After months of dreary landscapes, Aubrieta’s vibrant purple flowers bring welcome color to the April garden. The diminutive blossoms have four petals arranged in a cross, with a clump of yellow stamens in the center. In early spring, they bloom enthusiastically, completely hiding the low growing mats of evergreen foliage. The plants only reach six to twelve inches tall but they can extend as far as two to three feet wide.
Also known as Rock Cress and Lilacbush, Aubrieta is native to southern Europe, which provides a hint as to its cultural requirements. Situate in full sun. Well-drained soil is a must, as plants will turn yellow and die if the roots are constantly wet. A gravel mulch retains moisture, keeps down weeds, and encourages new seedlings. Provide regular watering the first year; older plants can tolerate a bit of drought. Shear after bloom to encourage a repeat performance. These perennials are hardy to zone 4.
Aubrieta is ideally suited for the rock garden, where it won’t be overpowered by more aggressive neighbors. The purple flowers contrast vividly with yellow basket of gold, which blooms about the same time. Conversely, the gray leaves of snow-in-summer provide a soothing complement. Aubrieta may also be used as a small-scale groundcover, perhaps planted under early bulbs such as species tulips or miniature daffodils. Try it in the front of the garden, as an edging, or spilling over a low retaining wall.