Rockroses are much more diverse than you would think after seeing what's usually available. The ratty looking Orchid Rockrose (Cistus purpurea) or some of the old fashioned types don't hold up well. Yet there are some spectacular forms out there that, with proper care, will fill that niche for an evergreen shrub with showy blooms. Another bonus is that Cistus are usually deer resistant (the more resinous and pungent the leaves, the better) and they are always drought tolerant. They must have well draining soil (not too fertile is best) and minimal summer water once established....basically ignore them once they get settled in. Cistus thrive in their native Meditteranean climate of hot summers, and mild, wet winters and can do well on a fast draining or rocky hillside. Make sure they are placed in a location that gets winter sun. Rockroses can look great as a mass groundcover (they usually are wider than tall) or mixed in a drought tolerant bed of lavenders, rosemaries, Ceanothus and other Meditteranean plants. Each individual flower doesn't last long but they bloom successively over many weeks. They don't tolerate heavy pruning, just annual tip pruning to keep them compact and.
Here are some of our favorites (we chose the best cold hay varieties from Xeraplants and more info can be found from the Xera Plants website):
Cistus 'Blanche'- a large shrub in habit and bloom. Ours have grown well over 5' tall and about 4' wide in 4 years. Seems to be more upright than wide with an especially resinous and scented medium green leaf. Needs some tip pinching to keep dense but has a nice habit for a large hedge. Extra large white blooms with yellow center. Seems to be one of the most deer resistant because of its resinous leaves.
Cistus x bornetianus ‘Jester’ -cold hardy pink blooming variety from Xera. Profuse soft pink flowers begin in May and continue for 6 weeks. Will get 3'x3', rounded habit. Sage green foliage.
Cistus x dansereaui ‘Jenkyn Place’ -extra cold hardy crimson spot variety from Xera, with heavy bloom in May and continue sporadically until frost. Deep green leaves are resinous and fragrant. Habit is upright to 4' tall and wide. Photograph seen above.
Cistus ladanifer maculatus- Crimson Spot Rockrose- Bonni's favorite Rockrose. Similar to Jenkyn Place- white petals with crimson spot at base. Rounded habit to at least 4'x4' and dark green leaf.
Cistus libanotum ‘Major’ very unusual looking Rockrose from Xera. Even just the buds are beautiful- red buds form on 6" stalks to open to white flowers. A more airy form of rockrose and will tolerate clay if given no summer water. Thinner, medium green leaves. 3' tall and wide.
Cistus skanbergii- smaller silver leaves look good with the smaller pale pink flowers. Low, broad habit- 3' tall and up to 8' wide
Cistus x ‘Snow Fire’ -extra cold hardy crimson spot variety from Xera with an extra long bloom time. 2' tall by 4' wide without being rangy. Medium green foliage.
Cistus 'Sunset'- good rockrose for groundcover- will spread at least 4-5' and stay 18"-2' tall with bright magenta flowers on sage green/silver foliage. Great contrast and long blooming