Best Plants For Rock Gardens

Nick Durante
by Nick Durante

Rock gardens have become staples of many yards, and it’s with good reason. You can populate a rock garden with a wide variety of plants that complement each other. So, what are the best plants for rock gardens?

The best plants for rock gardens are hens and chicks, columbine, ajuga, creeping thyme, and lavender. Blue fescue, coneflower, and Irish moss can all thrive in rock gardens and require little maintenance. Classic plants like ice plant, black-eyed Susan, and wood spurge love sunlight and can add a touch of color to your rock garden.

Many of the best plants for rock gardens work just as well in sunlight as they do in partial shade. However, some plants, such as black-eyed Susan, require as much sunlight as possible. Follow along as we highlight the best plants for rock gardens.

What Kind Of Plants Can You Put In A Rock Garden?

Whether it be coneflower or Irish moss, many plants thrive well in rock gardens. It’s important to consider whether a plant needs full sun or partial shade before you get to work in the garden. Let’s look at the best plants for rock gardens.

1. Hens And Chicks

You may not immediately think of planting succulents in a rock garden, but some of them are a match made in heaven. Hens and chicks are a type of succulent that can handle almost any sunlight setup. They typically thrive in full sunlight, but they can do well even if your rock garden is covered by shade for a large portion of the day.

You can find hens and chicks in rocky areas and sand in nature, so they are a great fit for your rock garden. Pay attention to how the sun hits your rock garden throughout the day. If it gets sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon, then you will have no problem when you plant hens and chicks.

2. Columbine

Columbine is a beautiful plant that can add color and character to any rock garden. The key to healthy columbine growth is to ensure that your rock garden has enough drainage. Poor drainage will cause this plant to retain too much water, which can hinder its growth.

Ideally, you should plant columbine during the spring or early fall, depending on where you live. Once it starts to grow, you will like notice butterflies and even hummingbirds hovering around columbine.

3. Ajuga

If you want a plant for your rock garden that will grow quickly, then you should look no further than ajuga. The gorgeous blue leaves are immediately recognizable and will draw eyes to your rock garden. Whether you have partial shade or full sunlight, ajuga is likely to thrive.

Try to plant ajuga in early spring or fall, if possible, for the best results. Be careful about where you plant ajuga, as it can quickly spread to lawns or nearby soil beds.

4. Creeping Thyme

Creeping thyme is one of the best plants for rock gardens because of its unique appearance. This visually appealing plant is known for its long tendrils that spill over the rocks and even surrounding plants.

Creeping thyme does best when it has full sunlight exposure during the day. However, it can do well with partial shade, but it may not grow as quickly.

5. Lavender

Lavender is an aromatic and gorgeous herb that is just as practical as it is visually appealing. It thrives in rock gardens, and you can pick it to use for many recipes and teas. Lavender is durable and can handle both full sun and partial shade.

This is a long-term investment as lavender can take up to three years to fully grow. As a perennial, you can expect lavender to come back each year as long as you take care of it and treat the soil.

6. Blue Fescue

Ornamental grass is quite complementary to rock gardens. Blue fescue is one of the best ornamental grasses to plant in a rock garden. The unique color and texture are visually appealing and can cover a lot of space.

You can use blue fescue as a space filler or simply to accentuate the brighter flowers in your rock garden. It’s best to plant blue fescue in the spring or early summer, and it grows quite quickly.

7. Coneflower

Coneflowers can help brighten up any rock garden. The catch is that they rely on as much sunlight as possible for proper growth. You should only plant coneflowers if your rock garden gets up to 6-8 hours of sunlight per day.

Otherwise, they will struggle to bloom and thrive. Healthy coneflowers can grow up to 3 feet tall under the right conditions. You can even make coneflower tea, which can help boost your immune system.

8. Irish Moss

Irish moss has become a staple of rock gardens over the last several years. You can plant Irish moss immediately after the final frost of the year. However, Irish moss can withstand the winter in some climates, especially if you live in Zone 4.

The only downside to Irish moss is that it can struggle to survive if you live in an overly hot climate. Remember to be careful if you step on Irish moss, as it can be quite slippery when it sits on rocks. Irish moss helps to repel weeds, which is essential in any rock garden.

9. Ice Plant

Despite the cold name, an ice plant is a great way to add warmth and color to your rock garden. Rock gardens often attract and retain a lot of heat, and that’s not a problem with ice plants. They can survive without water for days and are quite heat tolerant.

The purple flowers are distinct and look great in the sun. Try to place your ice plants in a spot where they will get at least 6 hours of sunlight per day.

10. Wood Spurge

Wood spurge is one of the best plants for rock gardens due to its low-maintenance nature and beautiful flowers. You only need to water wood spurge once per week unless there is a hot drought. It will thrive whether it has partial shade or full sun.

Few plants on this list have a wide variety of colors. Wood spurge can tolerate poor or rich soil and it grows quickly. It is also a perennial and typically comes back stronger after the first year.

11. Black-Eyed Susan

Black-eyed Susan may not sound too friendly, but it’s a perfect plant for rock gardens. The yellow flowers with black centers are beautiful and contrast the green stalk quite well. Black-eyed Susan pairs well with dark rocks because of how vibrant it is.

This plant will only thrive in full sunlight, however, so you must be careful about placement. Try to water black-eyed Susan 2-3 times per week or as needed when the soil is dry.

Summing It Up

Hens and chicks, columbine, ajuga, and creeping thyme are the best plants for rock gardens.

Plants like lavender and blue fescue can help take up a lot of blank space in your rock garden. Consider coneflower, wood spurge, black-eyed Susan, and Irish moss for your rock garden.

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Nick Durante
Nick Durante

Nick Durante is a professional writer with a primary focus on home improvement. When he is not writing about home improvement or taking on projects around the house, he likes to read and create art. He is always looking towards the newest trends in home improvement.

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