shrubs may show signs of reverted growth or ‘sporting’. This is where random shoots of different leaves associated with the plant’s parentage begin to appear. Most commonly this is where plants with variegated leaves sprout pure green growths instead of variegated ones.
To control reversion, remove reverted shoots promptly to discourage them. Reverted shoots are usually much more vigorous than the variegated ones, and thus should be completely pruned out and cut back into wood containing variegated foliage.
Although shrubs are usually very robust garden plants, they can sometimes start to decline with no apparent or obvious reason.
This will start with browning leaves, which could indicate plant stress due to lack of water or waterlogging, an establishment failure or, in the worst case scenario, honey fungus. Another cause of leaf browning is a high salt content in the soil. This could be a natural occurrence, especially if you live near the ocean, or it could be from over fertilisation.
To remedy a high salt content, cut back on fertiliser and step up your watering regime for the next few weeks. If you live by the ocean, this will be harder to remedy—but stepping up your watering will help to wash some of the salt away all the same.
Cistus, Orchid Rock Rose, Sun Rose
View this plant in a garden
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Provides Winter Interest
4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)
4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)
Where to Grow:
Unknown – Tell us
Unknown – Tell us
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Unknown – Tell us
Unknown – Tell us
Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
From semi-hardwood cuttings
From hardwood cuttings
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed
This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:
CARDIFF BY THE SEA, California
Manhattan Beach, California
NORTH FORK, California
Oak View, California
Rancho Calaveras, California
Redondo Beach, California
San Diego, California
San Leandro, California
Valley Springs, California
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Gold Beach, Oregon
Myrtle Creek, Oregon
Aiken, South Carolina
Fort Worth, Texas
San Angelo, Texas
Port Townsend, Washington(2 reports)
Cistus plants are easy to care for shrubs belonging to the Cistaceae family and are commonly referred to as Rockrose.
These plants are often used for groundcover; however, some varieties grow in a mounding habit or even stand erect and are used as low hedges or specimen plants.
There are about twenty species of Rockroses, and they come from a variety of Mediterranean settings including the Caucasus mountains, the Mediterranean basin, and the Canary Islands.
Rockroses genus name, Cistus, comes from the Greek word kistos, which means “evergreen shrub.“
Rockrose is so-called because the blooms resemble old-fashioned, single peddled roses and they prefer growing in rocky settings.
Cistus Plant Care
Size & Growth
There are quite a few varieties of Cistus plants.
Some are dwarf varieties growing only about a foot high, and some are full-grown shrubs reaching a height of 7’ feet.
Plants may grow in a flat, spreading, groundcover manner. Alternately, they may grow in large mounds several feet high.
Some even grow upright as small bushes or trees.
Leaves grow in an opposing manner and range in color from mid-green to dark green. Some may even have a grayish hue.
The leaves are aromatic like several other Mediterranean herbs (e.g., lavender or rosemary).
On warm days, it’s pleasant to walk along the path lined with Rockroses and enjoy the leaves‘ aroma.
In some species, the aromatic substance produced by the leaves also gives them an attractive shiny appearance.
Plants may even be rather sticky when the substance is produced in abundance.
Flowering & Fragrance
The plant is an evergreen producing a great number of rose-like blooms throughout the spring and summer months.
Flowers come in colors ranging from pure white to pink to lavender.
Rockrose ’s fragrant, wild rose-like blossoms usually open in the morning hours and last only a few hours at a time.
When the sun rises again, new blooms will take their place.
The blooming season lasts for two or three weeks during the spring and summer.
A few species bloom off and on throughout the spring and summer months.
Some species of Rockrose sport an attractive brownish or reddish spot at the base of each petal.
Light & Temperature
This hardy plant likes lots of sun and will not thrive (or even survive) in the shade.
For wildscaping, plant Rockroses in the full sun in areas where they may receive no natural water in the summertime.
Some of the best locations are dry banks or west or south-facing walls.
The most important considerations when choosing a location are well-draining soil and bright sun.
Rockrose is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 6 through 10.
