Saxifrage, Rockfoil (Saxifraga arendsii)

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Plant Details

Category: Perennial
Light: Sun to Part Shade
Bloom Season: Spring, Summer
Height: 4-10" / 
10-25cm
Space: 10-12" / 
25-30cm
Zones: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Lowest Temp: -20° to -10°F / 
-29° to -23°C
Colors: Red, Pink, White

Basic Care

Does best in light, well-drained soil. Allow soil to dry between thorough waterings. Provide shade in very hot weather. Protect from excessive winter moisture.

Water

Allow soil to dry between thorough waterings.

Soil

Light, well-drained soil.

Feed

Slow release feed in spring.

creeping plants

Creeping

Ornamental Flower

Ornamental Foliage

rock gardens

Rock Gardens

Features

The arendsii species forms a dense carpet of low growing, deeply lobed foliage. Delicate, saucer-like blooms float above the foliage as spring gives way to summer. Perfect for softening and bringing color to dry, sandy or rocky areas.

Uses

Perfectly sized for rock gardens and border fronts. Tumbles beautifully over rocks, slopes, and banks. Makes a good small scale groundcover.

Saxifrage, Rockfoil (Saxifraga arendsii) Care Guide

Perennials can be planted anytime from spring through fall.

Prepare the garden by breaking up the existing soil (use a hoe, spade, or power tiller) to a depth of 12-16” (30-40cm). Add organic matter such as manure, peat moss or garden compost until the soil is loose and easy to work. Organic ingredients improve drainage, add nutrients, and encourage earthworms and other organisms that help keep soil healthy. Give plants an extra boost by adding a granulated starter fertilizer or all-purpose feed that encourages blooming (for example fertilizers labeled 5-10-5).

Check the plant label for suggested spacing and the mature height of the plant. Position plants so that taller plants are in the center or background of the landscape design and shorter plants in the foreground. To remove the plant from the container, gently brace the base of the plant, tip it sideways and tap the outside of the pot to loosen. Rotate the container and continue to tap, loosening the soil until the plant pulls smoothly from the pot.

Dig the hole up to two times larger than the root ball and deep enough that the plant will be at the same level in the ground as the soil level in the container. Grasping the plant at the top of the root ball, use your finger to lightly rake the roots apart. This is especially important if the roots are dense and have filled up the container. Set the plant in the hole.

Push the soil gently around the roots filling in empty space around the root ball. Firm the soil down around the plant by hand, tamping with the flat side of a small trowel, or even by pressing down on the soil by foot. The soil covering the planting hole should be even with the surrounding soil, or up to one inch higher than the top of the root ball. New plantings should be watered daily for a couple of weeks to get them well established.

Plan ahead, for plants that get tall and require staking or support cages. It’s best to install cages early in the spring, or at planting time, before the foliage gets bushy. Vining plants require vertical space to grow, so provide a trellis, fence, wall or other structure that allows the plant to grow freely and spread.

Finish up with a 2” (5cm) layer of mulch such as shredded bark or compost to make the garden look tidy, reduce weeds, and retain soil moisture.

New plantings should be watered daily for a couple of weeks. After that, depending on the weather and soil type, watering may be adjusted to every two or three days. Clay soils hold moisture longer than sandy soils, so expect to water more frequently in sandy settings.

Different plants have different water needs. Some plants prefer staying on the dry side, others, like to be consistently moist. Refer to the plant label to check a plant’s specific requirements.

Ideally water should only be applied to the root zone – an area roughly 6-12” (15-30cm) from the base of the plant, not the entire plant. A soaker hose is a great investment for keeping plants healthy and reducing water lost through evaporation. Hand watering using a watering wand with a sprinkler head attached is also a good way to control watering. If the garden area is large, and a sprinkler is necessary, try to water in the morning so that plant foliage has time to dry through the day. Moist foliage encourages disease and mold that can weaken or damage plants.

