18 Best Rock Garden Plants

Rock Gardens
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A rock garden, also known as an alpine garden or a rockery, is a planting area created with a range of rocks, gravels, or boulders that all function as tastefully placed hardscape pieces. It often comprises of a softscape made up of annual and perennial plants that may thrive on rocky surfaces or maybe in a soilless environment. A professionally designed rock garden by hardscaping company will seem more coherent between the rocks and plants, which adds to its overall appeal. Even though it is meticulously planned and structured, if the design is executed effectively, it will look completely natural and unforced.

When using rocks in your planting, balance the hardness of the rocks with a variety of plants of different heights, such as creeping groundcovers, small shrubs, decorative grasses, and perennials, for a more organic look. Refrain from planting in patterns or rows. Consider using wispy textural branches, towering plant outcroppings along a plant border, or a little burst of color with seasonal flowers to further create contrast in the rock garden.

Although many “rock garden plants” are in fact succulents, this is not a categorization used in botany. They are comparable in that they have compact growth patterns, require well-drained soil, and are resistant to drought. These twenty plants are perfect for a rock garden; they range in size from little to huge.

Best Rock Garden Plants

Types of Rock Gardens

Do you need inspiration for a rock garden? There are many different sizes, shapes, and patterns for rock gardens. Favorites among homeowners are the following:

Xeriscapes: Creating a landscape with minimal to no water usage is known as xeriscaping. Plants, rocks, and hardscape elements like walkways that are both drought-tolerant and drought-resistant are all found in xeriscapes. They save the environment, save money, and use less energy.

Japanese rock gardens, also referred to as Zen gardens: are intentionally created to promote meditation and contemplation. Mountains, animals, and islands are represented by rocks, and rushing water is represented by finely raked gravel. Evergreen ground cover, pines, and mosses provide color and texture. It is crucial to comprehend the cultural importance of a Zen garden prior to deciding to construct one.

Water gardens: A fountain, koi pond, or both could be the ideal way to unwind after a demanding workday. A peaceful and enchanting experience might be enjoyed by watching koi swim in your own garden, and relaxing to the sound of a fountain running is a great way to relax.

Native plant gardens: Think about including native flowers and shrubs to promote biodiversity and draw lovely birds and butterflies. For native animals, native flora make excellent homes and food sources. To attract turtles, toads, and frogs to your garden, you may even build a pond.

DIY Rock Garden

What You Need for Your DIY Rock Garden Plants

Rocks

The focal point of your garden will be rocks, whether they are boulders, stones, or gravel. To add visual appeal to your landscape design, select a variety of shapes and sizes along with your ideal color palette.

The earth-toned, pea-shaped stones you find next to streams make for an eye-catching and reasonably-priced filler in between plants.

Crushed granite works well for creating a long-lasting, natural appearance between stepping stones or along paths.

River rocks are tiny, smooth stones that enhance the beauty of water features.

Pro Tip: Select locally available and easily transportable stone for larger boulders and rocks. Shipping charges may add hundreds to your total payment.

Sandy Soil

Soils that drain effectively are ideal for rock garden plants. In order to give your soil the necessary permeability, you might need to amend it with sand and compost if it contains a lot of clay.

Newspaper and Topsoil

To prepare the space without digging up your lawn, apply a thin layer of topsoil and newspaper.

Garden Hose

By setting up a hose and experimenting with different diameters and forms, you may see several design options for your garden.

Measuring Tape

To choose which rocks and plants would fit in best and which ones could take center stage in your garden, measure out the area. You may determine how many plants and boulders you’ll need by measuring.

Plants

It is best to choose drought-tolerant and drought-resistant plants. Be mindful to select plants that do well in well-drained soil (not clay) for your rock garden, since it will receive adequate drainage.

Select native plants for your landscape. Your soil type and environment will be ideal for their growth.

There is a variety of plants to select from: Popular options include shrubs like bayberry, cacti like the prickly pear cactus, succulents like sedum, and flowering perennials like phlox and yarrow.

Trowel

To bury any rocks you wish to keep buried on the lower garden layer, use a trowel to dig holes for the small plants.

Shovel

Dig deeper holes for larger plants and distribute soil using your shovel.

Wheelbarrow

It is essential to have a wheelbarrow for moving bulkier stones, dirt, mulch, and ornamental items like pavers or sculptures.

Mulch

To insulate plants, guard against weeds, and stop erosion, cover newly planted areas with organic mulch such as wood chips or shredded bark. Moreover, you may go for a rough appearance by using stone mulches such as pumice, crushed granite, or pea gravel.

