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An introduction to growing alpine plants

September 23, 2018

It’s a common misconception that alpine plants are tricky to grow. That couldn’t be further from the truth!

Due to their resilient nature, alpines make the ideal plants for amateur gardeners. Most alpines are easy to grow in the garden with minimal maintenance, whether in borders, raised beds or troughs and containers.

Why grow alpines?

Adaptability: Climate change is an increasing concern for gardeners. It’s tricky to find plants that will continue to thrive during dry summers and hosepipe bans. There are a lot of drought-resistant alpines which flower freely (once established).

Versatility: Modern housing has led to smaller gardens. It can be hard to know what to plant in a small space. Alpine plants come into their own here; a wide range can be grown in a limited space. They look great in rock gardens, raised beds and crevices.

Low maintenance: Alpines are hardy plants that can withstand harsh conditions. They don’t need much upkeep at all.

Aesthetic: There are so many attractive, colourful alpines that will brighten up your garden.

When to buy

The best time to buy alpine plants is whenever you see one you like!

You can buy easy-to-grow alpines in most nurseries and garden centres. A wider range of more interesting alpines can be obtained at our plant fairs and shows.

When to plant

March and April is the best time plant out pot-grown alpines. This is when the soil is moist and starting to warm up. This allows the roots to grow and settle-in before the drier summer arrives.

September and October can also be a good time, providing the soil is moist and the weather not too hot.

(If you choose to plant your alpines during the rest of the year, you may have to water them more often while they establish.)

How to plant alpines (things to consider)

1. Good drainage

If planting a bed, spread a two-inch layer of grit on top and dig it into the top six inches of soil.

2. Mind the roots!

  • Most alpine plants have very long roots (two feet of roots isn’t uncommon!). Make sure the planting hole is roughly the same diameter as the pot your alpine is in.
  • When you remove your alpine from the pot, inspect its roots. Often, the roots will spiral around the base. Probe the root ball with your fingertips to tease them apart.
  • Lower the roots into the planting hole then gently pat the soil firm as you refill it.

3. Water

Once you’ve planted your alpine, water it thoroughly.

4. Upkeep

If you’ve planted in cool spring weather, you might not have to water it again.

If your soil is heavy, a layer of coarse gravel on the surface can increase the life expectancy of some alpines. This is because alpines often don’t like to be wet at the ‘neck’ (where the roots join the stem).

Find your alpine plant

Here are some of our top easy-to-maintain alpine plants, perfect for beginners.

The best of the rest

More good performers for ordinary conditions.