Alpines are plants found in high mountainous areas generally above the natural tree line.They are usually exposed to wide ranging temperatures: very freely draining low nutrient soils: strong winds and high light levels. To survive these conditions they have evolved a number of defences because they are low growing, mat or cushion-forming plants. They are protected against harsh winds and cold: they are dormant under snow; they have extensive root systems to seek out moisture and nutrients: they often have spiny growths to deter grazing animals. These conditions are different to a British winter but provided you bear in mind their natural growing conditions, you can grow them quite successfully.

How to grow Alpines

These dwarf plants offer a huge choice of flower colour and also of shape, foliage and a diversity of usage. Used in a rockery, spectacular displays can be achieved with the colour and form of the plants complimenting the rocks. They also make good container plants on patios and are good in old sinks and troughs and raised beds. Some will grow well in hanging baskets and in crevices in walls, or paving stones. Types such as Thyme can be planted en-masse to give a colourful and scented carpet.

Alpines in containers

Alpines can live in containers for many years and dwarf types especially benefit from being displayed in raised sinks or troughs so that their minute detail can be better appreciated. Smaller containers will need holes in the bottom to let excess water drain off. Always put a layer of broken crocks in the bottom to help with drainage and ensure the roots never sit in water. Provide a planting mix of 30% general purpose compost, 30% leafmould or garden compost and 40% added grit. Top dress with gravel and place in a sunny location. Water regularly but not excessively. Keep alpines even drier in winter, but do not allow to dry out. Feed with a general fertiliser at just a 1/4 of the manufacturers recommended strength for other plants in mid-spring. Keep free from weeds and pick off any dead leaves and prune as needed. Move pots into a cool well ventilated greenhouse in winter.

Creating a rockery

A rockery is intended to give the appearance of a rock outcrop mound in a mountanous region. The site is important and a bank is ideal, as building on a level surface seldom achieves a natural effect. The use of natural or imitation rock stone rather than broken concrete or old bricks is preferable. It is best to use one type of rock, choosing the largest pieces you can comfortably handle, although using some pieces will help give a natural effect.

When positioning your plants consider how they would appear in nature. Try to copy this natural look when building your rockery. Create pockets of suitable planting soil for the plants. To add interest vary the soil between the rocks. Bury the base of rocks and slope them back to help direct the rain into the pockets. Most alpines will tolerate any type of soil, providing it is well drained!.

Once the rockery is planted, cover the soil surface with small gauge gravel or shingle to enhance the look and keep the soil cool. Although many alpines grow on very poor soils, always water after planting and in very dry spells. Feed in spring with a general fertiliser at 1/4 strength for other plants to ensure best results.

Recommended plants

Take a look at our range below. We deliver nationwide usually within 2-3 working days

  • Sedum acre 9cm pot

    Biting Stonecrop. A mat-forming alpine with stems densely clothed in pale green leaves. Star-shaped yellow-green flowers in summer. Height 5cm. Spread 60cm. Flower colour Yellow. Green. Flowers from June to August. Evergreen. Foliage colour Green. Hardy. Planting instructions Water thoroughly before planting.

  • Sedum Album 9cm pot

    Stonecrop. A mat-forming alpine with waxy green leaves and tiny white umbel flowers. Height 10cm. Flowers late June and July. Evergreen. Hardy.

  • Sedum reflexum Yellow Cushion 9cm pot

    Striking golden green mounding succulent foliage magnified by dazzling yellow flowers in summer. Prefers full sun, or partial shade with free-draining soil or compost.

  • Sedum spathulifolium Cape Blanco 9cm pot

    Stonecrop. A mat-forming alpine with rosettes of silver-grey leaves. Clusters of star-shaped. bright yellow flowers in summer. Height 10cm. Spread 60cm. Flowers from June to August. Evergreen.

  • Sedum spurium Dragon's Blood 9cm pot

    A mat-forming alpine with red stems of toothed mid-green leaves. Purple-tinted when mature. Clusters of star-shaped deep pink flowers in late summer. Height 10cm. Spread 60cm. Flowers from August to September. Evergreen. Hardy.

  • Sempervivum arachnoideum 9cm pot

    Cobweb Houseleek. A rosette-forming alpine with succulent rosettes of mid-green to red leaves. Cobwebbed with fine white hairs. Produces reddish pink flowers in summer. Height 8cm. Spread 30cm. Flowers from June to August. Evergreen. Hardy.

  • Sempervivum arachnoideum Rubin 9cm pot

    Dark maroon rosettes with a cob-web like covering. 5 x 10cm. Flowers red June to August.

  • Sempervivum Jovibarba allionii 9cm pot

    Houseleek. A rosette-forming alpine with succulent rosettes of lime green leaves. Produces pinkish flowers in summer. Height 5-8cm. Spread 20-30cm. Flowers from June to August. Evergreen. Hardy.

  • Sempervivum Ruby Heart 9cm pot

    Wonderful silvery-green succulent leaves. The inner 'heart' of the houseleek turns a ruby red as it matures. Prefers full sun, or partial shade with free-draining soil or compost.

  • Sempervivum tectorum Rubin

    Deep burgundy rosettes 5 x 15 cm. A great alpine.

  • Silene uniflora Druett's Variagated 9cm pot

    Sea Campion. A mat-forming alpine with green cream variegated leaves. Single white flowers in summer. Height 5cm. Spread 10-15cm. Flowers from June to August. Semi-evergreen. Hardy. Sheltered Site.

  • Silene uniflora Swan Lake 9cm pot

    An impressive display of large double, creamy-white flowers resembling a powderpuff or a ballerina's tutu (hence the name). They are produced on robust, spreading and hanging, glaucus blue-green alpine foliage. Ideal for any conditions, but with free draining soil or compost.

  • Sinocrassula Yunnanensis 9cm pot

    Succulent plant. Resembles little hedgehogs which will form over the years. Clumps of upright closely packed rosettes of fleshy dark green, almost black pointed leaves. Excellent for raised beds, alpine, gravel or rockery gardens. 10 x 20cms.

  • Sisyrinchium californicum Yellow Stone 9cm pot

    A clump-forming alpine with narrow dark green leaves. Upright stems of pretty yellow flowers in summer and early autumn. Height 10-15cm. Spread 10cm. Flowers from June to September. Semi-evergreen. Hardy.

  • Veronica prostrata Trehane 9cm pot

    Prostrate Speedwell. A dense, mat-forming alpine with narrow bright yellow-green or golden leaves. Short spikes of deep blue flowers in early spring to mid-summer. Height 15cm. Spread 40cm. Flowers from May to July. Herbaceous. Hardy.

  • Viola labradorica 9cm pot

    A spreading perennial with tiny-faced purple flowers in spring-summer. Height 2.5-5cm. Spread indefinite. Evergreen. Hardy.

  • Viola Molly Sanderson 9cm pot

    A spreading perennial with masses of jet black flowers with a yellow eye in summer. Height 10cm. Spread 20cm. Flowers from June to August. Evergreen. Hardy.

  • Zauschneria californica Glasnevin 9cm pot

    Herbaceous - evergreen or semi evergreen clump-forming perennial. Leaves 1-4cm (½-1½in) long. Produces terminal racemes of flowers 2.5-4cm (1-1½in) long over long periods.

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