Trough gardens present challenges because the plants must be small and grow slowly so you don't have to replace them often. Use a mix of alpine plants, succulents and herbaceous perennials in a trough garden for variety and effectiveness.
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Crocuses, with their 4- to 6-inch height and early habit, are suited to trough gardens. Miniature dwarf bearded irises do not exceed 8 inches, according to the Dwarf Iris Society of America. Both add perennial colour without overgrowing your container.
Plant fragrant herbs such as 4-inch tall lemon thyme. Pulsatilla vulgaris (Pasque flower) is a long-lived 9-inch perennial with purple flowers. Hardy Armeria maritima reaches a height of 10 inches.
Miniature conifers grow less than 3 inches a year. Arbor vitae "Tiny Tim" and Chamaecyparis obtusa "Gold Sprite" are two globe-shaped choices. Norway spruce "Little Gem" forms a 1-foot mound.
Rock Garden Plants
Four-inch ajuga "Chocolate Chip" and plox subulata are prostrate creeping plants. Coreopsis auriculata "Nana," which grow about 6 inches, and 8-inch Dianthus "Tiny rubies" provide floral interest. Primula species have basal leaf clumps of up to 5 inches producing flower spikes from 3 to 18 inches.
Small succulents such as lithops grow 4 inches tall. Sempervivums and echeverias are tough 3- to 8-inch tall plants with many leaf shapes and colours. Some cultivars have leaf rosettes up to 12 inches across.
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- Colorado State University Cooperative Extension: Trough Gardening
- Virginia Cooperative Extension: Container and Raised-Bed Gardening
- Dwarf Iris Society of America: About the Dwarf Iris Society
- Pacific Bulb Society: Spring Blooming Crocus
- American Rhododendron Society Massachusetts Chapter: Garden Conifers
- Cactus and Succulent Society of New Zealand: Lithops
- Iowa State University Extension: Hen and Chicks: Leaf Shapes, Textures and Colors
- The Scottish Rock Garden Club: Interesting plants with Cultivation Tips
- The Scottish Rock Garden Club: Utrecht Botanic Garden:
- Colorado State University: Rock Garden Plants