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What are Alpines?

They are plants that are found generally in high mountainous areas where they are exposed to wide temperatures, strong winds, and high light levels and are found growing generally in very free draining soil that is low in nutrients.

Most but not all are mountain plants as some beautiful ones grow in cliffs by the sea like our native Sea Thrift and even on the beach in shingle still enduring harsh weather and that’s why some people prefer the term rock plants as many alpines grow so well in rocks and stony conditions.

To survive these harsh mountain or beach conditions they have evolved defences – slow and low growing and cushion forming means they are protected against the harsh winds and cold, dormant under snow they survive bitter winters then as they spring into life they have extensive root systems to seek out nutrients and water. Those with spiny growth survive grazing animals foraging for food in bleak conditions and most are usually long lived with many having a short but abundant flowering period.


These dwarf plants offer a vast choice of flower colour, and also of overall shape, foliage and diversity of usage. Growing alpines on a rockery can achieve spectacular displays with the colour and form of the plant complementing the bulk of the rock. They also make excellent container plants on the patio and can look superb in old sinks and troughs and raised beds. Some will grow successfully in hanging baskets and crevices or pockets in dry stone walls and between paving stones.

We’ve lots to choose from including Aubrietia, Campanula, Dianthus, Saxifraga, Sempervivum, Sedum plus many others so come and take a look and ask our advice. 


Give them a very well-drained soil, and they do well in UK gardens so make sure they don’t stand in cold, wet soil, and that’s why so many people grow them in containers as they look great in things like old Belfast sinks and troughs. Most alpines like neutral or slightly alkaline soil, so a mix of 70 per cent John Innes No.3 and 30 per cent horticultural grit is ideal with a slow release fertiliser to give them a good start.


Alpines and rock plants benefit from periodic removal of dead wood. leaves and flowers and should be kept trimmed. Trough,s sinks and other containers should be replanted if they become overcrowded and in cold or wet weather some, particularly in containers, may need protection.

Feeding with bone meal and a slow release fertiliser in spring will help older plants if you see they are producing fewer flowers. 

Alpine and rock plants need to be cut back periodically to maintain a natural, compact shape and healthy growth, and to restrict them within their allotted space.

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