Without question, one of my favorite rockery perennials is the showy spring flowering Aubrietia. But, is it just a rockery perennial? Absolutely not, this is one spring flowering perennial that can be used in any part of the garden! It makes a great low growing perennial to use as a ground cover or in groupings or for spot color in landscape beds.
One of the most outstanding plantings I have ever seen was in Auburn, Washington where the home owner combined Aubrietia with the white flowering Candytuft; pink creeping phlox; and the yellow basket-of-gold in a slightly raised mound, in their front garden.
In England, in a home garden, I saw Aubrietia used as a ground cover at the base of roses. The Aubrietia flowered before the roses, over-lapping the first blossoms. Then after the Aubrietia was through flowering the home owner, took his rotary lawn mower, raised it to the highest setting and mowed over the top of the plants, giving them a light haircut. He told me, by doing this the plants would often flower again later in the summer. It didn't seem to hurt the plants to walk on them to prune the roses; feed them or pick them. And, at the same time, the Aubrietia plants helped to suppress weed growth around the roses bushes. Since Aubrietia is not prone to insect or disease problems, the planting seemed to be completely compatible. In the England, as in the northwest, the foliage of Aubrietia is evergreen, it provides year-round cover. What a great use for this outstanding perennial that has a reputation of only being a rockery perennial.
Aubrietia only grows about six inches high and may grow several feet in width. When it's used in rockeries the plants may cascade over the rocks for up to two feet or more.
Among the most popular varieties are 'Whitewell Gem' with attractive purple flowers; 'Red Cascade' a deep crimson red; 'Novalis Blue' a nice lavender blue; and 'Silver Queen' which is best known for its variegated green and cream colored foliage, spring flowers are lavender. It may be difficult to find them offered by named varieties, as many nurseries sell un-named varieties. If that's the case, be sure to choose them when they are in bloom, so that you get the choicest colors. Aubrietias flower so prolifically, that the blossoms almost completely cover the foliage below.
Aubrietia will grow in just about any location in the garden. However, they flower best when planted in full sun or part sun and shade. Avoid planting them in deep shade, as they tend to get a little leggy and do not flower as prolifically.
Light shearing after the plants have blossomed, encourages a much bushier, denser growth habit. This light shearing sometimes stimulates the development of additional flowers later in the summer, so you end-up with a second flowering from the plants.
They are not really fussy plants and will grow well in practically any well-drained soil. However, it's a good practice to mix generous quantities of organic humus into the soil at planting time. Peat moss; processed manure (the bagged stuff); or compost are excellent additives when mixed with your planting soil. Be careful to set the plants right at ground level.
A light application of an all-purpose liquid fertilizer, applied on the foliage, right after flowering is beneficial, if needed. My experience is that Aubrietia is an easy to grow perennial, that seldom requires much attention, except for a grooming each season.
STARTING NEW PLANTS
I find this a difficult perennial to divide, especially as the plant matures. So you can take summer tip-cuttings of mature growth or new plants can easily be started from seed. Start the seeds indoors in February or outdoors, sown directly into the garden, in summer or early fall.
Whether you use Aubrietia in a rockery; as a perennial ground cover or for spot color, you'll really enjoy its early spring color.