Rock garden plants are an often underestimated addition to the garden and tub. They are easy to care for and undemanding – if they are selected to suit the location. But which varieties are also decorative and hardy? And what should you pay attention to when it comes to maintenance?

Hardy varieties for sun places

Finding sun-loving rock garden plants is not a challenge. Because most varieties even tolerate full midday sun without any problems if they are offered a sufficiently moist substrate.

But not all of these sun-loving plants are hardy and really low-maintenance.

But the following do:


The houseleek or sempervivum, as it is also known, can come up with several thousand varieties. The plants measure 0.5 to 22 cm in diameter and have inflorescences that are 3 to 60 cm high.

So there is no lack of variety for this rock garden plant. And this is what makes them so popular. In addition to the different appearances, it is also extremely frugal and easy to care for.

Care instructions for the houseleek :

  • Requires a sunny position
  • Choose a dry, well-drained substrate – stony garden soil will do
  • Can be cultivated in the garden and in the container
  • Tolerates drought, watering only necessary during long periods without rain
  • Houseleek supplies itself with nutrients, so it should not be fertilized or cut
  • Flowering occurs after several years at the same location
  • Winter protection with fleece and insulating underlay only required for tub culture
  • Houseleek produces shoots of its own, propagation possible by dividing the plant
  • Only susceptible to rot, waterlogging is therefore urgently to be avoided
  • Not poisonous


Spurge, or euphorbia as it is botanically named, is a hardy rock garden plant with a wide variety. The upper leaves, which are yellow, orange or red in color and thus simulate weeks of flowering, are particularly decorative.
Among the milkweed there are compact varieties that are only 25 cm high. This includes, for example, the roller spurge. However, it can also be more sprawling and reach a height of up to 80 cm, including the fire spurge.

General care of the milkweed:

  • Requires a very sunny, warm location
  • Dry, well drained substrate required
  • Culture in the garden and bucket possible
  • Water only a little and when needed
  • Avoid fertilizer
  • Trimmings after flowering
  • Light winter protection with fleece or brushwood
  • Propagation by division or seed
  • The milky plant sap is poisonous, gloves must be worn when caring for it
  • Susceptible to mealy bugs and rot


The Günsel is an extremely easy-care and robust rock garden plant that can flower in purple and white. As a low groundcover, it’s ideal for filling in gaps and adding a calming pop of color. In addition, it is adaptable, can be sunny, shady, dry or moist. However, the sunnier the location, the more water it needs.

Caring for the crawling bugle:

  • Sunny or semi-shady location
  • Dark and dry or damp and light
  • Requires nutrient-rich, loamy soil
  • Can be planted in a pot, tub or garden
  • Water when needed
  • Light fertilization in spring recommended
  • Can be propagated by cutting and dividing
  • Can be radically trimmed and cut off for shaping
  • Winter protection with fleece and brushwood makes sense
  • Robust against diseases and pests
  • Non-toxic, can even be used as a medicinal plant


Sedum is also known by the far more common name sedum plant. They can be found commercially as ground cover, such as Sedum acre, and are sometimes called stonecrop. Tall sedum plants, such as Sedum aizoon, on the other hand, stand out from the bed simply because of their upright growth habit.

In any case, they are robust and hardy rock garden plants. If the following notes are taken into account.

Caring for the sedum :

  • Sunny location that can be quite hot
  • Poor, well-drained soil is ideal
  • Culture in the garden and bucket possible
  • Water only rarely and only during long dry periods
  • No fertilization
  • Cut the withered parts in spring, before they sprout
  • Propagation by division, seeds or cuttings
  • Moderately susceptible to fungal diseases and vine weevil
  • The plant is poisonous
  • Light winter protection with straw, twigs and fleece recommended

Hardy rock garden plants for the shade

The search for hardy rock garden plants that feel comfortable in the shade is a bit more difficult. Nevertheless, there are definitely species that thrive without much light and require little care. This includes:

  • Bergenia
  • Gaultheria
  • Moos-Steinbrech
  • cranesbill


The Bergenia is one of the most well-known rock garden plants. On the one hand, it owes this to the eye-catching and decorative leaves. On the other hand, their robust and easy-care character.

Care of the bergenia:

  • Shady location, but sun is also tolerated very well
  • Soil can be dry or moist, poor or nutrient-rich
  • Can be in the garden or in a bucket
  • Water and fertilize as needed
  • Remove dead plant parts in spring
  • Trimming again after flowering spurs growth and new flowering
  • Leaves are green and reddish in winter
  • Propagation by seeds and division of roots
  • Light winter protection recommended
  • The Bergenia is non-toxic
  • Not susceptible to pests and diseases


The moss saxifrage is a ground-covering plant that impresses with its delicate flowers and downright undemanding nature. In addition, it is hardy and tolerates a shady location.

