The moss saxifrage Saxifraga bryoides was so named because it grows like a moss (Greek “bryodes” = moss-like). So in soft cushions, not very typical for a saxifrage, in which the discovering Roman Pliny the Elder concluded from his growth in crevices that he breaks through the rocks (literally translated from the Latin generic name Saxifraga, from “quia saxa frangit” = because he rock breaks). The moss saxifrage may not be able to do this, but it is still an asset to the garden.

Tenacious Moss Saxifrage

They don’t break rocks, but saxifrages grow boldly in the smallest crevice, which is hardly less remarkable. The Moss Saxifrage does this in the Pyrenees, in the Alps and in the Balkan Mountains, on silicate rocks and on scree surfaces, at dizzy heights of 2,000 to 4,000 meters.

The air is certainly good there, but the growing conditions are not particularly comfortable, which is why the Mossy Saxifrage likes to grow in slightly lower-lying regions, in all possible locations in our gardens.

soil and location

The moss saxifrage belongs to the perennial herbaceous plants, but is tiny, 5 to 15 cm, the latter only during the flowering above the foliage. This flower is beautiful and often lush, but will disappear behind every other spring shoot if the location is not chosen judiciously.

Moss Saxifrage does best in rock gardens that rise in terraces, at the front edge. Saxifrage as a groundcover comes into its own at the edge of a perennial bed. You might even create a natural snail fence with it, snails should despise saxifrage. As an area planting, it makes a good choice as an easy-care wayside, or to enliven areas that are in the shade of large trees. Moss Saxifrage likes to decorate terraces and balconies, in flower bowls on pillars, wide, flat tubs and window boxes.

Each of these locations must meet the requirements of the moss saxifrage, which are small but decisive:
light penumbra, depending on the variety with hours of full sun or full shade

  • No blazing midday sun, moss saxifrage that is not yet well rooted reacts sensitively to the
  • A location to the east with morning sun is said to please the moss saxifrage best
  • Moss Saxifrage needs well-drained soil, interspersed with sand or gravel, preferably with some clay
  • The soil must be humus-rich and retain moisture; the perennial does not like very dry locations
  • The pH value should not tend towards acid, the natural soil is often enriched with limestone
  • However, there are reports that moss saxifrage does well in natural soils with a low pH value
  • Moss saxifrage needs enough space to spread, each individual plant a good 30 square centimeters
  • At the right distance from the seat, the hymenoptera feeding plant will attract all those insects you don’t want around the coffee table
  • Since the soil for the moss saxifrage likes to be fresh, it can be used as the first colonization on new construction sites

Overall, moss saxifrage prefers a somewhat cooler environment, the true moss saxifrage with alpine origin anyway, but ancestors of the Arendsii hybrids also grow in the far north to arctic zones. The cultivars are often more sensitive to cold, but they don’t like permanent heat either.

Sow and plant moss saxifrage

You can grow your moss saxifrage yourself from seed:

  • Sow in February/March in potting soil
  • Cover with glass or foil
  • Place in a bright, warm place
  • When the first leaves appear, the young plant is isolated
  • It is best planted in pots in June
  • Can be planted out in the bed until July

Because moss saxifrage spreads, the recommended planting distance is quite large for such a small plant: at least 15 cm, this also looks good right after planting if you place the young plants in groups, with your own geometric pattern (that with a defined Spacing doesn’t allow much creativity, but you can choose between wavy line and zigzag pattern).

If Moss Saxifrage sits in the ground for three years, its cushions may become hollow in the middle, then the cavities must be filled with fresh soil.

Flower care and pruning

Moss saxifrage starts flowering at different times in spring, depending on the variety, and the varieties also differ slightly in the duration of flowering. When the first flowers have faded, you can cut back the withered inflorescences. This looks tidier and could prompt the plant to push more buds.

If a second bloom develops in late autumn, you should let the moss saxifrage with the withered stems go into the winter. In nature, every plant overwinters with this natural winter protection, there is actually no reason not to treat it to it in the garden. If you now think of order as a reason, this should not apply to moss saxifrage, because the seed heads should look very decorative in winter.

irrigation and fertilizing

The moss saxifrage has hardly any demands on the water supply: moist, but not too much; always give water when the top layer of soil has dried again.

Saxifraga come from the high mountains, water always runs off quickly there, so when in doubt, a moss saxifrage can tolerate a bit more drought than too much moisture.

The moss saxifrage can get some long-term fertilizer in spring to promote flowering, but the real moss saxifrage in particular can do without fertilizer in the right location.


The real moss saxifrage comes from mountain regions where it gets really cold, it is uncritically hardy here.

In the case of hybrids, it depends on the cultivar, many varieties are hardy up to USDA climate zone 5a, i.e. up to 28.8 °C, some only endure USDA climate zone 6b, down to minus 20.4 °C.

Germany has areas with USDA hardiness zones 5b through 8b, so you only need to research a hybrid’s exact hardiness if you live in one of the few very cold-winter spots in Germany. There, young plants of some cultivars need winter protection during the cold peaks. Only during cold peaks, moss saxifrage actually does not like cover in winter, it would also be a pity, because evergreen moss saxifrage looks very decorative in winter.