Decorative Elements

You may turn your rock garden into the talk of the neighborhood with stepping stones, seats, sculptures, and fountains.

Landscaping fabric (optional)

You might wish to lay down landscape cloth before planting in order to reduce weeding.

lavander

18 Top Plants for Rock Garden

Aloe Vera

Succulents like aloe vera grow well in dry land, semi-tropical, and tropical environments. Sharp spines line the margins of their pointed, green leaves, which are speckled with white. Numerous varieties of aloe are suitable for rock gardens, such as the century plant, which is a well-liked example in the Southwest and West.

Aloe thrives in arid environments with lots of light. Depending on the heat, aloe only requires weekly or biweekly watering.

This plant is widely used to cure wounds, burns, and other skin diseases. It is both beautiful and helpful. An odorless, translucent gel that may be used on the skin or consumed directly is contained within engorged leaves.

Type: Succulent

USDA zones: 10-12

Sunlight requirements: Partial shade and full sun

Water needs: Medium

Soil preferences: Dry soil and good drainage

Available: Year-round

Height: up to 3 feet

Bugleweed

Bugleweed is a broadleaf, evergreen to semi-evergreen groundcover that belongs to the mint family. It produces tiny clusters of purple flowers and forms a compact, thick mat. The medium-green, glossy, oval-shaped leaves are grouped tightly in rosettes.

In addition to tolerating high foot traffic, bugleweed can aid in weed smothering. It can withstand both deer and rabbits. While the leaves and blooms of numerous bugleweed types vary widely in size and color, they all have comparable characteristics.

Type: Herbaceous perennial groundcover

USDA zones: 3-10

Sunlight requirements: Partial shade and full sun

Water needs: Medium

Soil preferences: Wet soil and good drainage

Available: Mid to late spring, evergreen

Height: up to 12 inches

Cheddar Pink

The pink color of the blooms’ numerous pointed petals gives this plant its name, which comes from the Cheddar Gorge region of England, where the plant is native. Pinking shears are saw-toothed scissors that cut in a zigzag pattern rather than a straight line. They add a range of hues to your rock garden and smell fragrant and like cloves.

Cheddar Pink can withstand salt and is resistant to deer. But be mindful of the leaves! If consumed, they may result in gastrointestinal issues or moderate dermatitis when handled.

Type: Flowering perennial

USDA zones: 4-8

Sunlight requirements: Full sun

Water needs: Low

Soil preferences: Well-drained, alkaline, loose soil

Available: spring/early summer, evergreen

Height: up to 12 inches

Columbine

A favorite of hummingbirds and other pollinators, columbine is a short-lived perennial. Columbines come in a range of hues, including blue, pink, violet, and white, and grow in bushy clumps with delicate short-spurred petals. The lobed, spherical leaflets are gray-green in color.

Columbine resists deer and rabbits. It will need to be trimmed down as the plant deteriorates since it self-sows copiously to maintain the flow of blossoms.

Some columbine species bloom in specific regions. Aquilegia alpina is native to western states, Aquilegia pubescens to California, and Aquilegia canadensis to the eastern United States.

Type: Flowering perennial

USDA zones: 4-8

Sunlight requirements: Full sun, partial shade

Water needs: Medium

Soil preferences: Well-drained but moist

Available: spring/early summer

Height: up to 12 inches

Creeping Phlox

Creeping phlox is an evergreen perennial that is also low-growing. A perennial with limited growth that is evergreen is creeping phlox. This groundcover is a favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds, and it can tolerate hot, dry weather. With their fragrant little, starry, five-petaled blue, pink, purple, and white blooms, they provide beauty and fragrance to any rock garden.

It can withstand modest foot traffic and resist wildlife. It looks great in your rock garden and works well as a flower bed border. Additionally, creeping phlox can be used to reduce erosion on slopes.

Type: Flowering perennial groundcover

USDA zones: 5-8

Sunlight requirements: Full sun, partial shade

Water needs: High

Soil preferences: Well-drained but moist and slightly acidic

Available: late spring/summer, evergreen

Height: up to 12 inches

Creeping Thyme

The woody, low-growing creeping thyme is a beautiful groundcover. Creeping thyme grows slowly, as do most thymes. With the exception of the coldest regions, it is often evergreen. Tiny tubular bell-shaped pink and purple blossoms adorn the hairy shrub. Little blue-green leaves cling to the slender, woody stalks.

