Best Plants To Create A Rock Garden

Pink flowers in a rock garden

What is a rockery or rock garden?

Rockeries are a great way to bring additional interest to your outdoor space, providing a whole new landscape for a variety of plants and wildlife. A rockery is a garden feature made up of a combination of rocks and boulders with added perennials and bedding flowers. Rockeries are an ideal choice if you’re wanting to showcase plants in your garden but have poor soil, or if you’re simply looking for a new, low-maintenance gardening project.

How to build a rockery

A rockery is an imitation of a mountainside, so you will need to begin with a number of rocks or boulders. Next, you’ll need to decide on the location for your rock garden. We’d recommend an area that benefits from the sun and, if possible, is on a slope – this helps imitate the natural landscape of a mountain. Of course, if your garden is flat, you can use your rocks, boulders and rubble to build up a slope yourself.

You may need more rocks than you would expect – they are, after all, the main component! Try sourcing rocks from a local quarry, or head to a garden centre and stock up. When building your rockery, start by adding some rubble to the area you’re planning to build on – this will encourage better drainage and help rockery plants to grow. When it comes to placing the stones, start at the lowest point and work your way up with bigger stones.

Use gravel to fill in any of the bigger gaps between stones, and create a number of areas for plants with gritty soil. Once you have the base of your rockery sorted, you can move on to the fun part – decorating it with plants!

Ajuga Noble Nightingale in a garden

What are the best plants for a rockery?

The best rockery plants tend to be alpines – these grow naturally in mountainous areas, so will thrive in a rockery with similar conditions. Alpines are a great plant for a rock garden as they are extremely low maintenance as well as being tolerant to drought, so are an incredibly easy way to inject colour and life into your garden.

Some popular alpine varieties include:

  • Silene schafta: also commonly known as ‘autumn catchflies’, these semi-evergreen plants feature bright green leaves with small pink or purple flowers.
  • Ajuga: Also called ‘carpet bugleweed’, the ajuga is an evergreen plant that is perfect for quickly filling large, empty areas.
  • Sisyrinchium E.K. Balls: This is a great hardy plant for a rockery, as it should survive a winter outside. Boasting a beautiful purple mauve shade and yellow eyes, Sisyrinchium E.K. Balls will bring a bold pop of colour to your rock garden.
  • Lithodora Heavenly Blue: As the name suggests, this beautifully eye-catching flower showcases a vivid blue shade, and will thrive in a sunny, raised rock garden.
  • Others to consider: Thyme and Sempervivum Key Lime Kiss.

Sempervivum Key Lime Kiss in a rock garden

When to plant rockery plants

Alpines thrive best when planted in spring or autumn, as they will establish faster in these moderate climates. However, alpines can be successfully planted at any time of year, so don’t be put off if these seasons have passed!

How to plant rockery plants

Rockery plants such as alpines should be planted in soil in the gaps between the rocks and boulders of your rockery. When planting, remove the alpine from its pot and then gently tease out the roots to separate them. Bear in mind that alpine roots grow particularly long, as they need to naturally in the wild in order to seek water.

Plant the rockery plant in your desired location then pad out the surrounding area with gritty soil – this can simply be soil with a handful of sand or grit added in. This textured soil will help with drainage and will create an area in which your rockery plants can thrive.

A good example of a stunning alpine plant that would thrive in a rock garden is the Vinca Minor, with its purple flowers and bright green leaves.

Once you’ve planted your rockery plants, thoroughly water them but do not overwater. Alpines naturally grow in dry, rocky areas and therefore do not cope well in waterlogged soil.

Alpine and rockery plants at Gardeners Dream

If you’re feeling inspired and want to create your very own stunning rockery, you’re in the right place! Head on over to the rockery plants selection right here at Gardeners Dream, where you can explore a selection of rockery-suitable alpine plants. Choose from a variety of pack sizes, each offering a beautiful selection of mixed alpines to help bring colour and life to your garden.

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