The rock garden at Wild Ginger Farm©


Rock Garden FAQS


What is my USDA Hardiness Zone?

What is my Average Annual Low Temperature?

Why can't I find the USDA Zones on the Plant Information Pages





raised bed rock garden



Arenaria montana in rock garden©

Newly built raised bed showing coarse grit topdressing.


Herb garden©


Small rock garden plants used in troughs are often called alpines.©


Lewisia cotyledon has showy flowers that attract many insect pollinators©



Where can rock garden plants be used?

  • Large or Small-scale Rock Gardens
  • Woodland Gardens
  • Troughs
  • Raised Beds and Planters
  • Native Gardens
  • Containers and Hanging Baskets
  • Waterside Gardens
  • Along Paths and Steps
  • Other Compact Spaces

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What role do rocks have in the rock garden?

Rocks play an important role in the growth and health of many plants just as they do in their natural habitat.  Rocks affect the immediate environment in a number of ways to allow the plants to flourish: 

  • Rocks shelter seeds, allowing them to lodge and germinate,
  • Runoff from rocks provides supplemental water and nutrients that help the plant become established, 
  • Shade from rocks keeps the soil around the plant from drying out and protects the plant's roots from heat from the sun, 
  • Rocks also provide a protected, competition-free location in which the plant can thrive. 

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How do I improve drainage in my rock garden?

Many rock garden plants require excellent drainage for healthy growth.   In the garden, rock garden plants are often grown on a slope or in a raised or mounded bed where irrigation or rainwater flows quickly away from plant crowns and roots. 

Drainage can be enhanced by adding a combination of rock chips or grit of 3/8 " or less and coarse sand to your soil. We use 1/4"-10 gravel which has fewer fines that cause compaction.  The addition of these large and uneven particles enhance drainage.  The amount of amendments needed varies with your soil type.  The goal is fast drainage and easily workable soil..

A rock chip mulch is generally used in the rock garden.  This type of mulch allows water to drain quickly away from the crown of the plant, allowing the crown to dry quickly and reducing the risk of disease. 

Raised beds can be filled with a mixture of sand, gravel and compost or bark dust to create a low fertility mix for growing alpines.  We have used a combination of equal parts sand and gravel along with 10-30% compost for our raised beds with good results.

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Do rock gardens have special fertilizer and watering needs?

Rock garden plants often require little fertilizer and those from sunny, dry climates need very little supplemental water. 

Many plants from Mediterrenean climates require little water or fertilizer.  Lavenders, thymes and other aromatic herbs originated in rocky, infertile hillsides of the Mediterrenean region where summer rainfall is minimal and they are quite drought tolerant.  These plants and other plants from similar climates are often used in a low water garden. 

High mountain plants often require low levels of fertilizer and some are low water, too.  These plants, known as alpines, are classic examples of rock garden plants that thrive in austere settings where the soils contain very few nutrients. In cultivation, these plants require little fertilizer.  Their water requirements vary depending on factors such as how deeply their roots system extends and whether they grow in a relatively dry environment such as on a mountain peak or in a wetter area such as in a meadow. 

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What are Alpines and how are they used?

The word alpines is used in rock garden parlance in different ways.  Literally, alpines are plants from the high mountains or more specifically from the European Alps.  More broadly, small rock garden plants are often called alpines even if they are not from the high mountains.  Alpines are often used in troughs, other containers and small-scale rock gardens.

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Why do rock garden plants often have large flowers?

To attract pollinating insects and hummingbirds, many rock garden plants have remarkably large or striking blooms.  The contrast between the rocks and small plants with their showy blooms add to the beauty and charm of the rock garden.

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Why can't I find the plant I'm looking for using the Common Name?

We can't help commenting on the difficulties in using common names.  One problem is that the same plant can have a number of common names.   A familiar example is the use of both Black-eyed Susan and Gloriosa Daisy to refer to Rudbeckia hirta.  Another problem is that different plants can have the same common name.  Take, for example, the customer who requests "Rock Cress" or "Dusty Miller".  Does she mean Arabis or Aubrieta, Artemesia or Senecio?  There are regional differences, too.    The term "Bluebell" refers to Campanula rotundifolia in Scotland, Endymion nonscriptus in Endland, and Phacelia campanilaria in the Western U.S.  It is easy to see that the use of botanical names is a far more precise way to find exactly the plant you seek.


What is my USDA Hardiness Zone?

What is my Average Annual Low Temperature?

Why can't I find the USDA Zones on the Plant Information Pages?


Looking  For More Information About Rock Gardens?

Building a Raised Bed


Examples of Rock Gardens


How to Grow Lewisias


Success With Rock Garden Plants




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