Notes on caring for the moss saxifrage:

  • Shady or semi-sunny location
  • Can be planted in spring or autumn
  • Water-permeable, nutrient-rich substrate
  • Watering necessary if dry
  • Optimal fertilization with compost or manure
  • Dead plant parts are to be removed
  • Propagated by seeds obtained from capsule fruits in autumn and sown in spring
  • Winter protection is not required
  • Not susceptible to diseases and pests
  • Not considered toxic, but can cause problems in animals


The Gaultheria, better known as the checkerberry, is an eye-catcher throughout the winter. Rich to reddish green and bright red flowers and berries are unbeatable splashes of color. As a pronounced shade plant, it also requires little light. However, a little care is necessary for them to thrive. Gaultheria care instructions at a glance

  • Shady or semi-sunny location
  • Requires acidic and nutrient-rich substrate, ericaceous soil and rhododendron soil are optimal
  • Mulching the soil is recommended
  • Should be kept moist, regular watering necessary
  • Fertilize from spring to summer with rhododendron fertilizer
  • Only cut waste when necessary, do not remove faded flowers
  • Propagation by cutting off stolons
  • Light winter protection when there is no snow
  • Susceptible to fungal diseases, avoid waterlogging
  • Toxic to humans and pets


Cranesbill is an undemanding and free-flowering rock garden plant that thrives in sun and shade. Undemanding, easy to care for and hardy, it is even ideal for beginners.

Cranesbill care:

  • Shady or semi-sunny, in any case warm, location
  • Sandy-loamy or calcareous substrate is suitable, should be nutritious
  • Regular watering required
  • fertilization in the warm months
  • Trimmings after flowering
  • Robust against diseases and pests
  • Winter protection made of fleece, straw and brushwood makes sense
  • Propagation by seeds and cuttings
  • Non-toxic, even used as a medicinal plant

Rock garden design tips

As easy-care and undemanding as many hardy rock garden plants are, there are still a few things to consider in the bed.
First and foremost, it depends on the lighting conditions and the existing substrate. Although houseleek and Günsel have the same demands on the sun, they differ greatly in terms of the soil they need. Therefore, they cannot – at least not without preparation – be placed directly next to each other. This is easily possible with spurge and houseleek due to their similar needs.

If you don’t want to be restricted in your selection and combination by different requirements, you can use a simple trick.

Combine different plants

Depending on the soil in the garden, suitable rock garden plants should first be selected. Growths that would not thrive here can be integrated in two different ways. Rock garden plants in containers:

  1. Choose a container of the right size, such as a bucket or tub.
  2. The vessel should have adequate drainage holes.
  3. In order to integrate rock garden plants into the existing bed, the container can either be placed between the plants or partially buried.
  4. This variant becomes a visual highlight when stones are stacked on the edge that is still visible.
  5. The bottom of the container can then also be lined with stones, which will facilitate the drainage of excess water.
  6. The last steps are simply bringing in the right substrate and planting the rock garden plants.

The second variant is less conspicuous, but may require a little more work.

Insertion in unsuitable soil:

  1. For direct insertion into a bed with unsuitable substrate, a fairly large hole must first be dug. For small plants, at least a hole the size of a bucket of water is recommended.
  2. The burial hole should be paved with stones on the bottom and sides as drainage and as a boundary to the surrounding soil. Alternatively, plastic plates can be used as an easier to insert outer border.
  3. Now the hole is filled with a suitable substrate and provided with the plants.

Direct use works particularly well if the needs of the plants are not too far apart. However, if the rock garden plant used needs as dry a ground as possible, while the neighbors require a swampy substrate, there could be problems in the long term. Here it would make more sense to bury a container or to seal the borders tightly with plastic.

Create a rock garden that is easy to care for

It’s tempting to place plants close together to create a lush green carpet. In the long term, however, this is bad for the plants, as the roots have too little space for growth and receive insufficient nutrients.

It also makes maintenance unnecessarily difficult. If dried parts have to be removed, individual plants have to be watered or fertilized – there is simply no space for safe footing.

It is better here to integrate decorative paths and optical boundaries. It is sufficient to lay stones or slabs in curved lines between the plants. Containers placed in the bed and partially dug in, which are provided with stones all around to form a decorative pedestal, also make maintenance work easier. And also provide highlights in the rock garden.

Tip: With numerous varieties, the targeted care of individual plants can quickly cause confusion. A site plan with designations and the most important requirements can help here.

General care tips for the rock garden

Rock gardens, like the plants in them, are easy to care for and undemanding. If some factors are considered.
This includes first and foremost finding the best location. If the demands here match the conditions, maintenance is child’s play and kept to a minimum.

If wilted leaves, discoloration or greasy parts of the plant appear, the requirements should again be checked first. Usually the soil is too wet or too dry, nutrients are missing or in excess. In order to get to the bottom of the problem, a look at the requirements of the rock garden plant and the care measures taken is sufficient.

In the worst case, the plant must then be relocated. As a rule, however, it is sufficient to make appropriate changes in maintenance.

Rock garden plants are a wonderful addition to the garden, balcony or patio. Compact in the tub or as a lush carpet in the bed – they are decorative when selected and put together correctly. And ideal for anyone who wants to make little effort in the garden.

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