Rock gardens can be a delight amongst the green-fingered, with an arrangement of stones, rocks, and boulders adding structure and texture to a yard. Putting a few rocks in the garden won’t do the trick on its own, instead, it takes a careful arrangement of plants and flowers to ensure you get the most out of your rock garden.
Be it in the shade, a river rock bed, or just a simple feature being added to the garden, we have 25 plants you will want to consider for your future haven.
25 Plants That Grow on Rocks
1. Angelina Stonecrop (Sedum rupestre)
One of the best features of any rock garden is the level of contrast on show. The Angelina stonecrop is an amazing plant for covering certain areas of your rock garden with beautiful yellowish foliage. Spreading out and bunching up, the Sedum rupestre is great at filling in gaps between stones.
- Autumn Joy (Sedum herbstfreud)
- Mr Goodbud
3. Elfin Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum)
It can be difficult to add a softer texture to your rock garden, but with Creeping Thyme, you can brighten up any rock formation. This form of thyme is fragrant and loves to hang itself over rocks and form between them, adding a bright, purple hue to your garden.
- Pink chintz
- Magic carpet
3. Green Pinwheel (Aeonium decorum)
Striking and solid, the Green pinwheel plant is a succulent that forms amazing clumps of flowers, with accents of red during the summer making it an eye-catching part of your rock garden. These perennials are fairly easy to take care of, hardy and even drought-tolerant, making them perfect for dryer climates.
- Sunburst aeonium
- Canary Island Aeonium
- Carmen sempervivum
4. Flamingo Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis)
Maiden grass makes for a pretty ornamental plant for a rock garden, accentuating paths and borders with its verticality and overhang. The ‘Flamingo’ variant of maiden grass is a fine suitor to any rock garden and can add significant texture to your backyard.
Similar varieties of maiden grass:
- Kleine silberspinne
- Morning light
5. Birch-Hybrid Bellflower (Campanula)
Bellflowers can provide a pretty, blue hue to any rock garden and contrast well with other colorful plants, as well as grasses and succulents. The birch-hybrid campanula is an excellent plant to fill in gaps between stones and also cover the ground with its clumps of green and purple foliage.
Other varieties of campanula:
- Carpanthian bellflower
- Adriatic bellflower
- Clustered bellflower
6. Lamb’s Ear (Stachys Byzantia)
Muted greens and soft pastel colors work well with stone gardens and rock pathways, with the fuzzy leaves (hence the name) adding a soft touch. Lamb’s ear can be a great way to round off edges and spiky areas.
Other varieties of stachys:
- Big betony
7. Dwarf Mountain Pumilio Pine (Pinus Mugo)
Achieving a satisfying aesthetic in a rock garden can often require solid choices, with ornamental plants required to fill out patches of ground. Dwarf mountain pine is a prime example of this, with its small mounds adding texture to patches between rocks. Dwarf mountain pine thrive in river rock flower beds, making them perfect for sun-rich gardens.
Similar varieties of Pinus mungo:
- Knom pine
- Mops pine
8. Coral Reef Dianthus
Dianthus plants are a perfect perennial to accompany the stoniest of gardens. The Coral Reef variety of this plant offers striking embellishments in your personal quarry and will be as eye-catching as it is visually pleasing.
Similar varieties of Dianthus:
- Cotton candy dianthus
- Laced monarch
9. Touran Pink (Saxifraga)
Saxifraga can act as a perfect member of your garden, adding subtle color to your yard and also matting out large patches. Pink in color, this form of Saxifraga is suited to the front of a garden patch or as a border plant.
Similar varieties of Saxifraga:
- Highlander red shades
- Purple mountain saxifraga
10. Rock Cress (Aubrieta Deltoidea)
Matt formations are always a great option for Alpine-esque gardens. With rock cress appropriately covering large spaces and drooping on rocks, any garden is sure to pop with its bunches of purple on show.
Similar varieties to Aubrieta:
- Basket-of-gold (Aurina saxatilis)
11. Spring Gentian (Gentiana Verna)
The spring gentia is an essential flower for rock gardens, covering wide spaces and producing elegant, blue foliage that is vibrant enough to stick out in between other flowers.
Similar varieties of Gentiana:
- Stemless gentian
- Strathmore gentiana
- Willow gentian
12. Crimean Pasque (Pulsatilla Halleri)
Similar to the Lamb’s ear previously mentioned, the crimean pasque adds muted and subtle softening to rocks and stones. Primarily used for the front border of a rock formation or other perennials.
