Cistus x hybridus

Plant of the month: June

Cistus x hybridus, commonly known ‘Rock Rose’, is a member of the Cistaceae family and can be found by the Pavilion.

Cistus x hybridus is one of the hardiest cistus in cultivation but still needs a little protection, say from a fence or a wall. It forms a dense evergreen bush with wavy edged dark green leaves, which may feel sticky to the touch. It can grow to 1m tall and 1.5m wide.

Its crowning glory is its extravagant white flowers, its white petals surrounding a central boss of yellow stamens (the male reproductive organs producing pollen containing anther and filament). Each flower may only last a day or so but they are produced in such abundance that the shrub is in flower through June and July.

There are many cistus in the Gardensm, for example Cistus ladanifer which can be found in the Herb Garden is of particular interest as it is known as the ‘Gum Cistus’. This ‘ladanifer’ or ‘landanifer’ gum has large white crinkly flowers and is a much sought after ingredient in perfume. The gum apparently collected on goat’s beard’s at the time of Pliny and is an alternative to ‘ambergis’ which is no longer used as it was collected from sperm whales, which are an endangered species.

There is also a bank of cistus with pink flowers and white flowers with purple or yellow blotches opposite the Growing Schools Garden.

All cistus require poor soils which drain well and need a lot of sunshine to grow well. They should not be fed and can be relatively short lived, so make sure you take cuttings. These can be softwood (fresh growth that is not hardened) or greenwood (very green and young) in summer. Cuttings should be no more than 75mm long from non-flowering wood and placed in gritty, free draining compost.