Gravel Garden Shrubs – Planting Shrubs In Rocky Soil

Shrub Planted In Rocky Gravel
gravel shrub
(Image credit: MMilda)

Not every backyard is filled with the rich, organic loam many plants seem to prefer. If your soil is mostly gravel, you can still develop and enjoy a beautiful garden by selecting appropriate shrubs. You may actually be surprised by the number of shrubs that grow in gravel. Read on for some great ideas on what shrubs grow in rocky soil.

Planting Shrubs in Rocky Soil

Rocky soil and gravel beds make quick-draining gardens but lack the nutrients many plants need to survive. Amending the soil is possible if you don’t mind the very long process. The other option is to find shrubs that grow in gravel. Fortunately, there are more than a few.

Many gardeners use their gravel soil areas to build rock gardens. Planting shrubs in rocky soil can create a garden for all seasons if you select the correct plants. Dwarf conifers add texture and interest all year long. You might try prostrate fir (Abies procera ‘Glauca Prostrata’), compact cedar (Cedrus libani ‘Nana’), compact spruce (Picea albertiana ‘Conica’), or compact Thuja (Thuja occidentalis ‘Compacta’).

Other Shrubs for Gravel Beds

While not everything will grow in rocky soil, there are advantages to this type of landscape. A gravel garden is low-maintenance and perfect for Mediterranean-style, drought-tolerant planting.

What shrubs grow in rocky soil? When you want shrubs for gravel beds, think of Mediterranean herbs like rosemary, thyme, and lavender. Most salvias also make great gravel garden shrubs.

If you’d like bright scented flowers in your gravel garden, consider including Euphorbias. These shrubs produce gorgeous blossoms and are also remarkably drought tolerant. The flowers of cultivar Euphorbia x pasteurii offers particularly wonderful scented blooms.

Phlomis make excellent gravel garden shrubs with their exceptional whirls of flowers that attract bees to your yard. Their extraordinary seed heads add interest in winter. If you’d like yellow flowers, try Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticose). For pink flowers, Phlomis tuberosa ‘Amazone.’

There is nothing like indigo blue to light up your garden. Ceanothus (also called California lilac) is a great option and nothing could be more low-maintenance. You can find shrubs big and small in this family, all with attractive foliage and star-power flowers. 

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.