The Ultimate Aubrieta Growing Guide

Written by Hannah Miller. Reviewed and Fact Checked by Elizabeth Smith. Published to Spring Plants. Updated: 18th February 2023.

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Aubrieta is the ultimate trailing spring plant, and I’ve seen it cascading down walls, slopes and around boulders in rockeries.

Also known as rock cress, aubrieta is an early but showy bloomer producing an abundance of small flowers in white, pink, purple or blue.

Key details:

  • I’ve grown it in hollowed-out walls where it cascaded.
  • It’s popular ground cover plant, ideal for covering the edges of paths and patios.
  • Often found in rockeries.
  • Perennial and easy to care for.
  • I think it’s an excellent alternative to forget-me-nots.
  • Heat and sun-loving.

Size

Height: Up to 10cm (4″)

Spread: Up to 80cm (32″)

Location

Walls, rockeries, paths, around boulders

Sunlight

Prefers full sun. Will live in partial shade at the expense of blooms

Hardiness

US zone 3-9 and hardy in most parts of the UK.

Water & Feed

Drought tolerant once established. Aubrieta prefers neutral or lime soil – there’s no need to fertilise

Companions

Can be grown alone in hollowed out walls or as groundcover and infill around taller spring plants such as tulips

Planting

Plant in autumn or spring in neutral or slightly alkaline, free-draining soil. Avoid damp or soggy growing media

Flowering

March, April and May

Aubrieta with bellis perennis button flowers
Aubrieta with tulips

The Best Aubrieta Varieties

There are over twenty varieties of aubrietas to choose from but based on my experience and testing over the years, here are my three favourites:

Red carpet aubrietia – Also known as “rock cress red carpet”, I’ve seen this grow up to 10cm tall with a spread of around 30-40cm with deep red blooms from April to May. This aubrieta is a popular compact variety perfect for rockeries and along paths and patio edges.

Purple cascade aubrieta – As the name suggests, this variety is perfect for growing over walls and large boulders where it can trail up to 60cm. Expect an abundance of small blooms from late April into May.

Whitewall gem aubrieta – A popular choice for gardeners looking to fill rockeries; whitewall gem produces a cushion of evergreen leaves and, for several weeks each spring, a carpet of tiny, light-purple blooms.

How to Grow Aubrieta

I asked qualified horticulturist Elizabeth Smith to answer questions about aubrieta for our readers:

How Does Aubrieta Arrive?

I’ve grown aubrieta from seeds but most gardeners I know purchase plugs and then divide or propagate them to create more plants in the future.

Where is the best location for aubrieta to thrive?

Aubrieta is my number one choice for growing in crevices, walls and in gaps between boulders in rockeries. You’ve probably seen aubrieta before as it’s a popular spring plant.

I’ve also seen it used by gardeners as an infill under taller spring plants, such as tulips.

I avoid growing it in full shade or damp parts of the garden as it has a reputation for struggling there.

Is aubrieta hardy? Will it survive the winter?

Aubrieta is winter hardy in all parts of the UK and in US zones 4-9.

This plant may lose some of its leaves in colder parts of the UK but here in my Surrey garden, it bounces back in the spring.

Is aubrieta evergreen or deciduous?

While technically an evergreen, aubrieta may lose some of its leaves and stems in the cold winter but will recover in the spring.

What soil conditions are best for aubrieta?

Aubrieta prefers neutral or slightly alkaline soil that is normal, sandy or chalky but always free-draining.

I’ve always added quite a bit of grit to borders and pots to aid with drainage, which I feel is crucial for aubrieta to thrive. Covering the soil surface with grit can also help to keep water away from the neck of the plant – I’ve been told by an experienced horticulturist that this is an area that aubrieta prefers to be kept dry.

From what I can tell, this plant likes moisture but not standing water or boggy soil conditions.

When and how should aubrieta be planted?

Aubrieta can be planted from autumn to spring, but potted plants should be kept indoors and hardened off in the spring.

I usually grow the plugs in a mix of multi-purpose compost, sand and grit with an additional layer of grit on the surface.

I usually space the plugs 15cm (6″) apart, and I thin them out as/if required when the plants mature.

Which pests and diseases affect aubrieta?

Aubrieta is largely pest and disease-free and easy to grow once established in a suitable spot. I’ve never experienced any issues with either in the years I’ve been growing it.

When does aubrieta flower and how long for?

My aubrieta flower for several weeks in the spring, usually in March, April or May.

Are there any special water and fertiliser requirements?

