I am planning to make a rockery down the end of my garden. The position is directly underneath two tall Leylandii. The soil there is poor and any moisture very quickly sucked out by the Leylandii.

The spot receives no direct sunlight - it is north facing (UK), and in the corner between two fence panels.

What plants can you recommend that would be suitable for a rockery in this position?

  • You are describing classic base-of-leylandii conditions - one of the many reasons they have gone out of fashion! I assume removal is out of the question (otherwise you'd be asking a different question) but is vigorous annual pruning to improve light a possibility? This might open up the options outlined by @bamboo.
    – winwaed
    Commented Aug 14, 2012 at 13:04
  • @winwaed: Thanks for the comment. I've pruned back the lower branches as much as I can to give the area more light. Removal is possible, but not desired- the leylandii give much wanted screening from neighbours.
    – Nicholas
    Commented Aug 14, 2012 at 13:18
  • I fail to see why everyone is so negative. Monterey Cypress, one of Leylandii's parents, co-exists naturally with rock plants. The key is building a root zone environment in which the rock plants can compete effectively with the tree's roots. Building a scree bed near the tree is one sensible approach. Unfortunately, I am not a good enough rock gardener to recommend plants, but there must some rock gardeners around who can point out good shade loving cliff plants. Otherwise, check out the classic, Rock Gardening by H. Lincoln Foster. Commented Aug 14, 2012 at 17:29
  • @Eric: Thanks for the comment. Do you (or others) think that any grasses might be suitable for planting under my leylandii?
    – Nicholas
    Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 9:09
  • Well, if anyone finds any rock plants that grow in deep shade in the UK, I'd be interested to hear about them - all I can come up with is Campanula muralis, which is invasive, plus the ones I already mentioned. As for grasses, no, they need sun - sedges and rushes will cope with shade, but need damp soil.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 10:31

3 Answers 3


Sorry, Nicholas, but the answer is not good - rockery plants, if you mean a proper rockery rather than just a bed with a few rocks dotted about, are usually alpines. Alpines grow in dry, rocky/scree, open situations, with full exposure to sunlight, and none of them will do well in a shaded area. That then means you're stuck with plants which only do well in dry shade - so one or two ferns, maybe some Lamium varieties, Vinca, Hypericum calycinum, none of which are 'rockery' plants as we know them. The latter three are, or can be, invasive, so if you were going to use those, you'd not particularly want them where you can't reduce or weed them out.

There is also the question of how close to the leylandii you wanted this rockery to be - the soil level which currently exists around the base of the trunks should be kept the same, so any piling up of soil/rocks will need to be done further away from those.

If three feet away is not an option either, loose lay a few slabs and stand pots on them and plant into those with whatever you want - summer bedding in summer (lobelia, fuchsia, busy lizzy, begonia, pansy all tolerate shade well) or use much larger pots and put the plants mentoned in the update section in those instead. Means you have to water regularly though.

UPDATE: Anything you plant should be a minimum of 3 feet away from the base of the trees - have a look at Mahonia aquifolium, Ruscus, Prunus Otto Luyken, Lamium maculatum White Nancy or Beacon Silver, the latter two for ground cover. All will need watering till established though, particularly the shrubs mentioned.

  • Thanks for the answer. Ideally I'd like to cover the unattractive area under the leylandii with a rockery and add plants that would survive under the conditions. Placing the rockery further away from the base of the leylandii really isn't an option for me - it would intrue too far into the main area of the garden. Perhaps the solution is simply to forgo the rockery and just use those plants that you suggested.
    – Nicholas
    Commented Aug 14, 2012 at 13:23
  • Er, sorry Nicholas, my added bit of info has appeared before the UPDATE part, should be below it.. hope it makes sense.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Aug 14, 2012 at 15:02
  • Thanks very much indeed for the added information and suggestions. Planting in pots is an interesting alternative.
    – Nicholas
    Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 9:06

Leylandii are well known to discourage things growing around their bases. Think of the good news: no weeds!

Why not plant something in-front of the "dead zone" surrounding the base of the leylandii and that grows a couple of feet high, hiding the dead area? Some nice annual flowers, perhaps? Or some of the larger heathers? If you choose some distinctive heather colours, these could contrast well with the leylandii.


there are many plants that will thrive in both shade and rockery environment. Acaena, Granny's Bonnet, Bellflower et cetera. They will be beautiful and they will have no problem with handling the rockery without having full day of direct sunlight. There are lists with such rockery plants for shade online, you just have to do a bit of research. Since you're here, asking, I will simply point you to one such list.

The author of this one is a professional gardener I know personally, so it is credible. Glad I could help, Best regards, Rob

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.