Top 10 Great Plants For Rock Garden

Rocks can be a common sight in your backyard or garden, but they don’t need to be a dull distraction from your overall landscape. Rather, you can utilize them to create beautiful, natural structures that blend in with your greenery.

For rock gardens, the plants that will do best are those that can thrive in soil that doesn’t offer a lot of moisture or nutrients. If you’ve never had a rock garden before and aren’t sure where to start, How to Create Your Own Rock Garden is a great article. An organic collage of attractive stones and drought-hardy plants can give your yard a rustic and colorful centerpiece that’s also delightfully low maintenance.

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Let’s take a look at some plants that do well in a rock garden: 

Douglas Moss Phlox

phloxThis plant belongs to the Lilac Cloud Cultivar Family. Douglas moss phlox is an evergreen rock garden plant. It can grow in harsh weather and can withstand drought, so you can appreciate that you won’t have to water it regularly. It is also advised not to over-water them, or they will “drown.”

This Moss Phlox variation has needle-edges of dark green colored leaves. It blooms both in cold weather and in the springtime, producing pink or purple flowers.

If you live in a moderate climate region, moss phlox can grow very quickly in the thin lines of soil between the rocks in your garden. You can also use them as ground covers or perennials. Ground Cover to Replace Texas Grass has additional ideas for attractive ground cover plants.

Creeping Thyme

Thyme has a pleasant smell and is often used in ayurvedic medicine. However, it is also an excellent low maintenance rock garden plant. It has fine-textured leaves that richly cover the ground, giving a lush green feel to your garden.

Most gardeners grow thyme near an entry or exit way because of its aromatic nature. When clustered together, they smell great and make the surrounding environment pleasant and soothing.

Thyme typically blooms around late spring and early summer, which makes it perfect for people who likes to hang outside during sunny days. Creeping thyme comes in three flowering plants, namely spicy orange creeping thyme, white creeping thyme, and red creeping thyme.

Rock Cress

Rock Cress, also known as Arabis, got its name from its ability to flourish in a thin soil line amidst a cluster of rocks. It is a flowering plant which can grow up to 4-6 inches, producing white or pink flowers.

The flowers are quite compact and very near to each other, which gives a beautiful sight. As the buds burst during the Spring season, this rocky plant is also known as Arabis Spring Charmer.

To provide some elegance to your rock garden, try combining the pink and white flowering Rock Cress. As it needs full to partial sunlight, you can also plant it in a container and hand it around your house.

coral bellsCoral Bells

If you’d enjoy a radish color covering your rock garden, try Coral Bells. It is one of the most versatile plants that can achieve full growth in both full sunlight and full shade. Just make sure that you are watering it regularly.

Coral Bells can sit perfectly between the rocks and the only thing they require is watering. Water it 3-4 times in a week and you are good to go.

This is a perennial rock garden plant with complex colors, that will flourish in harsh conditions. Most varieties are deep purple or burgundy in appearance. You can combine it with other green plants to create an amazing looking garden.

Hens and Chicks

This beautiful rock garden plant spreads via underground roots, and will be all over its dedicated growth area within a few months. Because of their small size and the ability to creep into small places, they make great rock garden plants.

We know that rocky soil does not hold much moisture and water, which is why Hens and Chicks
are a great option. They only need low sunlight, and do not require frequent watering.

If you are living in a cold-weather area then you might have to give extra care to Hens and Chicks
as they tend to die during winters. They are not winter-friendly and needs extra care to survive the cold.

Prairie Dropseed Grass

If you don’t think it’s feasible to grow grass within a rock garden, Prairie Dropseed grass is ready to prove you wrong.  This is one of the best ornamental grass, popularly grown in harsh weather area and often found in deserts.

Its emerald-green blades add a touch of elegance to any garden. You can use it as an outliner or divider plant in your rock garden. However, to keep it beautiful, always trim it once it reaches 8-10 inches in height.

This grass tolerates drought, erosion, dry soil, and shallow, rocky soil. It is a low-maintenance plant with pink and brown-tinted blooms.

Yellow Alyssum

yellow alyssumYellow Alyssum is a small rock garden plant whose botanical name is Aurinia saxatilis. Commercially, it is sold as Annual Yellow Alyssum, or Basket of Gold Shrubs.

They are particularly used as a ground cover because they spread fast and look lovely. Because of their rapid growth, gardeners used to consider them a type of weed, but they are not invasive.

The bloom of this beautiful yellow flowering plant fades away at the end of the season. Simply cut the stems by one third to promote reblooming next year.


If you are looking for a greenish perennial plant for your rock garden, Sedum is a perfect choice. It boasts a succulent leaf with fleshy stems. When in bloom, it produces a star-shaped flower.

People often want a rock garden because they prefer a low-maintenance landscape. If this is your sentiment, then sedum is a great choice for you. It is definitely a “plant it and forget it” type of foliage.

Go with low-spreading sedum, as it holds the ground and grows only a couple of inches tall. This makes them perfect for your rocky paths, and is often used as a ground cover.


Lamium is another excellent ground cover plant for rock gardens. Gardeners enjoy it because of its colorful foliage and beautiful purple flowers. Lamium does not require lots of sunlight, which makes it perfect for shady locations.

If you are planning to grow Lamium, just be sure you’re able to water it 3-4 times in a week. If cared properly, it will enhance your rock garden with a lovely foliage of silver, green, and chartreuse.

This plant is deer-resistant, and happily spreads across its ground and environment. To control its growth, just
isolate the roots within the established growing area.

Prickly Pear Cactus

It may be a cliche to use cacti in a or rocky area, but this one is a true beauty. And because it’s a succulent (as are all cacti), it’s a perfect candidate for rock gardens in semi-arid climates.

As the name “cactus” suggests, it has spines on its leaves that assist in absorbing water. If you choose this plant, be sure you place it in an area where pets and small children aren’t at risk of getting hurt!

This cactus can grow up to 6 feet in height, and can help ward off rabbits, skunks, and squirrels if planted near your vegetable garden. Prickly pear cactus boasts a life-span of around 15-20 years.


When it comes to giving some color and vibrance to your rock garden, you’ve got a lot more choices than you probably realized. Treat this as a creative project where you get to choose the colors and textures of your unique garden space.


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