Cistus purpureus [SIS-tus, pur-PUR-ee-us] is a perennial shrub, known for its bushy evergreen foliage and large purplish-pink flowers.
It’s native to the Mediterranean region, where it grows in rocky soil, along with other plants in the Cistus genus.
Commonly called rockroses, Cistus plants belong to the Cistaceae family, which only contains about 20 species.
The Cistus purpureus hybrid has become one of the most widely cultivated rockrose plants and has several common names:
- Purple-flowered rock rose
- Purple rock rose
- Orchid rockrose
It’s a hardy shrub with showy blooms lasting for many years with the right care.
Cistus Purpureus Care
Size and Growth
Cistus purpureus produces bushy growth, with a mound of dark green leaves reaching up to 6′ feet tall and wide.
The leaves are narrow with wavy edges, measuring up to 2″ inches long.
The tops are often dark green while the undersides are grey-green.
The foliage also produces a resinous scent.
Flowering and Fragrance
The blooms arrive in the spring.
The flowers measure up to 3″ inches wide and feature bright, purplish-pink petals and a yellow center.
The individual flowers are short-lived, lasting only for a day.
The plant continues to produce a succession of new flowers for several weeks through the end of spring and early summer.
Light and Temperature
Plant the purple-flowered rock rose in full sun to partial sun.
The bright sunlight helps bring out the colors of the flowers.
Cistus purpureus is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 10.
It’s known to survive temperatures down to 15° degrees Fahrenheit (-9° C) during the winter, allowing it to remain outdoors during the colder months in most regions.
In areas with harsh winters, the plant may require additional protection.
Adding a layer of mulch around the base or using a horticultural fleece should shield the plant from severe cold.
NOTE: Shielding the plant is only recommended if the soil isn’t too moist, as the extra layer locks in moisture and increases the risk of root rot.
If kept indoors, place in a window with good sunlight throughout most of the day.
Avoid direct afternoon sunlight from a west-facing window, which may scorch the leaves of the plant.
Watering and Feeding
Cistus purpureus is drought tolerant.
Water moderately, allowing the top half of the soil to dry between watering.
It requires infrequent to little watering throughout the warmer months and almost no water during the winter.
However, potted plants may require more frequent watering.
Soil and Transplanting
Cistus purpureus thrives in well-drained soil.
It can survive in poor soil if it provides proper drainage.
If the soil doesn’t drain well, add a layer of gravel below the soil.
These plants don’t require transplanting.
If choosing to place the plant in a container, transplant at the end of the summer or the start of fall using the same soil.
It doesn’t require grooming.
Pinching back the new growth after flowering helps produce bushier growth.
When pinching back the plant, avoid trimming too far.
After trimming older woody stems, the plant may not produce new growth and may eventually die.
For older plants having grown leggy and spindly, consider propagating with cuttings to create new plants.
How to Propagate Purple Rock Rose
Propagate using seeds or stem cuttings.
- Take cuttings in late summer after the plant stops producing new flowers.
- The cuttings should contain woody stems and several sets of leaves.
- Dip the ends in rooting hormone and plant in containers with well-drained soil.
- Place the cuttings in full sunlight and avoid overwatering.
The cuttings should take root in several weeks and begin producing new growth.
At the start of the following spring, transplant the young plants to their permanent containers or homes in the garden.
Collect seeds from the plant after the flowers appear and sow after they ripen in the fall.
Sow in a cold frame in the garden.
A cold frame is simply a structure with four sides and a transparent top which helps insulate the soil.
Either purchase a cold frame or build one out of wood and a sheet of plastic.
It’s also possible to sow directly in the garden in the spring.
Store seeds in an envelope in a cool, dry spot and then sow after the last danger of frost.
Purple Rock Rose Pest or Disease Problems
The purple-flowered rock rose is mostly free of diseases, pests, and toxins.
It’s a safe plant to grow around children and pets, but it may occasionally attract the typical indoor pests, such as spider mites and whiteflies.
The best way to deal with infestations is to spray the plant.
Take it outdoors and spray with water.
Allow the plant to dry thoroughly to prevent root rot.
Severe infestations may require the use of a commercial insecticide.
Suggested Cistus Purpureus Uses
This drought-tolerant plant is a great addition to a rock garden, providing an accent or a divider for other plants.
It’s also often used for ground cover along banks, slopes, and borders.