Rockery Plants

Summary: Read our introduction to rockery planting and find out about the different types of plants that suit rockeries

An image example of a rockeryIf you’ve read our guide on How to Build a Rockery, the next step is to get it planted! Or maybe you already have a rockery, and you just need to refresh it a little. New or old, our introduction to rockery plants will get you started.


Dwarf bulbs can give you some good interest in your rockery, adding a little height and a splash of colour, particularly early on in the year. Snowdrops and early crocus will give you something to look at from February onwards. Dwarf narcissus make a good show, and dwarf iris look really sweet. Cyclamen are good for spring colour but beware, they will spread and can become invasive. Make sure they are contained or you may wish you never got them!


Some miniature conifers will add special points of interest to your rockery, but make sure you buy slow growing varieties, rather than just small plants. Chamaecyparis obtuse nana is a good variety to try.


Alpine plants are particularly well-suited to growing in rockeries, as they thrive in poor soil conditions and little water.

Saxifraga is the ideal rockery plant. It comes in a huge range of species, all of which are suitable for your rock garden. There is such a variety of foliage and flowers, you could cover your whole rockery with a collection of saxifrage and not get bored.

Arabis makes for good ground cover with its dense green foliage, and the fragrant white or pink flowers will attract butterflies to your garden.

Helianthemum, or the rock rose, is another lovely alpine that you can make quite a collection of. These little evergreens will spread quickly over rocks, making for good ground cover and treating you to a wonderful display of miniature rose-like blooms from late spring onwards.

Edelweiss is perhaps the most classic of alpine plants, and a space should be found for it in every rockery. This delicate little flower actually belongs to the daisy family and is quite hardy.

For foliage colour you could use oxalis triangularis, or the Burgundy shamrock. Its rich, deep burgundy leaves will stand out well against pale rocks.

Alyssum is a hardy, low, ground hugging plant which flowers profusely through the summer. There are plenty of colours to choose from, and as it is an annual which is easy to grow, you can try a different one each year. Many varieties have a light scent, so place it where you can enjoy its fragrance.

Other Plants

Sempervivum, or houseleeks, are particularly suited to gravelly areas, where they will spread out and form a mat of attractive rosettes. There are a variety of different types, with a selection of colours and sizes to choose from, so you can create a really interesting area. They love the sun and will put up alien-like flower stalks if you’re lucky.

Campanula has a great many varieties, but the one known as harebells, are beautiful, delicate flowers that look delightful in any garden rockery. They are tolerant of shade, and like water more than the many alpines – especially in the summer when they are flowering. Carpathian Bellflower is another variety that is particularly well-suited to the rockery.

Primulas are a good way to add a real splash of colour to your rockery in early spring. The flowers are much larger than many of the alpine blooms, offering contrast for your Rockery, and the range of colours available is endless.

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