I’ve never felt it necessary to apply fertiliser to aubrieta but in pots and borders, a layer of leaf mould, once per year in the spring could be of benefit.

Once established, there are no special watering needs, although plants in dry walls and hot, full-sun locations may benefit from a once-a-week deep watering.

Is aubrieta toxic or harmful to humans and pets?

While not edible, aubrieta isn’t particularly poisonous to household pets or humans.

Aubrieta Trailing Aubretia 'Katie Blue ' Perennial Plug Plants x 6
Aubretia Trailing Aubrieta Katie Mixed Plug Plants x 6 Perennial Rock Cress
Aubrieta Trailing Aubretia 'Katie Blue ' Perennial Plug Plants x 6
Aubretia Trailing Aubrieta Katie Mixed Plug Plants x 6 Perennial Rock Cress
Aubrieta Trailing Aubretia 'Katie Blue ' Perennial Plug Plants x 6
Aubrieta Trailing Aubretia 'Katie Blue ' Perennial Plug Plants x 6
Aubretia Trailing Aubrieta Katie Mixed Plug Plants x 6 Perennial Rock Cress
Aubretia Trailing Aubrieta Katie Mixed Plug Plants x 6 Perennial Rock Cress

How to Care For Aubrieta After It’s Finished Flowering

While I’ve found aubrieta to be an easy plant to grow and it certainly produces an abundance of small blooms in the spring, it does need a little care and attention after flowering:

Aubrieta Pruning

I’ve noticed that aubrieta can form a hollow, bare crown if not pruned at all or not pruned correctly.

According to the experts I’ve spoken to, pruning should be done in the spring or early summer, immediately after flowering. I’ve been told it’s best to cut back evenly to a small mound but not into the woody stems.

Pruning should never be done in the autumn, winter or early spring as the plant may not flower the following year.

Clear Away Debris

If grown in pots or borders, clear away any organic matter from the base of the plant, as aubrieta hates soil, compost or similar collecting around the base of its stem. If possible and practical, add a layer of grit to the top of the ground just under the plant. I’vebeen told that the stem of the plant should be kept away from pooling water.

Root Division

I’ve divided aubrieta several times without issue to create new plants or free up space. The best way is via root division, and when I’ve done this, my aubrieta has always recovered well.

Stem Propagation

I’ve been told that aubrieta can also be propagated via stem cuttings in late spring or autumn and overwintered in a mild location, but I’ve never tried this myself.

The Best Companion Plants For Aubrieta

I think that aubrieta looks stunning as an infill under taller spring plants such as tulips, daffodils and alliums, but I’ve also seen it successfully combined with other low-growing plants to create a carpet of colour.

5 Pro Tips For Growing Aubrieta – By An Expert

I asked our resident qualified horticulturist, Elizabeth Smith, to come up with 5 pro tips for our readers:

  1. Aubrieta hates soggy soil, but more specifically, it hates water pooling near the base of the stem. So add grit to the compost and an extra layer to the surface – this helps keep the drainage sharp.
  2. Pruning or a lack thereof will either make or break your aubrieta. Always prune just after flowering to a neat mound but never into woody stems and never in autumn or winter.
  3. There’s no need to fertilise, but leafmould dug into the soil once per year can help potted or border plants.
  4. Aubrieta prefers full sun or a bright spot but will survive in the shade at the expense of some blooms.
  5. If overcrowding is a problem or you want more plants, just divide at the roots – aubrieta usually recovers quickly.

Elizabeth Smith – qualified horticulturist

Problem Solving

My aubrietas are generally trouble-free, but here are some solutions to common problems I’ve heard of:

Not flowering: The soil may be too damp or not draining sufficiently. The location may also be too shaded.

A bare section in the centre of the plant: Not pruned, not pruned correctly or pruned at the wrong time. This could also be because the plant is very old.

Weak or ill-looking plant: Check water isn’t pooling near the centre of the plant, as aubrieta hates water here. May also be due to overly acidic soil, try testing the soil.

Our Expertise: Backed by a Qualified Horticulturist

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This guide was reviewed and fact-checked by qualified horticulturist Elizabeth Smith.

Explore: Elizabeth's profile and qualifications.

Meet The Author: Hannah Miller

Hannah is a keen gardener who grows organic fruit and vegetables in her Surrey garden and is moving towards a more sustainable lifestyle. 

She is also the proud grower of a dahlia and herb garden.

Hannah worked for the NHS for 12 years but also has a level 3 qualification in horticulture and is currently studying for her level 4.

More About Hannah Miller

Hannah Miller

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This aubrieta growing guide was published by DIY Gardening

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