Watering & Feeding
It takes about a year for Rockrose to establish itself. During this time, you should water weekly.
Provide deep watering to encourage the development of deep roots.
In the plants’ second year, reduce watering to one thorough watering every third week.
Be sure to soak the soil completely and drench the entire root ball. Be careful not to overwater as this may encourage excessive growth, as well as fungal diseases.
Limit feeding Rockrose to once per year. Use a slow-release, general-purpose fertilizer intended for flowering plants. Granulated fertilizer works best.
Sprinkle it on the ground underneath the plant and rake it into the top of the soil to a depth of about an inch.
After fertilizing, provide a thorough watering to help the fertilizer soak into the soil.
Soil & Transplanting
The plant does well in poor soil and tolerates very dry conditions. Gravelly, well-draining soil is preferred.
When planting, be sure to cut through circling roots using sharp shears or a knife.
Massage the roots to encourage them to spread rather than remaining confined to the planting hole.
Plant Rockrose during the autumn months, early enough to allow them to establish roots before winter arrives.
When you do this, you may not need to irrigate as much (or even at all) when spring and summer arrives.
Grooming & Maintenance
At the end of the season, pinch the entire plant back a bit to encourage more growth in the coming season.
Early in the springtime, examine your plants carefully and remove any stems damaged during the winter.
Avoid severe pruning as this is damaging to Rockrose plants.
These plants bloom on woody growth, so avoid cutting it back before the winter months.
When plants become old and excessively woody, they may stop blooming.
When this happens, you need to remove those plants and replant young plants.
Alternately, leave the older plants in place and just continue to enjoy the scent of the leaves.
And then start a new Cistus patch in another location.
More on Cistus Varieties to consider:
- Cistus purpureus
- Cistus Ladanifer
How To Propagate Rockrose
Propagate this plant with wood cuttings.
- During the summer months, trim new growth shoots 3” – 4” inches long.
- Dip the cutting into rooting hormone and poke it into clean potting medium in a small pot.
- Place the cutting in a warm, still, sunny area.
- Water it once a week during the summer, autumn and winter months.
It should be ready for planting in its permanent location come springtime.
Rockrose Pest or Diseases
If overwatered or kept in a low light area, Rockrose may suffer from aphids.
Is The Roserose Considered Toxic, Poisonous or Invasive?
Rockrose is considered safe.
In areas where the plant is winter hardy, some species (especially Cistus ladanifer or Gum Rockrose) may be considered invasive, according to this Invasive Weed Field Guide from the US Parks Service.
Suggested Cistus Plant Uses
Rockrose is a good choice for a seaside garden as it can tolerate salt spray and cold, windy conditions.
Rockroses are a good choice for adding a ground cover to dry, gravelly banks.
As the name implies, they make an excellent addition to any rock garden.
Rockrose makes a good addition to a perennial type herb garden featuring aromatic herbs such as lavender and rosemary.
Rockroses are a natural choice for xeriscaping.
Use them as a groundcover underneath drought-resistant shrubs.
If you live in an area where Manzanita trees grow naturally, Rockrose makes a nice understory.
Cistus – Growing Guide
Rock or sun roses consist of 19 species from Mediterranean countries and, particularly, Spain and Portugal. They have hybridised in the wild and many new forms have been bred in cultivation since gardeners first became interested in these plants in the 1860s.
Cistus are quick growing and widely popular plants present, in some form, in most British gardens. They are also widely grown in municipal settings. They are frost hardy in a normal winter but clearly suffered widely in the 2018 ‘Beast’ as they did in the extremes of the 1962/3 winter. The hardiest forms in extremes of weather are said to be C. ‘Silver Pink’ and C. x corbariensis. Before worrying unduly about threats of cold it should be understood that these are short lived plants which flower and seed profusely. In the main they respond badly to pruning (except perhaps when young) and after only five to eight years you may find them becoming old and straggly and in need of replacement. In the nursery the plants overwinter badly in 2 or 3L pots (unless potted on in late summer) and quickly outgrow the energy available in the compost by the start of the second season. Without care they already look elderly and unsaleable.
