Saxifraga fortunei

These shade-lovers form a jewel box of sparkly late flowers and foliage.


While asters and other blowsy blossoms, such as dahlias and chrysanthemums dominate the early days of autumn other, less well-known perennials can also help enliven the garden by flowering in September, October and sometimes beyond.

Saxifraga fortunei is an herbaceous perennial from Asia up to 40cm (15in) high producing clusters of rosettes clothed in rounded fleshy leaves, variously lobed and scalloped and often attractively patterned, textured and variously tinted.

If that wasn’t enough, airy flower heads, with narrow-petalled flowers of cruciform shape in white and shades of red and pink produce a miniature cloud or froth of long-lasting bloom.

They’re valuable plants too, as they prefer growing in sheltered, shady areas, in damp, but not waterlogged soil, with some of the more vigorous varieties tolerating drier conditions once established, making them ideal for north or east facing locations and beneath the canopies of trees, but they won’t thrive in poor, root-infested conditions.

They prefer soils containing plenty of organic matter, which also helps hold moisture if your soil is free draining. Avoid frost pockets, where early frosts can damage the flower display. They also do well in pots of multi-purpose compost, where less vigorous varieties can be allowed to develop. Do take precautions against vine weevil grubs which will undermine the plants, like they do with heuchera.

You won’t find them in every garden centre, but once you start growing them you’ll soon be searching out others to start your own distinctive collection.