The Ultimate Aubrieta Growing Guide

From ground cover to stunning, long trails – choose aubrieta to create an impact in spring

Part of our Spring Flowering Plants guide: By Daniel Woodley at DIY Gardening

Aubrieta is the ultimate trailing spring plant, often found cascading down walls, slopes or 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:

  • Perfect for growing in hollowed out walls where it can cascade.
  • A popular ground cover plant, ideal for covering the edges of paths and patios.
  • Often found in rockeries.
  • Perennial and easy to care for.
  • 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 here are our three favourites:

Red carpet aubrietia – Also known as “rock cress red carpet”, this variety grows up to 10cm tall and spreads 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

How Does Aubrieta Arrive?

Aubrieta can be grown from seeds but most gardeners purchase plugs and then divide or propagate to create more plants.

Where is the best location for aubrieta?

Aubrieta is often grown in crevices in walls and gaps between boulders in rockeries; you’ll also see it fill in the gaps between patio slabs and along edges.

It can also be used as an infill under taller spring plants, such as tulips.

It shouldn’t be grown in full shade or damp parts of the garden

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 will bounce 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.

Add grit to borders and pots to aid with drainage which 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 – an area that aubrieta prefers to be kept dry.

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.

The plugs can be grown in a mix of multi-purpose compost and grit with an additional layer of grit on the surface.

Plugs can be spaced 15cm (6″) apart and thinned 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.

When does aubrieta flower and how long for?

Aubrieta will flower for several weeks in the spring, usually in March, April or May.

Are there any special water and fertiliser requirements?

There is no need to apply fertiliser to aubrieta but in pots and borders a layer of leafmould, 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 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 aubrieta is an easy plant to grow and produces an abundance of small blooms in the spring, it does need a little care and attention after flowering:

Aubrieta Pruning

Aubrieta can form a hollow, bare crown if not pruned at all or not pruned correctly.

Pruning should be done in the spring or early summer, immediately after flowering. Cut back evenly to a small mound but not into the woody stems.

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

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.

Root Division

Aubrieta can be divided every few years to create new plants or free up space. The best way is via root division.

Stem Propagation

Aubrieta can be propagated via stem cuttings in late spring or autumn and overwintered in a mild location. Just start the stems off in moist compost and pot on once established.

The Best Companion Plants For Aubrieta

Aubrieta looks stunning as an infill under taller spring plants such as tulips, daffodils and alliums but it can also be combined with other low-growing plants to create a carpet of colour.

5 Pro Tips For Growing Aubrieta

Here are five tips for anyone wishing to grow aubrieta for the first time:

  1. Aubrieta hates soggy soil, but more specifically, it hates water pooling near the base of the stem. So add grit to regular soil or pot 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 just 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.

Problem Solving

Aubrieta is generally trouble-free but here are some solutions to common problems:

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.

More From Daniel Woodley:

This guide to growing aubrieta was created by Daniel Woodley here at DIY Gardening and was last updated in January 2022.

Discover more spring-flowering bulbs and plants here.

Daniel is a keen amateur gardener who also manages a large residential landscape in addition to his own mid-size garden.

He also enjoys growing vegetables and fruits as well as his herbaceous border and container garden.

More About Daniel Woodley

Danny Woodley

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This aubrieta growing guide was published by DIY Gardening

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