General gardening topics

Growing and caring for alpine rockery plants successfully

Last updated on May 25th, 2022

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Alpine rockery plants originate from high altitude climates, above the treeline where they have access to ample sun, but also a lot of exposure to cold, winter weather. That is why they do so well in UK rockery gardens and tolerate the winter conditions but they do need well-drained soil with plenty of grit mixed in. 

If you plan to grow and care for alpine rockery plants though, you still need to enforce some measures to make their growing habitat suitable.

Learn how to make a rockery using our detailed guide here

Planting Alpine Rockery Gardens

How to plant them. 

Drainage is very important. Again, being plants that live above the tree line in high-altitude locations, they get ample drainage down the mountains and hills where they grow. You need to ensure that drainage is recreated at home. They will tolerate cold weather just fine, but not wet feet. 

planting a rockery garden

I have also posted a guide show you how to create an alpine rockery planter here

Types of rockery stones

Limestone is the traditional rockery stone, but it is hard to find today. That being said, sandstone is widely available. 

Choosing the right compost for rockery plants

Fill in any gaps between your rocks with a loam/grit compost mixture, we recommend using a mixture of John Innes potting compost mixed with about 30% horticultural grit. This will ensure the soil they are planted in is well-draining but will still retain moisture. 

Plant in full sun and consider planting in containers in the ground

Find areas in the rockery where access to the sun is possible and good drainage is offered. One way to help with drainage is to plant your alpines in different containers and then bury the containers in your rockery. This will prove useful for those who want to grow a multitude of alpines that prefer slightly different soil conditions (like alkaline or acidic) so that each can have its preferred environment in the container. Add extra drainage holes to the bottom, and maybe even a layer of grit or gravel if you go down this route. 

Add a layer of stone or grit on the surface of the soil, as pictured below.

Put a layer of decorative grit around the plants to stop soil from splashing up when it rains, this also helps keep the soil cool and retain moisture. Moreover, the decorative grit will help keep away the snails and slugs at bay. 

See our top 10 recommended rockery plants for beginners

Caring for alpine rockery plants

Regular Care

Watering

Once they are planted, you have to maintain them. Start by watering them right after planting. They won’t likely need a lot of watering unless the weather is particularly warm (which is kind of a rarity in the UK) although we do sometimes get some warm months if we are lucky. 

Feed with a high in potash feed in spring

At the start of spring, give them a high potash fertiliser to encourage more flowers. Once the alpines start to flower, deadhead them to keep the flower production going. 

Trimming alpines

Many of the alpines can be trimmed once they have finished flowering, to keep them in control. 

Problems to keep an eye on

As you care for the new plants, be on the lookout for problems. Some alpines might outgrow their space if they are fed too often or if their soil is too rich. Others might succumb to root rot if they remain too wet or have poor drainage. 

You should spray an insecticide at the preliminary signs of pests. Slugs and snails will be your biggest issue and they can be deterred with horticultural grit around the plants and by using slug traps. 

Thyme herb plant - perfect for rockeries

Pay Attention to Variety

There are many varieties to have in an alpine rockery and they influence the aftercare requirements. Succulents, for example, are low maintenance and once planted need almost nothing from you except for protection against severe frost in more open sites. 

In general, most varieties will grow just fine with little help, which is what makes them so popular.

Thymes make wonderful space fillers, between the rocks and around the other alpine plants, plus they give off a delicious aroma too.

Best selling rockery plants

Bestseller No. 1
Mixed Rockery Alpine Collection - Colourful Outdoor Potted Perennial Plant Mix (6 Plants)
  • Pot Size: 9cm.
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  • Water & Maintenance: The collection of plants require little water. Make sure to plant in retentive, well-drained soil in full sun. Drought tolerant over extended periods.
Bestseller No. 2
20 different ALPINE Rockery Plants in 9cm POTS ~ Quality Alpines direct from Specialist Grower in Lincolnshire
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9 x Rockery Plants - Perennial Garden Ready Flowers in 10.5cm Plant Pot, Hardy Outdoor Ground Cover & Trailing Plants Year Round
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  • EROSION CONTROL- Their deep root systems help prevent soil erosion on slopes and uneven terrain.
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Bestseller No. 4
6 MIXED ALPINES & PERENNIAL ROCKERY PLANTS, 9CM POTS MIXED VARIETIES HARDY, EASY to GROW
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Bestseller No. 5
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Last update on 2024-07-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at john@pyracantha.co.uk

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