Easy-care alpines


Karen Murphy explains why now is the perfect time to plant an Alpine container

Sea thrift

Sea thrift


Alpine plants are easy to grow and if you pot them into a container now you’ll reap the rewards later. Old Belfast sinks or stone troughs are ideal – they’re a good size and deep enough to allow for plenty of drainage. Otherwise, cheaper stone-effect troughs from garden centres, or a shallow plastic container, will work – just ensure it has drainage holes.

I’ve planted sea thrift for its pink flower clusters in spring and santolina ‘Green Fizz’, a hardy bushy evergreen with yellow summer blooms. Chiastophyllum looks good with its red-tinged foliage and green Sedum acre ‘Aureum’ foliage will produce sprays of yellow flowers in summer and autumn. Add a small conifer for height – liquid feed in spring will set it on its way.

There’s a wider range if you grow from seed and now’s the perfect time to start as many alpine plants use the cold to break their dormancy. Fill a seed tray with John Innes No.1 and a bit of grit to improve drainage. Water, then sow seed thinly, followed by a thin sifting of compost. Place in a cold frame or in a sheltered spot. If the seeds don’t come up in six to 12 weeks, pop your seed in a fridge for about a month as they may take a while to appear.

Our pick of the best alpine plants



A delicate and pretty spreading pelargonium-like plant. It will only ever reach about 45cm (18in) tall.


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Alpine dianthus will only reach 15cm (6in) at the most. It comes in a range of pinks, whites and deep crimsons.



It might look dainty and delicate, but the evergreen lewisia is hardy. It reaches about 25cm (10in) tall.

Step-by-step to a perfect alpine garden

1  Put a covering of grit or gravel in the bottom of your container to help with drainage. 

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2  Fill two-thirds with John Innes No.2 compost and a little horticultural grit for better soil.

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3  Decide where you want your overhanging plants, then tuck them all in and fill up with compost.

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4  Finally, add a layer of gravel for a neat finish and to keep all low foliage off wet soil. 

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