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Cistus ladanifer l. [SIS-tus, lad-AN-ee-fer] is a flowering evergreen shrub from the family Cistaceae and native to the western Mediterranean region.
Some of the various common names for Cistus ladanifer include:
- Gum rockrose
- Common gum cistus
- Crimson spot rockrose
- Brown-eyed rockrose
The Cistus is adored for its beautiful flowers.
However, the plant is quite aggressive and considered invasive in some areas of Europe and regions of central Spain.
There, the ladanifer cistus plant has overtaken grasslands and farmland covering much of southern Portugal.
The Spanish common name for gum rockrose is Jara pringosa, which means sticky shrub.
C. ladanifer is also known by the name Cistus ladaniferus.
Cistus Ladanifer Care
Size & Growth
Cistus ladaniferus rockrose shrub grows to a height of 3’ – 8’ feet tall and equally wide.
It produces evergreen lanceolate dark-green leaves with pale green undersides.
The whole plant is covered with a sticky exudate, which has a resin-like scent.
This is why this plant is cultivated commercially to be used in perfumery.
This exudate is used to yield labdanum, which is used to make perfumes and also used in medicine.
Don’t confuse labdanum with “laudanum”, which is a common name for an opium-containing extract.
Flowering and Fragrance
The crown of the Cistus ladanifer is the beautiful flowers that are quite useful.
This evergreen shrub blooms in spring, bearing a profusion of large 4” inch wide flowers with 5 papery white petals.
Each ladnifer petal has a crimson or maroon spot at the base surrounded by yellow pistils and stamens.
Species or hybrids such as the Cistus crispus x Cistus albidus or Cistus creticus x C. incanus produces pink petals without markings.
The flowers have a resin-like fragrance.
During the bloom time, the Cistus ladanifer flowers only last for one day.
However, the shrub has a vigorous flowering capability, quickly replacing spent flowers in the garden with a succession of new ones for an entire month.
Light & Temperature
Based on their growth patterns in their native habitats, these plants are well-suited for Continentalized Mediterranean climate where the summers are dry and winters, wet and mild.
They are hardy to USDA Hardiness Zones 7 through 10.
The foliage grows nice and luscious green when planted in the garden out in the full sun.
Watering and Feeding
The amount of water your crimson spot rockroses need depends on the climate.
The preferences might be mesic, dry-mesic or simply dry.
The Cistus ladanifer plant is also drought-tolerant, making them optimal for shrub gardens which don’t get watered enough.
Since these plants can succeed in poor soil, you don’t need to add fertilizer.
In fact, too much organic matter or fertilizer may lead to leggy growth.
Soil & Transplanting
The plants are quite good at adapting to different types of soil.
They can grow well in poor soils along with sandy, clay, and loamy soils.
They also tolerate chalky soils but can become susceptible to being chlorotic with age.
Do ensure your soil has good drainage.
As for transplanting, choose a location with full sun.
Plant the cutting or offset in the depth it was growing in before.
Make sure you give enough water to soak the soil without making it too soggy.
Grooming and Maintenance
Common gum cistus plants are fortunately low maintenance.
You don’t have to do much extra work except pinching out or pruning longer growth to encourage better flowering on the side shoots.
These plants fall into the pruning groups 8 or 9, meaning they should be pruned in mid-spring or late spring, whenever the last frost has passed.
How to Propagate Gum Rockrose
One of the greatest things about most plants in the Cistus species is their self-seeding ability.
Instead of starting them yourself, remove the new growth from the mother plant and transplant them to new locations.
If you want to propagate, do so with seeds or softwood cuttings.
Ladanifer Cistus Pest or Diseases
The plant is virtually free of serious disease and pest problems.
Do keep an eye out for aphids and root among other common problems affecting most plants.
If you notice signs of disease, refer to your local gardening center for advice. Another rockrose of interest is Cistus Purpureus.
Cistus Ladanifer Uses
The showy flowers of the rockrose are adored for their ornamental value.
Add them to the sun borders of your flower beds or alongside hedges.
To cover larger areas, the plants are used in gravel/rock, cottage, city, and Mediterranean gardens along with banks and slopes.
The collective fragrance coming off of the evergreen shrub will fill the air as the wind picks up the scent.
The very unique and notable gum rockrose scent is obtained from the foliage.
The leaves of the plant contain a fragrant oleoresin called labdanum.
This is used to make essential oil and also in perfumery as a fixative.