Buying Plants for a Rock Garden


Alpine and rock garden plants are available from a variety of sources, including garden centres and specialist nurseries.

General Suppliers

Non-specialist suppliers usually offer a limited range of easily grown cultivars and colourful species. However, their undemanding habits means that these plants are likely to form large, spreading masses that may engulf more delicate plants.

General outlets will sometimes carry stocks of specialist plants if there is a great demand for them. However, although these plants may be attractive, they are often difficult to grow. Unless you are experienced in cultivating these species and enjoy a challenge, these plants may turn out to be an expensive mistake.

Specialist Nurseries

Specialist nurseries are an important resource for the novice alpine gardener. Staff will be able to offer you guidance on the most suitable choice of plants for your particular situation, and will also be able to advise you on cultivation techniques.

There will be a much wider range of plants on offer in comparison to general suppliers; these will often be displayed in mature beds. This is invaluable when you are planning your rock garden or alpine planting, as it will allow you to see the ultimate size, spread, and habit of different species.

When selecting your plants, bear in mind that larger specimens will usually take longer to establish than smaller, vigorous ones.

What to Look For

  • Clear labels, indicating the name of the plant, details of flowering times and cultivation requirements.
  • No sign of pests and diseases.
  • Healthy, compact foliage.
  • No weak or yellowing growth (this indicates that the plant may have been kept in poor light).
  • Healthy root system - check by sliding the plant out of its pot and inspect the root ball carefully,
  • Non-pot bound specimens - the roots should only just reach through the hole in the base of the pot, or better still, not be visible at all. Avoid any plant that has become rooted into the material on the surface of the display area.
  • Weed-free (as much as possible).