Cistus thrive in poor or moderately fertile soil and need a well-drained site in baking sun for best results. They are perfectly lime tolerant but may go yellow and chlorotic in very chalky soils. While you cannot prune cistus you can pinch back the new growth after flowering to make the plants more bushy.
Rock roses are some of the easiest softwood cuttings you will ever attempt in summer. Seeds can be sown in containers as soon as ripe but, if you and your neighbours grow more than one variety of cistus, then you are unlikely to get anything but a mixture of forms.
Cistus are some of the bestselling plants in our catalogue but they should be ordered in March or April and planted straight away to get a good show in the first summer.
Rock rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) is a tough little native beauty that usually gets about 2 feet tall, but can get much taller. And it spreads nicely, filling out to around 3 feet wide.
Pavonia is covered with pink blooms from spring to fall, even during the brutal 100 degree stretches that we see so often these days. The on-going flowers feed bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects.
The flowers are very simple, with 5 large petals and a distinct central column formed by the fused pistil and yellow stamens. The rock rose flower might remind you of the larger flowers of a hibiscus, and for good reason. They’re both in the same plant family: the Malvaceae, better known as the mallow family.
Rock rose is native to rocky, disturbed soils, hence its name, so be sure that it gets plenty of drainage in your garden. And it is a prolific reseeder, a strategy that ensures its continued existence through tough times. If planted in flower beds that you prefer to remain nice and tidy, you’ll be spending a fair amount of time pulling errant rock rose seedlings. So you may want to put this plant in a more natural, free-form area of the garden.
Pavonia thrives in the sun, but can be perfectly happy in part shade. And with just a little bit of supplemental irrigation, maybe once a week or so, during the driest of times, it keeps right on growing through our awful heat. It does tend to wilt during the day, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it needs water. You’ll notice that it’s right back to its cheery self the next morning, without any irrigation at all.
Rock rose is also prone to powdery mildew, but just ignore it. The plant certainly does.
Prune it now and then to restore its shape and promote new growth. You can do a harder prune in late winter. If you want to move its offspring that seed nearby, do so in the cooler months.
- Native Plants
Rockrose Care: How To Grow Rockrose Plants In The Garden
If you’re looking for a tough shrub that thrives on neglect, try rockrose plants (Cistus). This fast-growing evergreen shrub stands up to heat, strong winds, salt spray and drought without complaint, and once established it needs very little care.
What is Rockrose?
Native to the Mediterranean, rockrose plants have soft green foliage that varies in shape depending on the species. Large, fragrant flowers bloom for about a month in late spring and early summer. Each blossom lasts only a day, and may be pink, rose, yellow or white, depending on the species.
Use rockrose shrubs in dry areas as a xeriscaping plant or in coastal areas where they tolerate sandy soil, salt spray and strong winds. These 3- to 5-foot shrubs make an attractive, informal hedgerow. Rockrose plants are particularly useful for erosion control on dry banks.
There are about 20 species of rockrose that grow in the Mediterranean, but only a few are in cultivation in North America. Here are some great choices:
- Purple Rockrose (Cistus x purpureus) grows 4 feet tall with a spread of up to 5 feet and a compact, rounded shape. The large flowers are deep rose or purple. The shrub is attractive enough to use as a specimen, and it also looks great in groups. This species is sometimes called orchid rockrose.
- Sun Rose (Cistus albidus) grows 3 feet tall and wide with a dense, bushy habit. The dark lilac-pink flowers have yellow centers. Older plants may become leggy and it’s best to replace them rather than try to prune them into shape.
- White Rockrose (Cistus corbariensis) has cheery white flowers, usually with yellow centers and sometimes with brown spots near the base of the petals. It grows 4 to 5 feet tall and wide.
Nothing could be easier than growing rockrose. Plant the shrubs in a location with full sun and deep soil where they can put down spreading roots. They grow in almost any type of soil as long as it drains freely, including poor soils where other shrubs struggle to take hold. Rockrose plants are hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 8 through 11.
