Aubrieta/ Arabis– Early Spring Essential

Aubrieta/ Arabis– Early Spring Essential

Aubri­eta and Ara­bis are two early spring bloom­ing peren­ni­als that BOTH go by the com­mon name of Rock Cress.  Both are ever­green peren­ni­als (foliage remains through the win­ter).  Both bloom pro­lif­i­cally in shades of white, pink, vio­let and pur­ple.  The major phys­i­cal dif­fer­ence between them is the size of the leaves.  Aubri­etas have a smaller, finer leaf while Ara­bis has a larger, more cut type of leaf. 

In gen­eral, the leaves on these plants are a generic green.  The early spring flower show is awe­some, a bit of green in the win­ter (assum­ing it isn’t buried under snow) is great too but it’s a lit­tle bor­ing through the sum­mer. I’m not a fan of bor­ing.  As a result, I gen­er­ally stick to the variegated-leaf vari­eties and thus enjoy 4 sea­sons of attrac­tive foliage and flowers.

Image cour­tesy Her­itage Peren­ni­als @

Var­ie­gated forms come with a green/white leaf form OR a green/gold leaf form.  all shades of bloom are avail­able on var­ie­gated vari­eties.  Glover Nurs­ery in West Jor­dan always has a good selec­tion of vari­eties, includ­ing the hard-to-find ’Red Var­ie­gated’ one above.  I have found that even the var­ie­gated plants will do just fine in full sun for me.  They are deer resis­tant and water­wise (mean­ing they are a lower water but not a no-water plant).  I use either of these plants as a ‘back­bone’ peren­nial in my mixed bor­ders.  What is a ‘back­bone peren­nial’?  Sounds like it OUGHT to be the sub­ject of another post! In short, it is a plant good enough to be repeated through the gar­den as a ‘uni­fier’.  You really can’t go wrong with either Aubri­eta OR Ara­bis– espe­cially the ones with great leaves!

This year I’ll be try­ing out the newest cul­ti­var of Aubri­eta– the Axcent series intro­duced by Syn­genta.  I have had the oppor­tu­nity to see these in per­son and the flow­ers are at least dou­ble the size of stan­dard Aubri­eta blooms (I even pho­tographed them but lost my pho­tos in a com­puter crash– you’ll have to take my word for it!)  One of our local grow­ers will be offer­ing them up this sea­son so keep your eyes peeled and get to the nurs­eries early if you want to snag some!  The grow­ers claim that it will bloom larger (it does) and over a longer period of time than other cul­ti­vars– which remains to be seen but I’m excited to experiment.

Rock­cress ‘Axcent Blue’- photo by Syn­genta (the com­pany that intro­duced this plant series).

Get your gar­den off to a lovely, early start.  Low grow­ing Aubrieta/Arabis are a great addi­tion to the front of the bor­der and will gen­er­ally bloom with your tulips in April/May. 

Related posts:

‘Blue Chip’ Minia­ture But­ter­fly Bush
Suc­cu­lent Top­i­ary Instructions/ Tutorial
Hang­ing Air Plant Terarrium

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