From the Desk of Ed Hume: Spring Rockery Perennials

April 18, 2011 at 1:36 AM Leave a comment

Looking to add a bright spot of color in the spring garden?  There are some outstanding low-growing perennials that provide a mass of color when planted in rock gardens and throughout perennial borders.  Right now, you see a lot of them in bloom around home gardens and businesses.  Now when they are in bloom is the best time of the year to select and plant them.

Low-growing perennials are often referred to as “rockery perennials.”  However, it is important to note that these low-growing perennials can actually be planted anywhere in a sunny garden.  The reason they are called “rockery perennials” is because most of them will beautifully cascade over rocks.  Don’t be confused by this description of them, because when they are grown in perennial beds they tend to still maintain an attractive, bushy, compact growth habit.

I was in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada last weekend, and the flowerbeds and containers throughout the city were planted with English daisies (double flowering), aubrietia, English wallflowers, and bulbs.  Likewise if you were to visit England or Europe at this time of the year, you would find similar plantings.  These plant combinations provide an outstanding outdoor floral display.

Let’s take a look at four of the most popular low-growing spring perennials.  Keep in mind these plants are perennial, so they grow larger and flower year after year:

Aubrietia – There are several varieties in shades of purple, lavender, and rose to red. Plants only grow about 4 to 6 inches high and spread to 12-18 inches.  In full bloom, the flowers are so dense you can hardly see the lower growing foliage.

Basket of Gold (Alyssum saxatile) – Brilliant yellow flowers cover the plant in springtime.  Plants grow 6-12 inches high and up to 2-3 feet across.

Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens) – The brilliant white flowers stand out above the rich deep green leaves.  There are several varieties that grow from about 4-12 inches high.

Creeping Phlox (P. stolonifera) – An old-time favorite which is once again becoming popular.  Low 6 inch plants may spread to 12 or more inches. They flower a bit later than the others mentioned.  Colorful phlox-shaped flowers cover the plants in late spring.  Flowers range in shades of pink, rose, red, lavender, and white.

Of course, these are only four of the top notch, low-growing, spring-flowering perennials.  There are also some wonderful varieties of arabis (Rockcress), English daisies (single and double flowering), forget-me-nots, and lithodora (Lithospermum diffusum).

Incidentally, if you cut off the dead flowers of the aubrietia, candytuft, and basket-of-gold immediately after they have finished flowering, they usually flower again later in the summer. That way, you get two flowering seasons instead of just one.

All of the low-growing perennials I have mentioned grow and flower best in full sun or part sun and shade.  If any of the plants tend to get a bit straggly, don’t hesitate to give them a light shearing. This is best done immediately after flowering.

Add a bright spot of color to your garden this spring with any of these low-growing perennials.  You can get more information on perennials, annuals, and shrubs by visiting our web site


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