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Selecting plants for a rock garden

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Aubrieta deltoides 'Cascade Pourpre'
Photo: Coanri/Rita

You can use the table below to help you choose the plants for your rock garden. The plants included here are either real alpine plants, plants native to rocky, non-alpine habitats or, at the very least, low-growing or spreading species that are suited to a rock garden. It is also important to consider how easy they are to care for. It was tempting for us to include a few special high alpine beauties, but the fact that they are very difficult to grow here quickly brought us back to reality. Finally, since availability is an important factor, we limited our list to plants available from garden centres and growers.

Full sun

Name Type Height (cm) Colour Flowering Range Comments
Androsace sarmentosa alpine 10 pink to blood red June Kashmir to China Forms bushy mounds of leaves resembling Sempervivum
Aquilegia bertolonii rock garden 10-30 blue June Eastern Alps Needs to be reseeded every few years
Aubrieta deltoidea alpine 15 mauve to purple April - May Greece Forms spreading mounds
Aurinia saxatilis alpine 30 yellow May - June Southern and Central Europe and Turkey Forms trailing mounds
Dianthus alpinus alpine 5-10 pink June Alps Needs a spot with no competitors
Draba aizoides alpine 5-10 yellow April - May Mountainous parts of Southern and Central Europe Early blooming
Gentiana acaulis alpine 5-10 blue May Pyrenees, Alps, Carpathian Mountains Simply spectacular
Gentiana Septemfida lagodechiana non-alpine rock garden 30 blue July to September Caucasus Easy to grow
Iberis sempervirens alpine 15-20 white May - June Southern Europe Evergreen foliage
Lychnis flos-jovis rock garden 30 dark pink to scarlet May to July Alps Pleasantly woolly leaves
Papaver alpinum rock garden 15 various colours, from white to yellow or orange June - July Alps and Carpathian Mountains Short-lived, but reseeds itself
Penstemon hirsutus 'Pygmaeus' rock garden 15 mauve to purple June to August   Easy to grow, mat-forming
Phlox subulata non-alpine rock garden 15 various colours May Eastern United States A classic
Mat-forming
Saxifraga x apicula rock garden 5-10 yellow April - May   Forms dense mounds of narrow leaves
Sempervivum arachnoidium alpine 5-10 pink July to September Alps and Pyrenees Forms a spreading mat of rosettes of leaves
Silene schaffa alpine 10-15 pink to purple September - October Caucasus Late bloomer. Excellent choice

Full sun, partial shade

Name Type Height (cm) Colour Flowering Range Comments
Armeria maritima non-alpine rock garden 15 pink to red all summer Europe and coastal North America Known as thrift, sea thrift and sea pink
Campanula portenschlagiana alpine 10-15 blue July to September Eastern Europe Easy to grow
Chrysanthemum weyrichii rock garden 10-15 pinkish white September - October Kamchatka Makes a good groundcover
Primula denticulata rock garden 15-30 various shades of pink May Himalayas and China Easy to grow. Flowers appear before leaves
Sedum kamtschaticum non-alpine rock garden 5-10 yellow June Northern Asia Very easy to grow

Based on an article by René Giguère in Quatre-Temps magazine, Vol. 22, No.1.

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