Water rockrose plants regularly during their first growing season. Once established, they never need watering or fertilization.
They resent heavy pruning, so it’s best to limit routine trimming to the minimum necessary to repair winter damage and correct the shape. As the branches age, they become weak and stop bearing flowers. Remove older branches by cutting them away at the base. Prune soon after the flowers fade to preserve the buds that will form next year’s flowers.
white rock rose (Cistus hybridus)
If there’s one plant that behaves in every way like a California native, but isn’t one, it’s the rockrose.
For years, I assumed rockrose (Cistus spp.) was a native because I had seen it growing on rough embankments along freeways near Pasadena and Santa Clarita. The terrains were so steep and the soil appeared so poor that I could not imagine how any plant, excepting a native, could grow there.
To this day, I wonder how these plants got started. Did someone carry rockroses up these embankments riding on a mule, or could these be windblown volunteers, the results of seeds that just happened to find the right cracks in the soil for germination and growth?
The sun-loving rockroses resemble California natives in the following ways: They grow best on slopes, seldom (if ever) survive transplanting from one part of the garden to another, bloom in the spring, have fragrant, felt-textured leaves, are frequently short-lived, resent heavy pruning, and dislike summer irrigation.
Unlike California natives, they are relatively easy to propagate vegetatively: Once flowering has ended, take 3- to 6-inch shoot tip cuttings and stick them in small pots containing any well-drained soil mix; keep plants in light shade until roots begin to form, which should happen within six weeks, then move to a sunnier location.
Rockroses flower in all shades of pink and rose, and in white. The flowers have the texture of crepe and may often have beauty spots at the base of their petals.
Their sticky leaves are fragrant and contain an oil which is used to make incense in their Mediterranean countries of origin, especially Greece. The process is described in “Flowers of the World,” by Frances Perry: “Collection is made by goats, which small boys round up and drive through the Cistus thickets. A gum sticks to the goats’ hair, which, at the end of the operation, smells considerably sweeter than it did beforehand … then the hair is cut, placed in vats with water and brought to the boil. The substance extracted is known as ladanum, which is also thought to be the fragrant myrrh of the Bible.”
Rockroses are broad shrubs, growing into specimens 3 to 5 feet tall whose girth may be twice the extent of their height. Suitable complements to the rockrose – both for their color and form – are the related sunroses (Helianthemum nummularium). Sunroses are low-growing plants not exceeding 1 foot in height that spread out like mats and bloom in red, pink, orange, yellow or white. Another relative worth looking for is Halimium lasianthum, which has yellow flowers and gray leaves.
Rockroses should be continually propagated as a hedge against their sudden demise, which should be expected at any time after their first year in the ground, although they may survive for up to five years after planting. No matter how tempting, avoid watering more than once or twice during the summer. As their name implies, they grow well in rock gardens with gritty, fast-draining soil.
Healthy eating: From gritty soil to gritty people … comes the story of Pauline James, who has written a book called “Your Good Health Garden” (Woodbridge Press, 1995). How do you know that Pauline is a sincere person worth reading? Her publisher’s press release includes Pauline’s home phone number, and when you call that number, she picks up the phone herself!
In casual conversation, you soon learn that – assisted only by her husband – she grows enormous quantities of vegetables, harvesting 200 pounds of them per week, all of which are donated to homeless shelters and food banks in the Long Beach area where she lives.
Pauline teaches that certain vegetables “require more energy to digest than they contain,” creating “deficit calories”; you can’t help but lose weight, then, by growing and eating such plants. Examples of such vegetables and the deficit calories created per cup of consumption are: raw carrots – 45; cucumbers – 14; celery – 20; eggplant – 25; cabbage – 20; green beans – 45; cauliflower – 30.
Here are some of Pauline’s helpful hints: “Boiling water poured down an anthill will destroy the nest; a few flowers or flowering herbs planted among the vegetables helps attract insects that aid in pollination; if you add manure to the ground for root crops such as carrots, beets and turnips, the roots will split.”