Perennials in Your Rock Garden

A properly constructed rock garden, with rocks and soil elevated in tiers provides good drainage for many small plants that might otherwise succumb to winter and spring wetness.

Rocks are best situated where the plants will receive maximum sunshine and not be shaded by trees.

In addition to perennials and small spring flowering bulbs such as Crocus, Snowdrop and Winter Aconite, using dwarf evergreen enhances and maintains year-round interest in any rock garden. Many varieties of Dwarf Spruce, Yew and Hemlock are very suitable and widely available.

The perennials in this list are mostly under 30 cm.

Common Name                                Botanical Name

Wooly Yarrow                                       Achillea

Lebanon or Persian Cress                 Aethionema

Bugle Flower                                         Ajuga

(many varieties)

Lady’s Mantle                                       Alchemilla

Ornamental Onion                             Allium moly and others

Basket of Gold                                      Alyssum

Pearly Everlasting                               Anaphalis

Rock Jasmine                                       Androsace

Pasque Flower                                      Anemone or Pulsatilla

Pussy Toes                                             Antennaria

Dwarf Columbine                                Aquilegia

Rock Cress                                             Arabis

Thrift                                                       Armeria

Silver Mound                                         Artemisia

Silver Brocade                                       Artemisia

Alpine Aster                                          Aster

Dwarf Astilbe                                       Astilbe

Purple Rock Cress                               Aubretia

English Daisy                                      Bellis

Heartleaf                                               Bergenia

Slipperwort                                           Calceolaria

Carpathian Harebell                          Campanula

Dalmation Bellflower                        Campanula

(many other small Campanula)

Silver Thistle                                        Carlina

Dwarf Coreopsis                                 Coreopsis

Dianthus/Pinks                                  Dianthus

(many named varieties available)

Dwarf Columbine                                Dicentra eximia

Draba                                                      Draba

Cushion Spurge                                    Euphorbia

Indian Strawberry                               Fragaria

Yellow Bedstraw                                  Galium

Creeping Baby’s Breath                      Gypsophila

Rock Rose/Sun Rose                          Helianthemum

Coral Bells                                             Heuchera

St. John’s Wort (Dwarf)                    Hypericum

Houstonia                                              Houstonia

Hardy Gloxinia                                     Incarvillea

Dead Nettle                                            Lamium

Golden Flax                                           Linum flavum

Catmint                                                   Nepeta

Prickly Pear                                          Opuntia

Dwarf Beardstongue                          Penstemon

Perennial Potentilla                          Potentilla

Rock Soapwort                                    Saponaria

Dwarf Blanket Flower                       Gaillardia

True Geranium                                    Geranium

Geum                                                      Geum

Strawflower                                          Helichrysum

Hosta                                                      Hosta

(sun tolerant varieties)

Hutchinsia                                            Hutchinsia

Candy Tuft                                             Iberis

Dwarf Iris                                              Iris pumila

Edelweiss                                               Leontopodium

Dwarf Feverfew                                    Matricaria

Evening Primrose                                Oenothera

Iceland Poppy                                       Papaver

Creeping Phlox                                     Phlox

Gold Moss                                              Sagina


Sedum is a very important rock garden family. Dozens of varieties are readily available and hundreds are possible. All sedum varieties flower in their season from early summer to late fall. Flower colours vary from pink, red, white or yellow. More important than their flowers, however, is their interesting and colourful foliage. Sedums are a MUST in any rock garden.

Hens and Chickens – Sempervivum

Another important rock garden plant, Sempervivum has fleshy rosettes of foliage with the mother plant surrounded by many small plantlets. These can be detached and planted in another spot.

Foliage Plants

There are many named varieties, all with interesting colourful leaves.

They include:

Moss Campion – Silene Schafta

Blue-eyed Grass – Sisyrinchium

Lamb’s Ears – Satchys

Germander – Teuchrium


Many varieties of Thyme are available. All are flowering plants but are valued more for their foliage ñ in shades of green, plus gray, gold and silver.


Many small Veronicas or Speedwells are available, including creeping varieties.

Violets – Viola

Many varieties are available in many different colours.

Grasses for rock gardens

The smaller, clump-forming (non-invasive) grasses add great charm and quite a different touch in a rock garden. Recommended are Blue Fescue varieties, Tuberous  Oat Grass, Blue Oat Grass, June Grass (Koeleria), plus grass-like plants such as Sedges ( Carex) and Wood Rush ( Luzula).

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