Rock gardens are popular in our area because many of us have gravely, well-draining spots in our landscapes that call for plantings different from soils rich with clay eight inches down.
According to Better Homes & Gardens, pretty, low-maintenance perennials make for excellent choices in a rock garden (including at our high altitudes), and even produce vibrant flowers and foliage despite the soil, drought, and heat.
Here are rock garden perennials you might try in your rocky garden spots this growing season:
Rock cress - I am growing this in my garden currently and it is a low growing, spreading groundcover. It grows very slowly and won't cover a lot of ground quickly. It has masses of cheerful pink, white, or purple flowers in the spring, and can tolerate heat and drought and is deer resistant (deer have never touched mine). Makes a great container plant too.
Sedum - plant it and forget it perennial. This little ground hugging spreader is tough and comes in a huge variety of colors and shapes and quickly takes root in any sunny, rocky location. Butterflies love the nectar-rich flower heads, and deer don't typically touch it.
Candytuft - bright white blooms and a reliable spring bloomer, candytuft grows well in rocky areas and is drought resistant. After it blooms, you can enjoy the plant's rich green leaves well into winter. It is supposed to be deer-resistant, and mines have mostly been spared by deer, but once in a while I do see signs that deer have snacked on it.
Thrift - a tough little charmer also known as 'sea pink' because it is often seen growing in inhospitable ocean cliff settings. Compact with grasslike foliage, it prefers poor soil and can actually rot in rich or moist soils. Deadhead the flowers as they fade to keep the plants looking tidy. Deer-resistant and non-invasive.
Snow-in-Summer - appears with cloudlike flowers in drifts from late-May to mid-June. Soft gray foliage provides visual interest. This is a slow spreader if planted in a sunny, well-drained location. Cut off flowers after bloom to keep the plants looking their best.
Red Creeping Thyme - this beautiful plant isn't suitable for culinary use, but in a rock garden it's a keeper. I have an entire swath of this deer resistant spreader, which is smothered in lavender-red blooms in the summer and does well in containers too. The deer have not touched it in five years in my landscape. I have it in a south facing rock wall area so I know it withstands heat well.
Deadnettle - for shady rock garden areas, this makes a superb rock garden plant. A handsome creeper with it's variagated foliage and pretty purple flowers, it can spread quickly but is easy to control with an occasional trim.
Ice Plant - well-known and loved for it's resistance to heat, drought, poor soil, and salt - this one's practically indestructible. It grows in mats and can one plant can spread two feet or more wide. Lovely green foliage and flashy, jewel-toned blooms that come in a variety of bright colors make this an excellent choice for tucking in between boulders.