Alpines for dry stone walls

Alpine plants thrive in the well-drained crevices of dry stone walls and along their top where the foliage and flowers can be seen to their best effect.

Alpine in dry stone wall

Quick facts

Our top 5 alpines for dry stone walls:
  • Alyssum spinosum 'Roseum'  AGM
  • Androsace lanuginose AGM
  • Campanula portenschlagiana AGM
  • Lithodora diffusa ‘Heavenly Blue’ AGM
  • Phlox douglasii ‘Crackerjack’ AGM

Practical considerations

Dry stone walls can be built as freestanding structures or for supporting a bank. The former will require reasonably substantial foundations if they are more than a few courses high and their construction may need to be undertaken by a professional. Walls built up against banks for effect, rather than a support to unstable ground, are easier to construct. They should be built slightly away from the bank and all stones laid slightly sloped back for stability with free-draining compost added as a backfill. At intervals use a long stone at right angles going back into the bank for added stability.

Ideally, plant as the dry wall is being built, layer by layer. Roots can then be spread out and covered with 2.5cm (½in) of a suitable soil mix, such as equal parts good loam, peat substitute and sharp grit. Before adding the next layer of stones, place a few pebbles around the roots to keep the joint open. However, keep crevices within the wall small to prevent soil being washed out from behind. Alternatively, plants can be pushed into crevices after construction. When planting allow for plant growth and trailing habit. 

Suitable plants

Selections cover the more suitable species (and their cultivars) avoiding the more vigorous kinds.

Where only the genus (for example Sempervivum) is given all species within the genus are considered suitable, and where a species is listed, any of its cultivars may also be considered.

AGM Denotes plants which have received the Society's Award of Garden Merit.

Trailing or mat forming plants

Acantholimon
Achillea × lewisii ‘King Edward’ AGM
Aethionema grandiflorum Pulchellum Group AGM
Alchemilla alpina, A. erythropoda AGM
Alyssum montanum 'Berggold', A. spinosum 'Roseum' AGM,
Anacyclus pyrethrum var. depressus AGM
Androsace lanuginosa AGM, A. studiosorum AGM
Antennaria dioica, A. parvifolia
Arabis
Arenaria balearica
(partial shade)
Artemisia schmidtiana ‘Nana’ AGM,
Asarina procumbens
Aubrieta deltoidea
Aurinia saxatilis
Azorella trifurcata
Campanula cochleariifolia
AGM, C. garganica AGM, C. portenschlagiana AGM, C. poscharskyana
Cerastium alpinum var. lanatum
Chrysanthemum weyrichii
Convolvulus sabatius
AGM
Cymbalaria muralis (shade)
Daphne cneorum
Draba aizoides
, D. bruniifolia
Dryas octopetala 'Minor' AGM
Geranium dalmaticum AGM, G. sanguineum var. striatum AGM
Gypsophila repens ‘Fratensis’
Haplopappus glutinosus
Helianthemum
‘Amy Baring’ AGM, H. ‘Ben More’ (other cultivars are more vigorous)
Iberis sempervirens
Linaria alpina
Lithodora diffusa
‘Grace Ward’ AGM, L. diffusa ‘Heavenly Blue’ AGM (acid soils only)
Mitchella repens (shade only)
Persicaria affinis
Phlox douglasii
‘Crackerjack’ AGM, P. subulata
Potentilla
× tonguei AGM
Pterocephalus
Saponaria ocymoides
AGM
Saxifraga callosa AGM, S. ‘Cloth of gold’ (exarata subsp. moschata)
Sedum spurium
Silene uniflora
Tanacetum densum
subsp. amani
Thymus

Non-trailing plants

Arenaria montana AGM
Armeria
Aster alpinus
AGM
Astragalus
Campanula betulifolia
AGM, C. carpatica AGM, C. tommasiniana AGM
Chrysogonum virginianum (shade)
Corydalis lutea, C. ochroleuca (shade)
Dianthus
Edraianthus
Erinus alpinus
AGM
Erodium
Erysimum
Euryops acraeus
AGM
Ferns - Asplenium, Adiantum venustum AGM, Blechnum penna-marina AGM, Cheilanthes, Polypodium (shade)
Globularia
Haberlea rhodopensis
AGM (shade)
Jasione laevis
Jovibarba
Lewisia cotyledon
AGM (shade)
Minuartia
Onosma

Physoplexis comosa AGM
Phyteuma
Ramonda
(shade)
Saxifraga cotyledon, S. paniculata
Scabiosa graminifolia

Sedum spathulifolium ‘Cape Blanco’ AGM, S. spathulifolium ‘Purpureum’ AGM, S. spurium 'Atropurpureum',
Sempervivum
Umbilicus oppositifolius (shade)
Veronica umbrosa ‘Georgia Blue’ AGM
Vitaliana primuliflora
Zauschneria californica
‘Dublin’ AGM


Gardeners' calendar

Find out what to do this month with our gardeners' calendar

Advice from the RHS

Did you find the advice you needed?

RHS members can get exclusive individual advice from the RHS Gardening Advice team.

Join the RHS now

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.