Sink and trough gardening: plants for

Alpines offer colour and texture all year round and planting them in sinks and troughs are an ideal way of showing off their sometimes jewel-like qualities to best effect.

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Stone trough planted with <EM>Phlox</EM>, <EM>Jovibarba hirta neilreichii</EM>, <EM>Larix kaempferi</EM> 'Little Blue Star', <EM>Saxifraga paniculata minutifolia</EM> and <EM>Antennaria dioica</EM>
Stone trough planted with Phlox, Jovibarba hirta neilreichii, Larix kaempferi 'Little Blue Star', Saxifraga paniculata minutifolia and Antennaria dioica

Quick facts

Top plants for sinks and troughs


Creating just the right conditions to grow alpine and rock plants is the first stage. The next stage and most enjoyable, is choosing the plants. You could select plants for the longest flowering over the year, or you might choose a genus of plants for specific conditions, such as lewisias. Aim to choose variety in texture of foliage as well as flower.

Practical considerations

Ensure that the sink is placed in the ideal conditions for the plants. An open sunny position is ideal.

Planting up sinks and troughs and making them from scratch is explained in our sink and trough gardening page.

Suitable plants

The following is a selection of plants which can be grown successfully in sink and trough gardens.  It is not intended to be a comprehensive list, but to act as an initial guide for those wishing to garden with these types of containers.

(T) Trailing
(NS) Need shade
(SS) Usually satisfactory in shade
(SU) Tolerant of shade but more satisfactory in sun
AGM Denotes plants which have received the Society's Award of Garden Merit


Allium cyaneum AGM, A. neapolitanum
Anemone blanda
Bulbocodium vernum
Chionodoxa (SS)
Cyclamen coum AGM (SS), C. hederifolium AGM, C. purpurascens AGM
Eranthis cilicica ‘Cilicica Group’, E. hyemalis AGM
Fritillaria camschatcensis
Galanthus elwesii AGM (SS), G. nivalis AGM, G. plicatus AGM
Hepatica nobilis AGM
Iris cristata, I. danfordiae, I. lutescens AGM, I. reticulata
Muscari azureum AGM
Narcissus asturiensis AGM (SU), N. bulbocodium AGM, N. cyclamineus AGM, N. minor AGM
Puschkinia scilloides var. libanotica AGM
Scilla bifolia AGM, Scilla siberica AGM


Abies balsamea Hudsonia Group
Cryptomeria japonica ‘Compressa’, C. japonica ‘Vilmoriniana’ AGM
Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Kosteri’ AGM (SS), C. obtusa ‘Nana Aurea’ AGM (SU), C. lawsoniana ‘Gnome’ (SS), C. lawsoniana 'Pygmaea Argentea' AGM, C. pisifera ‘Nana Variegata’, C. pisifera ‘Plumosa Compressa’ AGM
Juniperus procumbens ‘Nana’ AGM (SS)
Picea abies ‘Little Gem’ AGM, P. glauca var. albertiana ‘Laurin’ AGM
Pinus sylvestris ‘Lodge Hill’


Cassiope selaginoides
Daphne cneorum (SS)
Ilex crenata ‘Mariesii’
Petrophytum hendersonii
Polygala chamaebuxus AGM, P. chamaebuxus var. grandiflora AGM (SU)
Rhododendron calostrotum subsp. keleticum AGM, R. campylogynum, R. campylogynum Myrtilloides Group AGM, R. pumilum,
Salix reticulata AGM (SU), S. ‘Boydii’AGM


Achillea tomentosa AGM (T)
Aethionema oppositifolium
Alyssum montanum
Androsace carnea, A. pyrenaica, A. chamaejasme, A. sempervivoides AGM, A. villosa
Aquilegia bertolonii AGM, A. saximontana (SS)
Arabis androsacea
Arenaria purpurascens (T SS)
Armeria juniperifolia AGM
Artemisia caucasica AGM (T )
Asperula arcadiensis AGM, A. gussonei, A. sintenisii AGM
Aurinia saxatilis ‘Compacta’ (T)
Campanula arvatica AGM, C. betulifolia AGM, C. chamissonis, C. raineri AGM, C. tommasiniana AGM (SU )
Carex firma ‘Variegata’
Centaurium scilloides
Cyananthus microphyllus AGM (T NS)
Dianthus alpinus AGM, D. alpinus ‘Joan’s Blood’ AGM, D. freyniiD. microlepis, D. myrtinervius, D. subacaulis
Draba aizoides
Dryas octopetala ‘Minor’ AGM (T )
Edraianthus pumilio AGM
Erinus alpinus AGM
Erodium reichardii (SS )
Genista pilosa var. minor (T)
Gentiana acaulis AGM, G. saxosa (SU)
Geranium farreri
Globularia cordifolia AGM, G. meridionalis, G. repens
Helianthemum oelandicum (T)
Iris lacustris 
Lewisia ‘George Henley’ (SS)
Morisia monanthos
Phlox bifida ‘Alba’ P. douglasii ‘Crackerjack’ AGM, P. douglasii ‘Iceberg’ AGM, P. douglasii ‘Rose Cushion’
Pimelea prostrata
Polygala calcarea ‘Lillet’ AGM (SU)
Primula auricula ‘Blairside Yellow’, P. ‘Beatrice Wooster’, P. farinosa, P. × forsteri ‘Dianne’ (SU), P. marginata AGM, P. scotica
Ramonda myconi AGM (NS )
Ranunculus alpestris
Saponaria ‘Bressingham’ AGM (T  )
Saxifraga (encrusted eg. S. paniculata) (mossy eg. S. hypnoides) (cushion eg. S. ‘Silver Cushion’)
Sedum acre 'Golden Queen’, S. spathulifolium ‘Purpureum’ AGM, S. cauticola AGM
Sempervivum tectorum AGM (T)
Silene acaulis ‘Blush’, Silene keiskei var. minor
Soldanella alpina, S. minima (S)
Teucrium aroanium, T. subspinosum
Thlaspi cepaeifolium
subsp. rotundifolium
Veronica prostrata

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