23 of the Best Plants for Rock Gardens
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23 of The Best Plants for Rock Gardens

Thinking of starting up a rock garden of your own but not sure what plants to use? I’ve got some great ideas for you today, from some more common choices to unique, colorful plants you probably have never even heard of.

Create a list of your favorite rock garden ideas, then look through the list of plants below to help you narrow down your design and make the choice easy.

Blue Fescue Grass

blue grass fescue
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One of the best choices for a traditional rock garden will always be some kind of ornamental grass. The Blue Fescue Grass is one of the best choices of all, being a lovely, grass with blueish green shades that stand out.

Crested Iris

crested iris
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The crested iris is a beautiful, unique flowering plant that’s native to the eastern portion of the U.S.A. and blooms from April to May. The flower loves full sun or full shade – whatever you’ve got!

Basket of Gold

basket of gold flower
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The Aurinia saxatilis, or basket of gold, is a beautiful perennial option that comes from central and southern Europe where it enjoys full summer sun with some shade on the side. In some humid areas, it’s more of an annual plant.

Cushion Spurge

cushion spurge flower
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Cushion spurge is a fantastic plant for gravelly and sandy soil plots, making them perfect for rock gardens of practically any style. The flower itself is a bright, long-lasting yellow that stands out against the other plants and rocks around.

Yellow Alyssum

golden alyssum repens
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For a carpet plant, the yellow alyssum is a fantastic choice for your rock garden. The tiny yellow flowers pop in April and May and the plant does well in full sun and poor soil.

Spike Speedweed

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Any easy-growing perennial with a big punch is spike speedwell, a unique, spiky flowering plant with brilliant colors. It’s also deer and disease resistant and does well in poor soil.

Hens and Chicks

hens and chicks
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For a succulent garden, there’s nothing quite so lovely as hens and chicks, a small rosette-forming succulent plant with offshoots that sort of feel like mother hens with their babies. They do really well in rock gardens, stone walls, between stones, and love dry to medium moisture, well-draining soil, and full sun.

Rock Cress

Spreading rock cress
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A Eurasian and U.S. native, Arabis, or rock cress, is a creeping plant that blooms in spring with vivid pink or white fragrant flowers that butterflies adore!

Creeping Thyme

creeping thyme
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Another creeping plant is creeping thyme, an aromatic plant that makes for amazing ground cover or as a gap filler between stone steps. The plant does well in poor soil that has good drainage and loves full sunlight.

Creeping Phlox

Creeping phlox
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A third creeping plant to consider is creeping phlox, a perennial ground cover that’s native to the eastern side of the U.S. It pops out pretty blooms in late spring, attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, and can handle both full sun and partial shade.

Cranesbill Geranium

Cranesbill geranium
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For a high-yielding, hardy plant, cranesbill geraniums are a great choice. They’re low maintenance, handle bright sun or partial shade, and thrives with just trimming for second blooms.

Purple Ice Plant

purple ice plant
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A spreading cover plant with red-purple flowers is the purple ice plant. The name doesn’t really fit its seasonal bloom, but that’s okay. It does well in warmer climates, tolerates high temperatures and even drought, and loves full sun and average to dry, well-draining soil.

Russian Sage

Russian sage
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If you’re looking for a plant for hot, arid rock garden locations, consider Russian sage. The plant is low maintenance, deer resistant, and looks amazing among practically any kind of garden, especially rock gardens.

Prickly Pear Cactus

prickly pear cactus
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This classic cactus will provide your rock garden with plenty of beauty as well as some fruit if you plant in the right season and maintain their care well. They do best in hot, arid climates (I mean, obviously!) and blooms yellow flowers in June.

Angelina Stonecrop

rock stonecrop
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Another ground cover plant is the beautiful Angelina stonecrop. The 6-inch tall mat they form thrives in bright sun and produces tiny star-shaped flowers in early to mid-summer, whether in dry or medium moisture soil.

Dragon’s Blood Stonecrop

stonecrop dragons blood
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Of the same family as Angelina Stonecrop, there’s the lovely pink dragon’s blood stonecrop. Another creeper, it will take on your droughted soil and shallow, rocky growing zones. They attract butterflies, too, and enjoy full sun.


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For attracting hummingbirds and butterflies to your rock garden, you probably can’t get any better than the beautiful columbine flower. The plant comes in a range of bloom colors, favors sun to partial shade, and grows up to three feet tall and two feet wide.


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The name isn’t so pleasant, but the plant is gorgeous! Tickseed is a beautiful perennial that grows masses of brilliant blooms all summer long. It’s deer and rabbit resistant naturally, and handles poor soil.


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Looking for a multi-purple plant? Consider the coneflower. Also known as echinacea, the plant does well in sunny environs, all sorts of temperatures, dry or moist soil, and super low key. And yes, you can harvest the flowers for making echinacea tea.


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Yarrow is another easy-growing plant that does well in sunny, dry spots. The foliage looks a bit like ferns and adds some unique texture to the rock garden, while the durable flowers add pops of color.

‘Snow Flurry’ Aster

snow flurry aster
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A beautiful perennial to consider in the “snow flurry” aster, which grows natively in most states in the U.S. The white flowers have yellow centers and bloom in autumn. They look delicate and only grow up to six inches tall. But they have the worst soil conditions like clay, erosion, and drought!

Hardy Plumbago

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Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, or hardy plumbago, is a native perennial of China that blooms in deep blue shades in mid to late summer. It survives full sun but prefers partial shade during the hottest months, and grows in practically any kind of soil.


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The final plant I’m recommending is known as bugleweed or ajuga. The perennial ground cover does well in practically any poor environment, including soil, sand, and rocky soil (yay rock gardens!). They look especially lovely while contrasting lighter-colored rocks.

Making Your Rock Garden Beautiful

Whether you’re just now planning to start building a new rock garden or looking to find new, fresh plants to try out this year, this gorgeous collection of grasses, ground covers, and flowering plants will do the trick. Just be sure to study up on their planting season before you get started so you do everything in their best interest to keep them happy and thriving.