Similar varieties of Pulsatilla:
- Red pasque flower
- Rote glocke
13. Elijah Blue Fescue (Festuca Glauca)
Blue fescue plants are an ornamental grass that will take up nice patches of ground within a rock garden, acting as a support to a centre piece or just being a feature in itself. The Elijah blue variant sprouts plumes in the summer, contrasting a tinge of yellow within the blue and green.
Similar varieties of blue fescue:
- Blaufuchs fescue
- Blue oat grass
14. Candytuft (Iberis Sempervirens)
Evergreen candytuft is excellent in providing wide coverage with its abundance of white flowers that look perfect amongst a rock garden, especially when placed in full sun.
Similar varieties to candytuft:
- Creeping phlox
15. Creeping Phlox (Phlox Subulata)
Creeping plants are a necessity for keeping edges soft and adding personality to walls and overhangs. The light plumage of the creeping phlox is enough to add slight embellishments and accents to plain surfaces.
Similar varieties of Phlox:
- Candy stripe phlox
- Snowflake phlox
16. Chinese Juniper (Juniperus chinesis)
If you’re looking for a hedging plant or small, green bush, then the Chinese Juniper is more than fitted for the job. The small coniferous shrub is perfect for decorating the garden and will provide a dark green tinge throughout the year.
Similar varieties of Juniper:
- Old gold juniper
- Creeping juniper
- Sea green juniper
17. Paprika Yarrow (Achillea Millefolium)
A red tinge can always look great within a rock garden and the paprika yarrow can provide it in droves. A must for all rock gardens, this small perennial will attract butterflies and bees to your garden throughout spring and summer.
Similar varieties of Achillea:
- Moonshine yarrow
- Pomegranate yarrow
18. Fire Spinner Ice Plant (Delosperma)
The fire spinner species of Delosperma is perfect for filling large areas of a rock garden, with large coverage and pretty flowers making it an attractive addition to river rock beds or stone paths. Ice plants can come in a variety of colors, making them a versatile option.
Other varieties of Delosperma:
- Jewel of the desert
- Delosperma cooperi
19. Jerusalem Star (Cerastium Tormentosum)
A full sun plant that produces white, small flowers that look amazing within a rock garden. Cerastium is a hardy plant that looks especially great at the border of a path.
Similar varieties to Cerastium:
- Cypress spurge
20. Carpet Bugle (Ajuga Reptans)
The Ajuga reptan is a plant that thrives in full or partial shade and provides excellent ground cover with its dark contrasting flowers and leaves.
Other varieties of Ajuga reptans:
- Blueberry muffin
- Bronze beauty
- Burgundy glow
21. Dwarf Iris (Iris Reticulata)
An eye catching and beautiful plant that grows striking, vibrant flowers in early spring. The iris reticulata is known for a variety of species that can range from white to purple to blue.
Other varieties of Iris reticulata:
- Dutch iris
22. Ruby Frost Tickseed (Coreopsis)
Coreopsis plants are excellent for rock gardens however, the ruby frost variety is especially unique in its plumage and color. The blend of color from the inside to the out makes it a stand out perennial amongst other plants, with different species offering different color options.
- Other varieties of Coreopsis:
- Moonlight tickseed
- Sweet dreams tickseed
- Mercury rising tickseed
23. Silver Speedwell (Veronica Spicata)
Silver speedwell is perfect for contrast within a rock garden, providing a go-to option for edging and bordering. The white, fuzzy leaves and purple flowers elevate above other plants around it, drawing in the eye.
Other varieties of Veronica spicata:
- Hocus pocus speedwell
- Spiked speedwell
- Aspire speedwell
24. Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera Macrophylla)
One of the difficult factors in building a rock garden is finding full shade-loving plants that also look eye-catching. Siberian bugloss and its silver, green and white mix of leaves look perfect in the shade and maintain their luster throughout the growing season.
Other varieties of Brunnera:
- Silver charm bugloss
- Diane’s gold bugloss
- Jack frost bugloss
25. Crimson Star Columbine (Aquilegia Hybrida)
A suitable, yet beautiful flower for river rock beds and rock gardens in general. The red and white bell flowers are enough to bring in butterflies, insects, and the eyes of general onlookers.
Other varieties of Aquilegia:
- Bluebird columbine
- Ruby port columbine
- Blue barlow columbine
Regardless of how you go about it, there is no doubt that a lot of amazing plants work well in rock gardens and similar yard features. Adding different types of plants and arranging them in an aesthetically pleasing manner is the key.