Rock Garden Plants For Low Maintenance

Last Updated on February 28, 2021 by Grow with Bovees

When building your rock garden, you should consider what types of plants you will be planting in it. We have some tips for plants that are easy to look after.

As with any kind of gardening, your choice of plants will depend on the local climate as well as on the size and position of your rockery.

Some of the easiest plants to grow are the various kinds of succulents, which need very little care.

Cacti also make decorative and easy-to-grow plants for a low-maintenance rockery.

Succulents and Cacti For Rock Gardens


Aeonium arboreum
1m – 39″Yellow
Aloe sp.10cm to 2m – 4″ to 6ftRed, orange, yellow
Bulbine sp.25cm – 10″Yellow
Cotyledon sp.20cm to 2m – 8″ to 6ftVarious
Crassula sp.30cm to 1m – 12″ to 3ftPink, red
Drosanthemum sp.10cm to 60cm – 4″ to 24″Pink, purple, red
Echeveria sp.15cm to 30cm – 6″ to 12″Red, yellow, orange
Euphorbia sp.5cm to 2m – 2″ to 6ftVarious
Kalanchoe sp.30cm to 1m – 12″ to 3ftVarious
Lampranthus sp.15cm to 30cm – 6″ to 18″Various
Mesembryanthemum crystallinum8cm – 3″White
Rochea coccinea (red crassula)60cm – 24″Red
Sedum sp. (stone crop)15cm to 40cm – 6″ to 16″Yellow, white
Sempervivum sp.15cm to 30cm – 6″ to 12″Purple, carmine, yellow

If you live in an area which has heavy rain and is not so suited to the growing of cacti and succulents, you could make a conifer rock garden. There is a wide range of small conifers in very attractive shapes and colors to choose from and, once established, they need very little care.

Small shrubs are also a good choice -there are many varieties of old favorites that are compact-growing and these are ideal for a rockery.

Compact bedding plants, such as dwarf marigolds and dwarf ageratum, will add color to your rock garden.

Small Shrubs For The Rockery

Barleria reptans60cm – 24″Red
Cotoneaster dammeri ‘Lowfast’30cm – 12″White, red berries
Cuphea hyssopifolia30cm – 12″Purple, white
Erica sp.30cm to 2m – 12″ to 6ftVarious
Hebe sp. (veronica)45cm to 1.25m – 18″ to 4ftVarious
Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’30cm – 12″Blue-gray foliage
Lantana montevidensis60cm – 24″Mauve
Leucospermum sp.’ (pincushion)75cm to 2m – 30″ to 6ftRed, yellow, orange
Protea sp.1m to 5m – 3ft to 16ftVarious
Reinwardtia indica (yellow flax)1m – 3ftYellow
Thuja occidentalis ‘Rheingold’60cm – 24″Orange foliage

Suitable For A Well Drained Rockery

Other popular plants for a rockery are the many different kinds of ericas, which also need well-drained, slightly acid soil. For growing most other plants, the soil should be a mixture of garden loam and compost, much the same as the soil you would use when growing these plants in your garden beds.

The most important thing to remember when choosing plants for a rock garden is to get plants that all need the same growing conditions, as this will make caring for them so much easier. The depth of soil in most rockeries is fairly limited, so it is best to choose plants with shallow root systems.

Avoid plants that grow very vigorously — these usually have large, invasive root systems and will quickly overgrow the rockery and choke out smaller plants.

Rock Garden Plants For Shade

If your rock garden is in a shady area of your yard, you can still plant it with many plants suited to shade.

While the majority of the more popular rockery plants (such as ericas and succulents) need a sunny position, there are many other shade-loving plants that can easily be grown in a rock garden.

The varieties you choose will depend on local conditions, the size of your rockery, and the depth of the planting pockets.
If yours is a sizable rockery, you could grow large ferns such as;

  • Blechnum sp.
  • Tree ferns
  • Elephants ear
  • Shade loving species of Cycads
  • Plectranthus
  • Philodendron sp.
  • Acanthus mollis.

Rock Garden Plants For Deep Soil Pockets

Plants For A Small Rockery

  • Various Ferns
  • Hens and chicks (Chlorophytum comosum)
  • Small-growing fuchsias
  • Dwarf azaleas
  • Hellebores
  • Shade loving groundcovers

Suited To Full Sun

Geraniums are a good choice for a rockery situated in full sun.

Perennial Plants For The Rock Garden

Arctotis sp.25cm to 35cm – 10″ to 14″Orange, yellow
Convolvulus mauritanicus (ground morning glory)20cm – 8″Violet
Diascia integerrima (twin spur)30cm – 12″Red-pink
Erigeron macranthus25cm – 10″White
Felicia amelloides (blue daisy)45cm – 18″Blue
Gazania sp.10cm to 15cm – 4″ to 6″Various
Geranium incanum (carpet geranium)15cm – 6″Mauve
Gerbera jamesonii (Barberton daisy)60cm – 24″Various
Limonium sp. (statice)60cm – 24″Lavender, white
Nepeta mussinii (catmint)20cm – 8″Lavender
Osteospermum sp. (trailing daisy)20cm to 50cm – 8″ to 18″White, blue
Pelargonium sp. (geranium)15cm to 70cm – 6″ to 28″Various
Scabiosa caucasica (scabious)75cm – 30″Mauve

Bulbs For The Rock Garden

Anemone coronaria30cm – 12″Various
Babiana stricta (wine cup)20cm – 8″Purple
Clivia miniata45cm to 75cm – 18″ to 30″Orange
Freesia hybrids40 cm – 16″Various
Nerine sp.45cm – 18″Pink, red
Ranunculus asiaticus30cm – 12″Various
Tritonia crocata45cm – 18″Orange

Annual Plants For The Rockery

Ageratum houstonianum hybrids (floss flower)20cm – 8″Blue, pink, white
Arctotis hybrids30cm – 12″Red, orange, yellow
Dimorphotheca sinuata (Namaqualand daisy)30cm – 12″Various
Dorotheanthus bellidiformis10cm – 4″Various
Eschscholzia California (Californian poppy)45cm – 18″Various
Felicia bergerana (kingfisher daisy)15cm – 6″Blue
Linaria maroccana45cm – 18″Various
Lobelia erinus15cm – 6″Blue, pink, white
Lobularia maritima (alyssum)15cm – 6″”White, mauve, pink
Nemesia strumosa hybrids30cm – 12″Rose pink
Petunia hybrids30cm – 12″Various
Tagetes patula hybrids (dwarf marigold)15cm to 25cm – 6″ to 10″Yellow, orange, brown
Tropaeolum majus (nasturtium)30cm – 12″Various
Ursinia sp.30cm – 12″Yellow, orange
Verbena hybrids20cm – 8″Various


Non-flowering Geraniums

Q. The geraniums in our rockery are all making a great deal of leaf growth but hardly any flowers. What could be the reason?

A. Geraniums and pelargoniums usually grow extremely well in a rockery, but they can fail to flower for a number of reasons. To bloom successfully, they must be in full sun, and they do best in light, fertile, free draining soil.

If the soil in your rockery is very rich – perhaps with too much compost in it – the plants will make lush leaf growth at the expense of flowers.

Over-watering geraniums, especially if the soil is poorly drained, can encourage the production of too many leaves. Over-feeding the plants with a high-nitrogen fertilizer could also result in too much leaf growth.

On the other hand, if the geraniums make flower buds that fail to open, they may have been stung by a type of fly whose developing maggots destroy the buds. If this is the case, spray the plants with carbaryl as soon as the buds appear.

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