How and when to prune Cistus shrubs

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Cistus is a genus of evergreen woody shrubs with five-petal flowers that can range from purple, red, white, and pink. This shrub is widely used to beautify gardens or parks around the world, but due to its origin in the Mediterranean they are more common in Europe. Since it does not require much care, it is very good for inexperienced gardeners, who are looking for an easy-growing shrub for their garden. In this post we will see everything about pruning Cistus shrubs, and at the end we will briefly discuss how to prune a Cistus Purple Rock Rose (cistus x purpureus).

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Fun Facts: Some of the medicinal uses of this plant were discovered thousands of years ago. This is the case for the healing property of chewing gum that arises from the bark of the Cistus, which is believed to have been accidentally discovered by shepherds living near the Mediterranean.

1.How to care Cistus shrubs

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We will begin the article by studying what are the care that you must carry out to keep your Cistus healthy, strong and beautiful. Yes, I admit that a few paragraphs ago I said that it is an easy plant to grow, and I stay with what I say. But just because it is easy does not mean that it is not necessary to know some tips to make your cultivation a success.

  • Soil: it is not very demanding with the soil, it adapts very well to poor and stony soils, being essential that they have good drainage.
  • Sun and temperature: it likes to be in a place with good sun exposure, being able to withstand quite high temperatures. As for the cold, it also supports it very well up to -10 ° C.
Pruning Cistus shrubs
Cistus shrubs
  • Fertilization: in general it does not need to be fertilized. Although you can improve its development and flowering if you apply some slow release fertilizer in the first days of spring.
  • Pests and diseases: It resists very well to these problems, being rare that it is attacked by some disease or plague. Although you can find mealybugs, aphids, mites and some fungi. Avoid them by performing a regular check.
  • Irrigation: the irrigation you need is low. A little watering during the summer will suffice in case the rain is low.
  • Pruning: there is some controversy on this issue, with some gardeners recommending never pruning and others contradicting that statement. In the following sections we will give our vision on pruning the Cistus.

2. What tools you need for pruning Cistus

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The Cistus are small shrubs, with branches that do not develop much thickness. This makes it easy to find a pruning tool. Depending on the size and type of pruning that we are going to carry out, the tool we need to use may vary, although in general the branches of the Cistus can be cut with any manual pruning scissors.

Remember to sanitize the cutting blades on your tool before doing the job. With this simple care you will avoid the possible transmission of diseases to your plant. Below I will recommend three very simple ways by which you can perform disinfection.

2.1 How to disinfect pruning shears

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There are many ways that you can disinfect your pruning tools. Here we will see three of the most common and easy to do.

  • Method 1: rub the scissors blades with a cloth dipped in alcohol (ethanol). After cleaning, allow the tool to sit for a couple of minutes for maximum disinfection efficiency.
  • Method 2: prepare a mixture 1/9 of chlorine and water (one part of chlorine and 9 of water). Then soak the scissors for half an hour in that mixture. After those 30 minutes you can start pruning.
  • Method 3: this third method is effective but from my point of view not so recommended. Here what you should do is pass the blade for a few seconds through a flame. This will disinfect but also burn the blade.

You already have the three methods to disinfect your scissors before trimming your Cistus, which one do you choose?

3. Pruning Cistus shrubs

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As we mentioned earlier, many gardeners advise against pruning Cistus. They claim that they do not respond well to the cutting of their branches and that it is a plant that we will inevitably have to change after a couple of years because it will already look ugly.

This statement has some truth, the Cistus do not resist hard pruning or rejuvenation. Its woody stems will not sprout stronger if you cut them all at ground level (something very common in many types of shrubs). But the fact that it does not withstand intense pruning does not mean that certain maintenance pruning tasks are not necessary. They will be light pruning, but as we will see below they are quite necessary.

3.1 When to prune

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As is the case with most flowering plants, the right time for pruning goes hand in hand with flowering. And it is that the time in which you should carry out the annual pruning in your Cistus is just after flowering.

If you forget to prune it and for some reason decide to prune it before it blooms, keep in mind that the task of cutting the branches will have a direct impact on flowering. You can lose all the flowers of the season, or at least decrease it significantly.

You may also be interested in knowing about pruning:

In case you need to carry out cleaning pruning, in which you will only cut dead branches and / or attacked by a plague, there is no ideal time. If they are dry branches you can cut them without problem at any time of the year, it will not have any effect on the plant. As for the branches attacked by a pest, cut it as soon as possible, this will prevent a possible spread of this problem to new branches or other plants.

3.2 How to prune

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The more organized you are when it comes to pruning, the better, so we recommend that you start with the cleaning tasks. Take a moment to look at your Cistus bushes and look for dead or diseased branches. Then cut each one to the base. In case of diseased branches, be careful to deposit the debris away from your garden, so that it is not a possible source of infection for other plants.

Once the cleaning pruning is done, you can proceed to what we call maintenance pruning. In this pruning you must take each of the branches and cut it about 15-20 cm. Be careful to always make the cut just above a couple of cuts. This will ensure good foliage for the next season. Also take the opportunity to cut all those messy branches, this will help the aesthetics of the plant.

Another pruning that can be done in the Cistus, and that is especially effective in young plants, is to pinch new shoots. It is a task that you can do simply with your hands. And it consists of cutting a couple of centimeters from each new shoot. This is done to make the foliage more dense. This pruning should also be done after flowering, so as not to lose the flowers of the season. You will see that as the plant ages the effectiveness of this pruning decreases, take advantage of it in the first years.

You may know that a good way to propagate Cistus is through cuttings. So pruning is a good time to select good cuttings and make new plants. Do it and incidentally if for some reason you lose the Cistus that you currently have in your garden, you will have a new plant to replace it.

4. Particular case

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We already mentioned that the Cistus are a genus of perennial shrubs, within the caul there are many species. Among the most popular species are Cistus x purpureus or Purple Rock Rose. Since the pruning of the Cistus Rock Rose is one of the most frequently asked questions by users on this topic, I will dedicate a small section to talk about it.

4.1 Pruning cistus Rock Rose (cistus x purpureus)

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Cistus x purpureus has all the characteristics of a conventional Cistus, that is, it is a small, evergreen shrub that is generally easy to care for. In addition, as it ages, its woody branches do not withstand very hard pruning, so maintenance pruning will be somewhat light.

In the early years you can pinch off young shoots to induce denser foliage. It is a task that, like maintenance pruning, must be done after flowering, so as not to lose the flowers of the current season.

As you can see, what I just said does not come out of those I said above, so you can apply everything seen for the Cistus in your Cistus x purpureus or Purple Rock Rose.

5. Cistus Rock rose – grow & care (video )

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We always like to end with a video that illustrates the topic we discuss in our article. But this time we could not find any good tutorial video on pruning Cistus, I see that no YouTuber was interested in the topic. 🙁

In any case, it will not hurt to review the care of the Cistus by watching the following video (from the Grow Plants channel). If it’s helpful, please like it.

Do not leave our website before consulting about the pruning of any of these plants.

And with this we have already reached the end of the article, I hope you have no doubts about how the pruning of your Cistus bush should be carried out.

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