Appearance

After months of dreary landscapes, Aubrieta’s vibrant purple flowers bring welcome color to the early spring garden. Each blossom has four petals arranged in a cross, with a clump of yellow stamens in the center. In full bloom, the flowers completely hide low growing mats of evergreen foliage, six to twelve inches tall and about two to three feet wide.

Cultivation

Also known as Rock Cress and Lilacbush, Aubrieta is native to southern Europe, which provides a hint about the conditions it prefers. Situate in full sun. Well-drained soil is a must, as plants will turn yellow and die if the roots are constantly wet. A gravel mulch retains moisture, keeps down weeds, and encourages new seedlings. Provide regular watering the first year; older plants can tolerate a bit of drought. Shear after bloom to encourage a repeat performance. These perennials are hardy to zone 4.

Garden use

Aubrieta is ideally suited for the rock garden, where it won’t be overpowered by more aggressive neighbors. The purple flowers contrast vividly with yellow basket of gold, which blooms about the same time. Conversely, the gray leaves of snow-in-summer provide a soothing complement. Aubrieta may also be used as a small-scale groundcover, perhaps planted under early bulbs such as species tulips or miniature daffodils. Try it in the front of the garden, as an edging, or spilling over a low retaining wall.

Article and photos by Leslie Holzmann, Certified Colorado Gardener

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