If you’re going to have a rock garden with plants, the first step is choosing the right plants for you and your area. Probably the most important factor you’d want to consider when finding the right plants is the USDA zone.
The zone tells you how cold your coldest days would be and if a certain type of plant that can tolerate such temperatures. The only real information you would need to glean from the zones is that if you’re in an extremely cold area then you should choose an “any zone” plant. The other areas are probably going to be close enough for your needs.
Another concern should be the amount of sunlight you would get for the area. It does no good to put a plant in your garden that requires a lot of sunlight if it’s going to be in the shade. That’s just too much work to go through for it to die.
Finally, you should probably try to avoid using poisonous plants as they could have undesirable results for your garden and your family. Some plants are good all year round and in any zone. These plants are great because they can be added to any garden.
These include Basket of Gold and Green Carpet. Basket of Gold can also survive with only about three hours of sunlight but Green Carpet doesn’t need very much sun at all. Some plants that require a lot of light include Dwarf Yarrow, Stonecress, Rock Jasmine, Catsfoot, Rockcress, Sea Pink, Alpine Aster, Ice Plant, Whitlow grass, Mountain avens, Sulfer Flower, Spurge (poisonous), Alpine Poppy (poisonous), Dwarf Baby’s Breath, Evergreen Candytuft, Oregano (which, of course, is an herb so it’s good for cooking), Pasque Flower, Soapwort, and Speedwell.
If you have around three hours of sunlight per day then you can go with Sheep bur, Pinwheel, Carpet Bugle, Windflower (poisonous), Alpine Columbine (poisonous), Aubretia, Creeping Bellflower, Snow in the Summer, Alpine Pinks, Shooting Star, Hens and Chicks, Fleabane, Cranesbill, Trumpet Gentian, Coral Bells, Lewisia, Lithodora, Penstemon, Phlox, Northern Jacobs Ladder, Primrose, Saxifrage, Stone Crop, Cushion Pink, Blue Eyed Grass, Snowbell, and Woolley Thyme.
Of course, if you have no real sunlight available, then you can use Rockery Orchid and certain varieties of Northern Jacobs Ladder, Primrose, and Hens and Chicks. If you want really tall plants, then consider the Pinwheel, Windflower, Alpine Columbine, Shooting Star, Sulfer Flower, Coral Bells, Evergreen Candytuft, and Lewisia.
If short plants are what you’re after, then Sheep bur, Creeping Bellflower, Hens and Chicks, Trumpet Gentian, Dwarf Baby’s Breath, Green Carpet, Rockery Orchid, Stonecrop, and Woolley Thyme are up your alley.
No matter what your region and your climate you should always be able to find suitable plants for your rock garden. And if you make sure you match up your sunlight, temperature, and water requirements, then you should just about always have a maintenance free rock garden for your yard so that you and your neighbors can enjoy it. If you spent enough time planning, you could even start matching colors for your garden and create an even better eye-catching display.