The type of plants you choose for your rock garden can make or break the look. The right plant choices will create a lush, green environment that will be inviting to all who visit. Which plants should you choose? 

Read on to learn about the best types of plants for rock gardens.

Once you have a plan of which plants to use in your rock garden, the next step is placing them. There are several categories that can be helpful when deciding where exactly on the rock pile each plant should go: ground cover, mid-level coverage, and tall or vertical interest. It’s also important to consider how many different types of plants you want to use. In most cases, it is best if you have a design with multiple types of plants or just one type being used throughout the area.

01. Columbine

Columbine is a genus of about 20–25 species of flowering plants in the family Aquilegia. They are native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, where they grow in meadows, woodlands, and at higher altitudes.

The genus name Aquilegia is derived from the Latin word Aquila meaning eagle and refers to the shape of its spurred flowers, which were thought to resemble an eagle’s claw. The common name, columbine, is derived from the Latin word for ‘dove’, referring to the resemblance of the inverted flower to five doves clustered together.

Columbines are herbaceous perennial plants with alternate leaves divided into lobed segments. The flowers are produced in dense clusters of 20–200 together, the individual flowers are 5–10 mm across with five petals and longspurs formed from the sepals.

02. Wild Geranium

Wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) is a beautiful wildflower that is perfect for rock gardens. This perennial grows 12 to 18 inches tall and has hairy leaves and pink flowers. Wild geranium thrives in full sun or partial shade and prefers moist, well-drained soil. This plant is easy to grow and does not require fertilizers or pesticides.

Wild geraniums are native to North America and can grow in most regions of the United States except for the desert southwest, where they will die back if not planted with protection from intense heat. They are often grown as annuals even there because they do not fare well during the summer months.

03. Catmint

Rock gardens are a great way to show off your landscaping skills while adding some functionality to your yard. One of the best plants to use in a rock garden is catmint. Catmint is a hardy perennial that can thrive in dry, rocky soil. It has delicate, lavender-colored flowers that will add beauty to your rock garden all summer long.

Catmint is also a great plant for attracting butterflies and bees to your garden. It is a prolific bloomer and will provide food for these beneficial insects all season long. Catmint is also deer resistant, so you don’t have to worry about these pesky critters eating your plants.

04. Hens and Chicks

One of the best, most colorful succulents for rock garden culture is the genus Sempervivum, commonly known as Hens and Chicks. With hundreds to choose from (and new hybrids appearing every year), it isn’t easy to select just a few species or cultivars that will do well in your garden. The low-growing rosettes of leaves that compose the plant are a combination of a highly succulent fleshy lower leaf, covered with a smaller but firmer leathery top-leaf.

They generally adapt well to containers and make excellent rock garden specimens. For most varieties, the soil should be light and fast-draining, as they do not like to stay wet for any length of time. In fact, they may even rot if kept too moist. Position them in full sun to partial shade, and water only when the soil dries out on the surface. Fertilize with a diluted liquid fertilizer once or twice during the growing season.

05. Rock Cress

gardening gloves

Rockcress is a hardy perennial that does well in rock gardens. It has small, white flowers and grows about six inches tall. Rockcress is easy to grow and does well in sunny or shady areas. It can be used as a ground cover or in containers.

Rockcress is a great choice for beginners because it is easy to grow and does well in a variety of conditions. It is also deer resistant, making it a good choice for gardens in areas where deer are common. Rockcress can be planted in the spring or fall and will bloom throughout the summer.

06. Pasque Flower

Pasque flower is a perennial plant that can be found in rock gardens. The plant has purple flowers and grows about 12 inches tall. Pasque flower blooms in the springtime. Pasque flower is a hardy plant and does well in cold weather. The plant is native to North America and can be found in the Rocky Mountains.

Pasque flower is a good choice for a rock garden because it does not require a lot of care and can withstand cold weather. The plant also attracts butterflies and bees.

07. Lavender

Garden Hose

Lavender, a very versatile plant.

Lavender flowers are used in cooking and drinks, the essential oils from them are also used to make perfumes or lotions, but did you know that lavender is a great plant for use in a rock garden? Both the flowers and seeds of lavender can be found on its purple-hued stems.

Lavender is a great addition to any rock garden, as it is drought tolerant and does not require a lot of care. In fact, lavender can even be grown in containers, making it perfect for gardeners who live in smaller spaces.

08. Yarrow

Lawn Mower

Yarrow is a perennial herb that is native to Europe and Asia. It has finely dissected leaves and small, white flowers. Yarrow is an ideal plant for rock gardens because it spreads easily and thrives in dry conditions. It can also be used as a ground cover or edging plant.

Yarrow grows best in full sun or partial shade. It prefers well-drained soil and does not tolerate wet conditions. Plant yarrow in the early spring or late summer. Yarrow can be propagated by dividing the root clumps or by seed.

09. Cranesbill Geranium


Cranesbill geraniums are a beautiful addition to any rock garden. They have delicate pink flowers that bloom in the spring and summer, and their foliage is a deep, rich green. They grow best in well-drained soil and can be used to fill in gaps between rocks or as a groundcover. Cranesbill geraniums are also deer-resistant, making them a good choice for gardens that are frequented by wildlife.

If you’re looking for a beautiful, hardy geranium to add to your rock garden, cranesbill is the plant for you. With their delicate pink flowers and deep green foliage, they will add color and interest to your garden all season long.

10. Dwarf Coneflower


Dwarf Coneflower is a perennial that grows to be about 12 inches tall and has violet-blue flowers. It is a great choice for rock gardens, as it prefers well-drained soil and can tolerate drought conditions. Dwarf Coneflower is also deer resistant, making it a good choice for areas where deer are prevalent.

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