Rockery gardens are easy to create using a mix of different-sized stones, gravel and free-draining soil. They’re also a great way of displaying small plants, as well as plants that need good drainage.

Alpine plants are the perfect choice since they’re usually compact and low-growing due to originating from cold, dry conditions.

Garden alpine pinks

These are hardy perennials with attractive, grey-green leaves which are often evergreen. The term ‘pink’ comes from the fact that the flowers have serrated edges. These look as if they’ve been trimmed with pinking shears rather than the colour of the flowers. These range from shades of pink to white.

Most will flower throughout the summer if deadheaded regularly and some have the added bonus of scented flowers.

dianthus red dwarf

Dianthus ‘Red Dwarf’

With a height and spread of 10cm x 30cm, this is an ideal low-maintenance choice for a rockery. They form an attractive, low mat of leaves once established.  Its flowers are raspberry-pink, flushed deep crimson in the centre, and are produced from late spring to autumn.

Dianthus memories

Dianthus ‘Memories’

This plant is another low-growing alpine pink. It has double, white, scented flowers which stand out beautifully at twilight.

dianthus carthusianorum

Dianthus carthusianorum

This is a more unusual choice as its pink flowers appear on tall, wispy stems. With a height and spread of 50cm x 20cm, it looks good repeat planted throughout the rock or gravel garden.

Cut flowers back after flowering and give them tomato feed to encourage another flush of flowers later in the season.


There are many varieties of thyme to choose from, all with scented leaves and tiny pastel flowers pollinating insects love. Especially on still, sunny days. Most have a low-growing, spreading habit, making them ideal for rock gardens when planted in full sun and well-drained soil.

Leaf colours range from dark green to variegated and golden.  Some varieties have citrus-scented leaves such as ‘Lemon Thyme’ and ‘Orange Thyme.’

Thymus nitidus ‘Peter Davis’

The perfect choice for a sunny rockery, being low-growing and mat-forming, with height and spread of 15cm x 5 cm. It has scented grey-green leaves and pretty pink flowers which appear late spring.

Thymus peter davis

Thymus puleigioides ‘Bertram Anderson’

A thyme with golden leaves grows in neat mound formations. It’s height and spread are 25cm, making it ideal for edging the rock garden.

Thymus bertram anderson

Thymus citriodorus ‘Variegata’

This has attractive, lemon-scented, silvery-white colour leaves covered in pink flowers during the summer months. This variety prefers a sheltered spot in the rock garden and also makes a good edging plant.

Thymus variegata


Although rockeries tend to be associated with sun-loving plants, it’s possible to include shade-loving plants in the same area. Because they can be grown in the shade made by the larger stones.

Saxifrage would be a perfect choice for this situation as they prefer part to full shade in moist, well-drained soil.

They’re mound-forming and evergreen with rosettes of leaves from which tall flower spikes appear between spring and summer.

Saxifraga maroon beauty

Saxifraga stonoloifera ‘Maroon Beauty’

This Saxifraga has very pretty, dark purple, green and silver-mottled leaves with white-red flowers appearing in spring through to early summer. Looks stunning planted en masse in the shady part of the rock garden, reaching a height and spread of 30cm.

Other alpine rock plants

There are many other alpine rock plants available to plant for year-round interest, like Candytuft, eurodium, aubretia and trailing bellflower.

Pulstatilla vulgaris (The Pasque flower)

This flower grows to a height and spread of 20cm and delights in early spring with light purple, cup-shaped flowers. These develop a star shape as they age.  The ferny-looking leaves appear shortly after the flowers open. If happy where it’s growing the plant will soon self-seed but place it carefully as it doesn’t like being moved. Give it well-drained, light soil in full sun and plant near the front of the rock garden. This is where you can best appreciate the beautiful flowers and seed heads.

Pasque flower

Lithodora diffusa (Heavenly Blue)

For acidic soil, this is a perfect choice. And its striking, azure-blue flowers are sure to draw admiring gasps from your visitors. It has evergreen, matt-forming leaves which are low-growing and spread slowly. With a height and spread of 15cm x 60cm, it makes ideal ground cover for the rock garden. Give it well-drained soil in full sun.

lithodora heavenly blue

Ensure your rockery is colourful and thriving with a selection of these plants this upcoming spring.

Find out more about creating a rockery:

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