Although it may be consumed, especially as a tea, creeping thyme is not frequently used in cooking. It is a sweet and fragrant plant, but fortunately resistant to rabbits and deer. It is a fantastic addition to any rock garden since it sprawls over rocks and fills in voids. To prevent it from taking over, it does need to be regularly pruned.

Type: Flowering perennial groundcover

USDA zones: 4-9

Sunlight requirements: Full sun

Water needs: Low

Soil preferences: Dry

Available: spring/summer

Height: up to 3 inches

Echeveria

Echeveria, perhaps the most well-known succulent available, is frequently offered for sale as a houseplant for cold areas and it thrives in rock gardens. Watering echeverias just has to be done once every ten days, since they grow into a compact, vibrant rosette that stays close to the ground.

The thick, meaty leaves are sea green, blue-green, and gray, among other hues and forms. Hummingbirds, bees, and other pollinators are drawn to its pale pink or yellow blooms, which can have a pointed or rounded shape.

Type: Succulent

USDA zones: 9-12

Sunlight requirements: Full sun, partial shade

Water needs: Medium

Soil preferences: Sandy, good drainage

Available: Year-round

Height: up to 12 inches

Hardy Geranium

This resilient plant, often called a cranesbill, wild geranium, or spotted geranium, is incredibly simple to take care of. Deeply lobed leaves of a hardy geranium are crowned with saucer-shaped pink or purple blooms. The rock garden is enhanced with fall color when the leaves turn a deep crimson. It forms clumps and is a superb groundcover for any type of rock garden.

It blooms in the spring and sporadically all summer long, especially if the base of the plant is pruned in the spring as new growth begins to show. Hardy geraniums resist rabbits and deer, and they self-sow well. Its edible fruits serve as a food source for nearby species and draw pollinators.

Type: Flowering perennial

USDA zones: 3-11

Sunlight requirements: Partial sun

Water needs: Medium

Soil preferences: Slightly dry to moist

Available: Late spring/summer

Height: up to 24 inches

Haworthia

Haworthia is a dwarf succulent that stands out due to its rapid growth. Sharp stems with white tips protrude from the plant’s base. The tips of the leaves are translucent, and the most vibrant color is brought out in direct sunshine.

Haworthia is a succulent that is easy to grow even in extremely severe environments. Though popular as a houseplant, it also thrives in rock gardens. Frost sensitivity and root damage can result from over-irrigation.

Type: Succulent

USDA zones: 9-11

Sunlight requirements: Partial shade

Water needs: Low

Soil preferences: Dry with good drainage

Available: Year-round

Height: up to 5 inches

Hens and Chicks

Hens and chicks are excellent hardy succulents for cold locations and they thrive in rock gardens. The rosette-shaped blooms on hens and chicks are clustered together.

At two or three years old, the hen, also known as the parent rosette, blossoms and produces seeds. The hen dies after it blooms, but not before the chick, a new rosette, forms to take its place. The blossoming rosette will continue to die even if you choose to clip the flower for indoor displays. When the chick develops, cut off the dead rosette.

Hens and chicks are so widely used that they became collector’s items because of their adaptability, hues, and shapes.

Type: Succulent

USDA zones: 3-8

Sunlight requirements: Partial shade, full sun

Water needs: Low

Soil preferences: Dry with good drainage

Available: Year-round, bloom mid-summer

Height: up to 6 inches

Ice Plant

The ice plant also called the hardy ice plant, adds a splash of color to your rock garden setting with its soft, fleshy green leaves covered with daisy-like, purplish-pink, many-petaled blooms.

It grows best in broad sun and dry, sandy soil since it can withstand heat, salt, and drought. In addition to being a great groundcover and erosion control plant, hardy ice plants also draw butterflies and bees.

Type: Perennial groundcover

USDA zones: 5-9

Sunlight requirements: Full sun

Water needs: Low

Soil preferences: Dry with good drainage

Available: Late spring, summer

Height: up to 2 inches

Kalanchoe

Kalanchoe, sometimes called a flowery houseplant, is a succulent perennial that thrives in rock gardens. It grows in a straight, multi-branched manner with leaves that have scallop edges of dark green color. It blooms for a long time, lasting weeks, with clusters of yellow, red, pink, or white flowers.

If you live in a colder region, you might grow this succulent in a container in your rock garden and bring it inside for the winter. Although kalanchoe can withstand salt, strong winds can quickly topple it.