You can propagate moss saxifrage by sowing, it is a cold germinator. But also by cuttings, axillary shoots and division; fertile varieties are self-propagating by seed.

Most hybrids become obligatory to divide every few years because they grow considerably taller than the natural variety and eventually become bare and fall apart. The division can be made in spring or autumn.

species and varieties

There are many saxifrages, around 500 species, and not only one of them is called moss saxifrage, here is a brief overview:

The most common moss saxifrage

The most common Mossy Saxifrage is a hybrid, quite a wild mix of several Saxifraga species, S. exarata, S. hypnoides, S. moschata and S. rosacea are said to be involved in Saxifraga x arendsii. This hybrid comes in many cultivars:

  • Saxifraga x arendsii
    • ‘Adebar’, 5 to 15 cm, white flowers in spring
    • ‘Alba’, white flowering and quite tall, up to 30 cm, well suited for shady places, flowering April/May, often second flowering in August
    • ‘Bob Hawkens’, grows to 15 cm high and has pink flowers
    • ‘Blossom Carpet’, luxuriant cushions, multi-flowered stalks, rich pink to carmine-pink flowers in spring, seedling variety with a height of 15 cm for partially shaded to shaded rocky areas, very hardy
    • ‘Sleeping Beauty’, 5 to 15 cm, blooms profusely and bright red in spring
    • ‘Spring Snow’, flowering period May to June, tolerates sun, height 10 cm, flat cushions with snow-white flowers that spread laterally
    • ‘Harder Zwerg’, only 8 cm high, rosette-like growth on loose clumps of tuff, planting distance only 10 cm, red flowers April to May
    • ‘Ingeborg’, 5 to 15 cm, dark pink to dark red flowers, flowering period May to June
    • ‘Peter Pan’, March to April shows many small crimson pink flowers that are very close together
    • ‘Purpurmantel’, purple-red flowers, dense moss-like carpet only 5 cm high, rosette-shaped cushions of deep grass-green foliage, flowers April to May
    • ‘Purple Carpet’, purple flowers March to May, height 10 to 15 cm
    • ‘Rosenzwerg’, pink flowers in spring, around 12 cm, vegetatively propagated
    • ‘Snow Carpet’, 8 – 15 cm, white flowers April to May
    • ‘Sulphur Blossom’, height around 15 cm, rosette-like loose clumps, light yellow flowers April to May
    • ‘Touran Early White’, early white flowers from March to May, height 15 cm
    • ‘Triumph’, 15 cm, dark red flowers April to May
    • ‘White Pixie’, height 8 cm, white flowers April to May

In the case of the Arendsii hybrids, the vegetatively propagated varieties should grow more compactly than the generatively propagated varieties, should not always choose exactly one flower color (decorative play of colours) and should be somewhat longer-lived than the seedling plants. The seedlings should grow more luxuriantly, a slightly shorter lifespan of the individual plants could be offset by propagation. If you want to sow yourself, you should ask separately about the germination capacity of the seeds for each cultivar.

The real moss quarry

is called Saxifraga bryoides and forms only a few centimeters high, moss-like mats of dense and tiny leafed shoots that grow in a “messy” way – sometimes almost upright, sometimes lying down, sometimes diagonally in a completely different direction. The foliage looks like a microfern, from which the flower stalks rise in sometimes very elegant arches. The yellow-white flowers appear in May and are not as numerous as in the hybrids, but each one is an extraordinary gem with a pattern and a complicated structure, see

Overall, the true moss saxifrage is a tiny character plant full of life, against which the hybrids look pretty but dull with their even carpets of flowers, see .

The other Moss Saxifrages

You can find other moss saxifrages in stores and on the internet that are not necessarily called that:

  • Saxifraga lilacina, der Krusten-Steinbrech
    • also found as moss saxifrage
    • but forms neither crusts nor moss pads, but rather pretty neat grey-green leaf stars and from March to April a sea of ​​purple flowers
    • Alternative to the other moss saxifrages when only acidic soil is available
  • Saxifraga hirculus, der Moor-Steinbrech
    • grows in moist, sunny moorland and has disappeared from German nature for decades
    • now strictly protected
    • It is therefore a good idea for garden pond owners to plant cultivated plants of the bog saxifrage in wet, bright places on the pond bank
    • Bog saxifrage spreads by self-seeding, stolons and rhizomes
    • small bright yellow flowers in summer
  • Saxifraga ×apiculata a hybrid of Saxifraga marginata var. rocheliana and Saxifraga sancta known as moss saxifrage or rosette saxifrage
  • develops a profusion of flowers in white or light yellow above its foliage, which is only 3.5 cm high

Moss Saxifrage is a rather interesting little plant that comes in several varieties. However, the Saxifrage Society ( knows about 350 other saxifrages that are cultivated as ornamental plants in their original form or as hybrids, so the small plant personalities will never get boring. All saxifrages are easy to care for and willing to reproduce, no wonder some Saxifraga fans occupy entire rock gardens with dozens of different saxifrages.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *