How to Grow Saxifraga Plants

Guide to Growing Rockfoil, and Saxifrage

Members of Saxifraga are hardy perennials.

The type of Saxifraga grown in gardens are usually rosette plants that can reach from 10 to 30 cm (4 inches to 12 inches) in height.

The time of blooming is species dependent, ranging from the end of spring through to autumn.

Saxifraga cotyledon
Saxifraga cotyledon by digital cat.

They usually have small white, pink or red flowers.

Some common names for members of this genus include Saxifrage, Rockfoil, Mukdenia, and London Pride.

Commonly Grown Saxifraga Species

Saxifraga arendsii: Mossy saxifrage

Mossy saxifrage
Saxifraga arendsii cv. Touran White photograph by Andrey Zharkikh; CC.

Saxifraga granulata: Meadow saxifrage

Meadow saxifrage
Saxifraga granulata photograph by Andreas Rockstein; CC.

Saxifraga oppositifolia: Purple Saxifrage, Purple Mountain Saxifrage

Purple Saxifrage
Saxifraga oppositifolia photograph by Harald Groven; CC.

Saxifraga stolonifera: Creeping saxifrage, strawberry saxifrage

Creeping saxifrage
Saxifraga stolonifera cv. 'Cuscutiformis' photograph by Peter Stevens; CC.

Saxifraga paniculata: Alpine saxifrage, Silver saxifrage, Lifelong saxifrage

Alpine saxifrage
Saxifraga paniculata photograph by Andrea Biondi; CC.

Common Garden Questions about Saxifrages and Rockfoils

What is Saxifraga?

Saxifraga is a large genus of predominantly perennial plants that are native to the Northern Hemisphere. They are commonly referred to as Saxifrage or Rockfoil plants.

Due to the large amounts of species in this genus (440) there is a large variation in both form and lifecycles.

In addition to their use as an ornamental garden plant, some species have culinary use, with both leaves and flowers being used in tinctures.

Plants typically have rosette leaves at their base, but these may be succulent, needle, or even hairy. These leaf forms help the plant to preserve water through reduced rates of evaporation.

From the rosette shoots an inflorescence, which typically carries a cluster of single flowers.

Saxifraga flowers usually have five petals. The large number of species and cultivars means that there is a large variation in petal color, including white, red, yellow, and pink.

What is a good location in the garden for Saxifraga?

Saxifraga are often used as an attractive ground cover plant in sunny and partially shaded areas. Their small size also makes them ideal for use in Rock gardens an din old walls.

St. Patricks Cabbage

Some species, such as Saxifraga umbrosa (St. Patrick's Cabbage), have very attractive leaves that look great as part of an alpine garden. Photograph by Drew Avery; CC.

How tall are Saxifraga plants?

They are typically low-growing spreading plants, reaching heights of about 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 inches), but some species can reach 30 cm (1 foot) in height.

When do Saxifraga bloom?

Typically in Summer, but with 440 species it is not surprising to learn that some species bloom in mid-spring, while other do not come into flower until August.

Do Saxifraga come back every year?

Most commonly grown Saxifraga plants are hardy evergreen perennials, so should flower year on year.

How to Grow Saxifrage and other Saxifraga

When growing Saxifraga plant species from seed it is probably easiest to sow outdoors in flats in the spring.

First the seeds should be sown into flats (lightly cover the seeds) then imbibed by placing the flats in a black bag, then placing in the fridge for three weeks. The flats should then be sank into a shady part of the garden and covered with glass.

Germination should take from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Transplant the seedlings into their final location as they appear; this should be a fully or partially shaded part of the garden that has good drainage.

Ideally the soil that they grow in should be gritty or sandy, and both moist and cool. The plants should be spaced at 10 cm / 4 inches (small), 25 cm / 10 inches (medium) or 40 cm / 16 inches (large Saxifraga varieties) apart.

Caring for Saxifraga

It is easy to look after Saxifrage and related plants. They like a moist soil, so keep well watered during dry periods. If you require more plants, then use the root runners that they produce for propagation.

Saxifraga Growing and Care Guide

  • Common Names: Rockfoil, Saxifrage, London pride, Strawberry Geranium, Mukdenia.
  • Life Cycle: Hardy perennial. Evergreen.
  • Height: Low growing up to 12 inches (30 cm).
  • Native: Northern hemisphere. Mountainous/glacial areas.
  • Growing Region: USA Zones 3 to 10. Hardy in UK (H4).
  • Flowers: Species dependent: Late spring through to autumn.
  • Flower Details: White, red, pink. Small. Five petals. Large genus, so much variation e.g., Saxifraga stolonifera has pointed petals, whilst Saxifraga rivularis has a more rounded petal.
  • Foliage: Succulent. Hairy. Rosettes (at end of runners). Oblong to ovate. Creeping.
  • Sowing: Cover seed. Germination time: two weeks to two months. Spacing 4 to 18 inches (10—45 cm).
    Method 1: Seeds should first be sown into flats in the autumn. Next sink the flat into the ground in an area that offers shade, preferably close to a wall that faces north. Provide a glass/plastic covering. Keep an eye on the flats to ensure that the soil remains moist. Bring the flats indoor at the beginning of spring and keep at ~70°F (21°C). Transplant seedlings outdoors following the last frost.
    Method 2: In the spring, sow seeds in a moist growing medium in flats, wrap in a large plastic bag, then stratify by refrigeration for three weeks. Next bury the flat as described above. Once seedlings emerge transplant them to their final location.
  • Requirements and care: Partial or full shade, will not tolerate midday sun. Good drainage, especially in the winter. Moist, sandy/gritty soil. Keep soil cool. Add lime. Regular watering during the summer to maintain moist soil. Propagate: from root runners.
  • Family: Saxifragaceae.
  • Closely Related Species:Astilbe, Heuchera, and Micranthes.
  • Miscellaneous: The scientific name describes the plant’s medicinal ability to break kidney stones – Saxum (rock) and frangere (to break). Flowers of many species are edible, e.g., Saxifraga oppositifolia has semi-sweet petals.

Mukdenia picture
Mukdenia is closely related to Saxifraga and belongs to the same family: Saxifragaceae

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Saxifraga plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Fringe cups and Bergenia plants.