Type: Succulent

USDA zones: 9-11

Sunlight requirements: Full sun

Water needs: Medium

Soil preferences: Well-drained

Available: Year-round

Height: up to 12 inches

Lavender

Known by many as English lavender, this aromatic plant is a favorite among gardeners worldwide and looks equally beautiful at home in a flower garden or a rock garden. It is a compact, bushy shrub with delicate, wispy purple blooms on erect stems that are both easy to cultivate and hardy.

The plant must remain upright over the winter, and when new growth emerges in the spring, the stems must be trimmed down. It attracts butterflies and bees and is resistant to rabbits and deer.

Type: Shrub

USDA zones: 5-9

Sunlight requirements: Full sun

Water needs: Low

Soil preferences: Well-drained

Available: Spring and summer flowers, fall and winter silver-gray foliage

Height: up to 24 inches

Moss Phlox

In the spring, loose clusters of pink and purple flowers appear on the herbaceous perennial moss phlox. Its name comes from the green needle-like leaves that mimic moss. Moss phlox makes excellent groundcover, edging, and rock gardens. Hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees are drawn to it, while deer avoid it.

Moss phlox is more resilient to hot and dry weather than other phlox species. After the plant has finished flowering, trim down the stems to promote dense growth and help keep the plant in shape.

Type: Flowering perennial

USDA zones: 3-9

Sunlight requirements: Full sun

Water needs: Medium

Soil preferences: Moist with good drainage

Available: Mid/late spring

Height: up to 6 inches

Pasqueflower

This perennial plant, often called wind flower or meadow anemone, features hairy stems and bell-shaped purple, cream, or white blooms. It belongs to the buttercup family and grows easily. They work well for alpine beds, borders, and rock gardens.

When ingested in large amounts, this plant is extremely harmful. It is resistant to rabbits and does not face any significant pest or disease problems.

Type: Flowering perennial

USDA zones: 4-8

Sunlight requirements: Full sun

Water needs: Medium

Soil preferences: Well-drained, sandy

Available: Early/late spring

Height: up to 12 inches

Red Hot Poker

These gorgeous plants, sometimes referred to as torch lilies or poker plants, resemble fiery pokers sticking out of the earth. The sword-like leaves and long-blooming red, orange, yellow, or creamy white blooms will give your rock garden height.

For maximum effect, plant red hot poker in irregular clusters and trim back in the fall. They are resistant to deer and rabbits and can withstand salt.

Type: Flowering perennial

USDA zones: 5-9

Sunlight requirements: Full sun to partial shade

Water needs: Medium

Soil preferences: Moist, natural

Available: Summer

Height: up to 36 inches

Rock Cress

Rock cress, also known as arabis, is a groundcover that grows easily and is an excellent option for a rock garden. It will give color to your rock garden with its densely packed early spring blooms of white, purple, blue, or pink that almost completely cover the leaves. Thanks to its nectar-rich blossoms, butterflies love it.

It is drought-tolerant and resistant to rabbits and deer. If you do not trim back the leaves, the branches will start to seem naked instead of lush and robust.

Type: Flowering perennial

USDA zones: 4-7

Sunlight requirements: Full sun

Water needs: Medium

Soil preferences: Dry

Available: Spring/summer

Height: up to 12 inches

Sedum

There are 600 species of sedum, often known as stonecrops, and many of them thrive in rock gardens. They need little upkeep and are simple to cultivate. These are creeping plants that have five colorful, pointy flowers. Pollinators are attracted to stonecrops.

Certain plants grow low, like groundcovers; others are tall and full of pollinators; yet others are evergreen. Since many have winter interest, trim back sedum when new growth appears at the plant’s base in the early spring.

Type: Flowering perennial

USDA zones: 3-11

Sunlight requirements: Full sun to partial shade

Water needs: Low

Soil preferences: Poor

Available: Spring/late summer

Height: up to 24 inches

Snow-in-Summer

Snow-in-summer is a great groundcover that gets its name from a thick carpet of white blossoms that like stars cover the ground. It self-seeds and has woolly leaves and stalks.

Even though it can grow in a wide range of soil types, the plant does not fare well in locations with high foot traffic and is vulnerable to root rot in poor drainage.

Type: Herbaceous perennial groundcover

USDA zones: 3-7

Sunlight requirements: Full sun to partial shade

Water needs: Low

Soil preferences: Poor, well-drained

Available: Late spring/early summer

Height: up to 12 inches

Top Plants for Rock Garden