Rock Garden Perennials
by Diane Linsley
At my old house, I had rock gardens all over the place. Whenever I needed a rock for landscaping, all I had to do was dig a hole, and I was guaranteed to find one (or more). You might say that rock gardening was my specialty.
Things are different at this house. When I need rocks, I have to buy them. It's nice to have deep soil, but sometimes I miss my rock gardens.
Rock Gardening Ideas
Most rock gardens are raised beds with the soil mounded up, interspersed with attractively-placed rocks. The soil can vary from sand to clay, but it usually has good drainage. For these conditions, choose drought-tolerant perennials. If you don't have the right conditions in the garden, you can create a miniature rock garden in a container. I make cement planters for tiny rock garden plants, which are frequently overlooked or shaded out in the large gardens.
Sun-loving rock garden plants thrive along the edge of the driveway. Most other plants hate the hot, dry conditions in this area.
Most rock gardens are sited in full sun, but some are located in part shade. My list includes plants for both areas. Click here for shade-tolerant flowers.
People usually think "small" when they think of rock gardens. So I limited my list of rock garden perennials to those with short to medium height. I left out anything that self sows too vigorously. You don't want your little rock garden gems to get crowded out!
Rock Garden Perennial Seeds
Aethionema schistosum -- Drought-tolerant perennial with fragrant, pale pink flowers. Rare plant for the rock garden. Aubrieta deltoidea -- Rock Cress. Spreading mounds of violet-purple flowers in spring. Easy to grow from seed. Campanula carpatica -- Lavender-blue, cup-shaped flowers on compact plants for the rock garden. Dianthus arenarius -- Fragrant, pure white, fringed flowers on mounding plants. Drought-tolerant perennial. Easy to grow from seed. Dianthus pinifolius -- Small mounds of grass-like leaves. Crimson-red flowers. Rare perennial for the rock garden. Digitalis obscura -- Sunset-red and gold flowers with red veins and spots. Surprisingly drought tolerant for a digitalis species. Penstemon angustifolius -- Small penstemon species with lavender-blue flowers. Nice in a small rock garden or containers. Thymus serpyllum -- Creeping Thyme. Excellent for planting between paving stones or large rocks. Fills in all the cracks. Drought-tolerant.