Planting and Maintenance

Many alpine plants are relatively low maintenance and easy to look after. Growing the plants in the right conditions will give them a good start and help prevent any problems. This includes either providing a suitable compost or good ground preparation.


When you receive your alpine plants carefully unwrap them from the packaging. We transfer the plants into compostable cardboard plant pots for delivery, to avoid single use plastics.  They will be alright for several days in these, but they are not long term pots. Give the plants a good water and stand in a cool shaded place after their journey. 

When planting in open ground, prepare the soil well, incorporating materials such as horticultural grit for drainage as necessary. Set out your plants in the desired positions. Even if you have made a planting plan for the plants, they often need moving around to find the best positions. Consider how tall the plants will grow and how spreading they are. Although none of the alpines reach a great height, you still need to consider height when arranging them, and how they will look with the other plants. Also think about when they flower and their colours. You may want a bed that has interest for a particular season, or you may wish to have something that provides different interest throughout the seasons. 

When you are happy with the positions of the plants, use a trowel to dig a hole that will comfortably fit the plant. Should you be planting in an established bed, make sure the individual area for the plant is well prepared beforehand. The depth of any top dressing to be added afterwards must be considered for the depth of planting. You do not want to plant too deep so that the foliage is covered with grit or gravel when spreading this afterwards. The plants don't want to be too high either, otherwise the roots will dry out.  

Carefully remove the plant from the pot. We pot on regularly and use square pots to encourage the roots to go down, so you should not have any problems with roots circling. However, some may be more vigorous, so check whether any roots need gently teasing out. Place in the planting hole and firm in with your hands. After top dressing as required, water in well around the base of the plant.

Top dressing

A layer of mulch should be applied after planting, and topped up in subsequent years as necessary. For many alpines horticultural grit, gravel or stone chippings are all suitable. We use horticultural grit in individual pots.

This layer of grit is beneficial in many ways. It provides good drainage and prevents foliage from sitting in water and rotting. Many alpines are low growing with rosettes or cushions of leaves, so it is better to provide some sort of stony layer for them to sit on. It prevents the soil or compost from drying out underneath, particuarly useful in some of the hot dry summers we are having. A further benefit is preventing both soil compaction and erosion. When there is heavy rain it will prevent the soil from being washed away and splashing over the small plants.

A further important benefit is that of aesthetics - the plants are set off beautifully by the right stone, grit or gravel, and different effects can be achieved with contrasting colours and varying sizes of stones. Some of the neat dome shapes of alpines are set off beautifully by a top dressing of horticultural grit, gravel or stone chippings.




As the plants are small it is especially important to make sure they don’t get overrun with weeds. However, as the area of alpine beds is generally small, this is not a difficult task, and gives the opportunity to enjoy looking at your plants in detail. 

A mulch of stone chippings or grit will help keep the weeds down, and make them easier to pull out. When the weeds are small they can easily be pulled out by hand. A small hand fork can be used to carefully remove larger weeds. Always try and remove the weeds when they are small, as with this example between the stones. It is easy to pull out now, but harder when the roots get established underneath stones or in the middle of plants.


Dead-heading is especially important for many plants to encourage them to keep producing flowers. When the flowers have gone over, cut them off carefully at the base of the flower stalk. Plants such as Lewisias, Armeria and Primulas will benefit from regular dead-heading. This will help them to put their energy into producing more flowers. Some produce lovely seed heads, so leave the old flowering stalks on plants such as Pulsatilla. Also leave the seed heads on if you want to collect the seed and sow them to produce more plants, or allow to self seed where they are growing. Plants that are cultivars will not necessarily come true to type from seed. 

Some alpines are monocarpic. When individual rosettes of sempervivums flower, the rosette dies when the flower goes over. Remove this dead rosette and flowering stalk when it is over, and allow new side rosettes to grow back into the space left.

Removal of any dead, damaged or diseased material as soon as you notice it is always important. 


One great advantage of alpines is that they do not require a lot of watering. However, all plants should be watered in after planting and in prolonged times of drought. Take especial care that they do not dry out in the first few weeks after planting, until they have had a chance to establish new roots. This is particularly important if you are planting in the summer months. Most container plants may be planted all year round, in correct conditions, however, it is never advisable to plant in dry soils, and extra watering will be required if planting in drier seasons.

Some alpines have a dormant season when they need to be kept relatively dry.  These include Rhodohypoxis which need to be kept dry over winter