Thoroughly soaking the ground up to 8” (20 cm) every few days is better than watering a little bit daily. Deep watering encourages roots to grow further into the ground resulting in a sturdier plant with more drought tolerance.

To check for soil moisture, use your finger or a small trowel to dig in and examine the soil. If the first 2-4” (5-10cm) of soil is dry, it is time to water.

Depending on the flowering habit, snip off faded blooms individually, or wait until the blooming period is over and remove entire flower stalk down to the base of the plant. Removing old flower stems keeps the plant’s energy focused on vigorous growth instead of seed production. Foliage can be pruned freely through the season to remove damaged or discolored leaves, or to maintain plant size.

Do not prune plants after September 1st. Pruning stimulates tender new growth that will damage easily when the first frosts arrive. Perennial plants need time to prepare for winter, or “harden off”. Once plants have died to the ground they are easy to clean up by simply cutting back to about 4” (10cm) above the ground.

The flowering plumes and foliage of ornamental grasses create a beautiful feature in the winter landscape. Leave the entire plant for the winter and cut it back to the ground in early spring, just before new growth starts.

Perennials should be dug up and divided every 3-4 years. This stimulates healthy new growth, encourages future blooming, and provides new plants to expand the garden or share with gardening friends.

Incorporate fertilizer into the soil when preparing beds for new plants. Established plants should be fed in early spring, then again halfway through the growing season. Avoid applying fertilizer late in the growing season. This stimulates new growth that can be easily damaged by early frosts.

Fertilizers are available in many forms: granulated, slow-release, liquid feeds, organic or synthetic. Determine which application method is best for the situation and select a product with a nutritional balance designed to encourage blooming (such as 5-10-5).

Reduce the need to fertilize in general by applying a 1-2” (3-5cm) layer of mulch or compost annually. As mulch breaks down it supplies nutrients to the plants and improves the overall soil condition at the same time.

Companion/Combination Plants

4 Comments

  1. Paul Skinner

    I planted a Saxifraga x adensii and it flourished producing two flushes of yellow flowers, then in August especially mid August it slowly died. I planted it in one of those half round pots that go on a wall about 3”-4” diameter and just let rainwater do it’s job. Have I done something wrong or is that it’s life and it will come back next year? I look forward to your reply.

    Reply
    • My Garden Life

      Hi Paul,
      The best way to figure out what is going on with your saxifrage is to remove it from the container and inspect the roots. One thing they don’t tolerate is wet feet. Do your planters have drainage or does water build up in them? If you’ve been relying solely on rain for watering and have had some dry spells, then the opposite could be true, and the roots may have gotten too dry. At this time of year, even thought the flowering period is over, the foliage should still be present, so something does seem amiss.

      If you inspect the roots and they appear plump and healthy then you can just return the plants to the pot and water them back in. If they’re clearly dried up or rotted away, then obviously there’s a good chance the plants are already dead and won’t be returning next season. A word of caution if you live in a region with freezing winters – plants in containers hanging on a wall are especially vulnerable to root damage from freezing temperatures. If you’re growing perennials in a wall planter, even if they are doing well now, it would be best to take the planter down for the winter and put it in a location where it will be sheltered from harsh winter weather, such as a shed, garage, or along a fence or wall that blocks westerly winds. You could even mound mulch around the base of the pot for added protection if you are holding the planter over outdoors for the winter.

      Reply
  2. Steve

    Can I plant rockfoil in zone 5 when temperatures (late March/early April) still hit 30 F at night? I bought several in containers, and they’re flowering right now, but it’s still cold out. Should I plant them or keep them potted and inside until it warms up?

    Reply
    • My Garden Life

      Hi Steve,
      It would be best to wait until the ground is thoroughly thawed so you can easily dig planting holes and so that you can water in the new plants without worries of the water freezing. Depending on where your plants were purchased, and the conditions they were grown under, they also may not be hardened to the cold temperatures yet. If you can hang on for a bit until the danger of frost is passed, your new plants will have far fewer struggles getting established.

      Reply

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