Rock garden plants are alpines that grow above the tree line on European mountains. For that reason, in the garden they must have good light and free-draining soil. Winter wet is their worst enemy: many plants form clumps or mats that retain water and so are prone to rotting.
When to plant rockery plants
Ideally, plant rockery plants onto your prepared rock garden in spring, to give them plenty of time to put down roots and establish before their first winter.
Read our guide to making a rockery
Evergreen rockery plants
Although winter-flowering species are scarce, take note of plants that are evergreen, as they can still look good when all else is bare. These all year round rockery plants make sure your rockery plants look great throughout the seasons. Always brush away or remove by hand any autumn leaves that threaten to cover them.
These plants would also work in an alpine scree. Read our guide to creating an alpine scree garden.
Give your garden a makeover and save money at the same time with a special Thompson and Morgan offer of 10% off.
Spring-flowering rockery plants
Arabis procurrens ‘Variegata’ – white flowers above a mat of variegated green and cream leaves.
Aubrieta varieties – one of our most familiar rockery plants, with flowers in all shades of pink, purple and crimson.
Aurinia saxatilis – yellow flowers and silver leaves.
– mat-forming plants with bristly leaves and lemon-yellow flowers.
Gentiana aucaulis – blue bell-shaped flowers.
Leontopodium alpinum – the Swiss edelweiss with white flowers and grey felted leaves.
For cooler ‘north’ slopes
Arenaria balearica – a carpet of tiny leaves studded with starry white flowers.
Hacquetia epipactis – clumps of glossy green leaves with tiny lemon-yellow flowers.
Summer-flowering rockery plants
Armeria juniperifolia – lovely tufty leaves with purple or pink pincushion flowers.
Dianthus alpinus – miniature versions of border dianthus: ‘Whitehill’ has pink flowers with a crimson blotch.
Lithodora diffusa ‘Heavenly Blue’ – small gentian-like flowers that are truly heavenly blue.
Phlox douglasii – alpine species of familiar border phlox, with flowers in shades of pink, from pale to verging on purple.
Saxifraga spp. – cushions of ferny foliage with simple starry flowers. S. fernandi-coburgi has bright yellow flowers; ‘Peter Burrow’ has masses of purple flowers.
Sempervivum spp. – attractive rosettes of fleshy leaves.
Alyssum spinosum – a spiny-stemmed subshrub with rosy pink flowers; it can grow up to 30cm so position with care.
Campanula cochlearifolia – a creeping campanula with small bell-shaped flowers, also known as fairies’ thimbles.
Erigeron aurantiacus – bright orange daisy-style flowers.
Erodium reichardii – erodiums look like miniature hardy geraniums and come in whites and pinks.
Linaria alpine – the alpine toadflax has miniature two-tone (purple and orange) snapdragon-style flowers on trailing stems.
Autumn-flowering rockery plants
Gentiana x macaulayi – a paler blue version of the spring gentian.
Colchicum cilicicum ‘Purpureum’ – a purple autumn crocus with honey-scented flowers (can be hard to track down bulbs).
For cooler 'north' slopes
Cyclamen hederifolium – ivy-shaped leaves with grey markings and pink flowers.
Cyclamen cilicium f. album – heart-shaped leaves and nodding white flowers.
Winter-flowering rockery plant
Crocus laevigatus – starts to produce lilac or white scented flowers in autumn and may carry on through winter.
Whether you’re looking to update your rock garden or are starting from scratch, it’s important you choose the right stones for the type of garden you want, as well as the plants you intend to grow. Find out which ones are right for your garden with our guide to choosing and buying rockery stones.
Subscribe today for just £3 for 3 issues...