The alpine saxifrage fills cracks in dry stone walls and decorative stone troughs. Here are tips to help this delicate rosette cushions grow in your garden as well.
Profile of alpine saxifrage:
Scientific name: Saxifraga paniculata
Plant family: saxifrage family (Saxifragaceae)
Other names: encrusted saxifrage, lifelong saxifrage, lime-encrusted saxifrage, livelong saxifrage, White Mountain saxifrage, silver saxifrage.
Planting time: spring or autumn
Flowering period: May to August
Location: sunny to partially shady
Soil quality: loamy, calcipholous, moderately nutritious, low in humus
These information are for temperate climate!
Use in: ground cover, grave planting, group planting, planters, area greening, rock garden, potted garden
Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 2 (-43 °C / -45 °F)
Bee and insect friendly: Yes
Plant characteristics and classification of alpine saxifrage
Plant order, origin and occurrence of alpine saxifrage
The alpine saxifrage or lifelong saxifrage (Saxifraga paniculata) is one of about 450 saxifrage species and is at home in many calcareous altitudes in Europe. In this habitat it colonizes rock crevices and alpine grasslands. Adapted to extreme site conditions, it is neither very dry nor freezing cold. Its fine roots find a hold in even the thinnest humus layers. It is loved by gardeners as well as by mossy saxifrage (Saxifraga arendsii). It belongs to the saxifrage family (Saxifragaceae).
Characteristics of alpine saxifrage
Like an evergreen, hemispherical cushion, the alpine saxifrage lies densely on the stony ground. It grows 30 centimeters (12 in) in width and grows 5 to 20 centimeters (2 to 8 in) high.
The evergreen, bluish leaves of the alpine saxifrage form densely pressed rosettes. They are succulent, fleshy and can store water. Their thick epidermis protects them from sunlight and evaporation. At the leaf edges, the encrusted saxifrage actively excretes calcareous water to break down excess lime. What remains are white-gray scales that lightly line the tongue-shaped leaf contours.
From May to August, the saxifrage pushes upright, 20-centimeter-high stems from the leaf rosettes. These are often spotted red and carry terminal, tufted flower panicles. The flowers are white with yellow centers, sometimes cream or pink. Pollinating insects find a lot of nectar in them. If the racemes wither, the leaf rosettes die, but this is not a problem for the plant, because it has formed enough daughter rosettes by then.
By September, capsule fruits can ripen, which contain very small seeds.
Alpine saxifrage – cultivation and care
Alpine saxifrage thrives in sunny, but prefers partially shady locations.
The soil should be permeable, mineral and calcareous. Then the plant stays in place for many years.
The best time for planting is in spring or autumn. But do not place the alpine saxifrage deeper in the soil than it was in the pot. For use as ground cover, plant about 25 to 35 plants per square meter (10 sq ft).
Care / Watering / Fertilization / Pruning
Alpine saxifrage is undemanding and very frost hardy. There is no need for watering, fertilizing or pruning. You can cut off withered stems after flowering, if you like.
To propagate or rejuvenate the plant, dig it out in spring and always separate several rosettes together.
The alpine saxifrage propagates primarily vegetatively, forming new leaf rosettes on short runners.
Diseases and pests
Waterlogging can cause the succulent leaves to rot at the bottom.
The alpine saxifrage is very hardy down to -43 °C / -45 °F. There is no need for any measures for overwintering.
Use in the garden
The alpine saxifrage fits in the rock garden, in dry stone walls and stone troughs, where you can combine it with, for example, cobweb houseleek (Sempervivum arachnoideum) and gnarled roots. You can also plant it on small roofs like on the garbage can house. Or you can use it as ground cover and to border the flower beds. It is also increasingly used for ornamental grave design.
There are several varieties, whose flowers vary in size and color and which have differently sized leaves and differently shaped rosettes. Saxifraga paniculata ‘Rosea’ flowers bright pink. ‘Baldensis‘ captivates with blue-grey leaves. Both flowers are white. ‘Portae‘ is also available in miniature format, and its rosettes are distinctly encrusted with lime. ‘Minima‘ and ‘Minor‘ form tiny rosettes when flowering white.