6 Best Plants for a Rock Garden

6 Best Plants for a Rock Garden
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6 Best Plants for a Rock Garden

6 Best Plants for a Rock Garden

A well-planned and designed rock garden can become the best focal point in your yard. Whether it is a small garden in the corner of your backyard or massive boulders surrounded with native wildflowers in the front entrance, each rock garden is unique.

As you planned your rock garden to be compatible with your home’s architecture and size, when you choose plants for your rock garden, there are certain considerations that need to be made, including: 

  • Location — Is your rock garden in the shade or in the sun? This will be a big determinator of which plants you can grow.
  • Scale — Larger rocks can still look impressive with large plants or even bushes planted with them, while smaller rocks will be dwarfed by large sized plantings.
  • Function — Is your rock garden being used to anchor a steep hillside or is the rock garden going to give contour and dimension to a flat landscape?
  • Style — Is your rock garden part of a xeriscape or a Zen Garden? Do you want a formal appearance, or do you want a more natural, rugged look?
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  • Cost — The larger the rocks that you will use, the larger the equipment that will be necessary to move them to your location and place them correctly.
  • Placement — If you are going big with your rock garden, place the largest rocks first. Make sure you allow enough space between them to allow for placing smaller rocks to unify the grouping and do not forget to keep room for plantings.
  • Soil — If you intend to use xeriscape and alpine plants in your rock garden, the soil should be sandy and well-draining. If you want to plant flowers, ferns, perennials and even shrubs, the soil needs to be richer and hold moisture for the plants.

There are many plants that will complement your rock garden. The majority of the plants should be perennials that will come back year after year. Then, you can use annuals for pops of color that will last the entire season. 

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The 6 Best Plants for a Rock Garden

The types of plants you choose for your rock garden are important. You can choose some creeping groundcovers to soften the look of big boulders. You can use tall plants to add a vertical element. Grasses will add movement and texture. Keep in mind the watering needs of the plants you choose. 

Rocks retain heat from the sun and can dry out the soil and plants much more quickly. Either choose plants that can survive with very little supplemental water or perhaps install a drip irrigation system. Here are some plants that will do well in a rock garden, including:

Impatiens — For that bright color all season long, impatiens are perfect. These flowers grow in a mound that will be simply covered with blooms. For a more formal look, select white impatiens, but for a riot of color, choose a mix of pinks, reds, lavender and orange. Best of all, impatiens love shade or partial sun.

  • Coneflowers — For a vertical effect, choose coneflowers or Echinacea. These perennials grow on strong vertical stems and come in many colors — from yellow and white to reds and oranges. They bloom throughout the summer into fall.
  • Yarrow — This flowering perennial is heat and drought tolerant, making it perfect for a rock garden. Yarrow comes in many colors but the Summer Berries variety of pink, rose and red is particularly beautiful.
  • Baby Blue Eyes — Also known as California Bluebell, this is a tender perennial. Mostly grown as an annual, it will self-sow each year. Baby Blue Eyes is a groundcover that grows six inches tall and 12 inches across and prefers a partly shaded spot. If you must grow it in the sun, it will not mind so long as you keep it well-watered.
  • Hosta — This is a great shade-loving perennial that will look great in your rock garden. There are lots of different varieties of hosta — from miniatures to giants with leaves that are a foot or more across. The leaves can be pointed, heart-shaped or round. No matter how small or large your rock garden is, if it is in shade, there is a hosta for you.
  • Grasses — Like hostas, there are tons of different ornamental grasses available for your rock garden. Grasses will do very well in full sun and look stunning blowing in the wind.

By using these recommended plants, your rock garden can become the best focal point of your entire yard.