Cistus x skanbergii
Updated: Nov 22, 2021
It was not until finding this photo that I realized the petals were in the shape of true love, reminding me to admire the details if not stopping for the sweet smell roses...or in this case rockrose, and in my experience not scented. Generally, rockroses are unique natives from the Mediterranean, bearing showy flowers while seemingly disinterested in receiving any love. Have you heard of killing plants with kindness, well in this case, rockroses do not like to be fussed over, and especially not overwatered...much like our native Ceanothus that detests too much summer water.
Do not let the photo fool you. C. x skanbergii's flowers are only an inch across, which might be why I did not notice its delicate details. They are, however, prolific, covered in a pink drift starting in late spring into summer. They may rebloom but not as abundantly.
To be candid, I planted ours in the wrong place. At the time, the garden was rather open, but as I slowly filled in areas it started to compete with others, in part to avoid shade by contorting its reach elsewhere. A plant that reaches eight feet across needs room under normal circumstances; depriving rockroses of sun is not an option. Which reminds me, some references mention a common name, "dwarf pink rockrose," which I cannot imagine refers to plant size but probably the smaller flowers than others in the genus. I would still consider this plant for ground cover uses if its height is desirable, but there are truer dwarf species that also spread, such as Cistus x pulverulentus 'Sunset' or Cistus salviifolius 'Prostratus.'
Landscape designer, Jeff Wortham, provides another helpful overview for growing this rockrose in Northern California.
Botanical Name: Cistus x skanbergii
Cistus: Greek, kistos, applied to red-flowering shrubs
Skanbergii: Thought to be a natural cross between C. monspeliensis and C. parviflorus, according to San Marco Growers
Common Name: Pink rockrose; dwarf pink rockrose
Family Name: Cistaceae
Origin: Mediterranean; Greece, Italy
Positioning: Middle ground
Garden Themes: Mediterranean/dry, rock, coastal, cottage/informal, courtyard/patio (with room), pollinator, rain
Uses: Border, mass/drift, ground cover, embankment cover, green stormwater infrastructure (elevated embankments & uplands only)
Type: Evergreen shrub
Form: Mound, spreading to upright
Size: 3' tall by 8' wide
Outstanding Feature(s): Flower
Stem: Green-brown, tomentose
Surface: Tomentose, pronounced venation underneath
Flower: Spring to Summer. Showy, 5-petaled, obcordate, cupped, light pink
Fruit: Autumn to Winter. Brown, 5-sided capsule; inconspicuous
cultural requirements, tolerances & problems
Sunset Zones: 4-9, 14-24
USDA Zones: 9-11
WUCOLS SF Bay Area Hydro Zone: Low
Texture: Sand, rock
Moisture Retention: Well-drained
pH: Slightly acidic to alkaline
Tolerances: Drought, deer
Problems: May be short-lived with too much water once established
Branch Strength: Weak
Insects: Not recorded at time of posting
Disease: Powdery mildew
citations & attributions
Bayton, R. (2019). The Royal Horticultural Society's the Gardener's Botanical: An Encyclopedia of Latin Plant Names. London: Mitchell Beazley.
Norris Brenzel, K. (Ed.). (2012). The New Sunset Western Garden Book. New York: Time Home Entertainment, Inc.
Products. "Cistus x skanbergii." San Marcos Growers, Santa Barbara. Accessed on September 19, 2021, from https://www.smgrowers.com/products/plants/plantdisplay.asp?plant_id=409.
RHS. "Cistus x skanbergii." Royal Horticulture Society, London. Accessed on September 19, 2021, from https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants/93118/cistus-x-skanbergii/details.
Water Use Classification of Landscape Species. "WUCOLS IV Plant List." University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Davis. Accessed on September 19, 2021.
Featured flower detail: "Cistus x skanbergii" by Eric Hunt is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
Flower mass: "Cistus x skanbergii Hybr.Pink Rock Rose მოთეთრო საკმელა" by Lazaregagnidze is licensed under Creative CommonsAttribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.
All other photos by TELCS.