Saxifraga cochlearis is native to a confined area north of Nice and Menton (Col de Tende - approx. 1900 m in altitude) in the Alpes-Maritimes, south of France. This plant thrives in habitats with chalky soils on rocks and escarpments. It has distinctive, spoon-shaped leaves, which explains its name from the Latin cochlearis for spoon. It was discovered by German-Swiss geologist, Johann von Charpentier (1786 - 1855) during a visit in 1827.
The horticultural variety Saxifraga cochlearis var. probynii = var. minor is a miniature form of the species. Its curved leaves, encrusted with limestone filigree, form a compact and hard rosette. The plant as a whole looks like a dense, attractively structured dome.
In June-July, reddish floral stems emerge from the centre of the rosettes bearing a dozen white flowers.
For alpine rockeries, troughs, crevices, alpine greenhouses.
Grow in a cold, well-ventilated spot, preferably in the sun in a gravelly, very well-drained, and neutral to alkaline growing medium.
Full name: Saxifraga lingulata subsp. cochlearis var. minor.
Saxifraga callosa var. cochleraris
Curtis's Botanical Magazine - vol. 109 - 1883
Src : Missouri Botanical Garden
Tips on growing crusted-leaved saxifrages
Most of the saxifrages growing in our gardens are native to European mountains. Some are endemic to a specific region, others are more widespread.
Overall, there are not difficult to grow as long as you respect their needs. You can get it wrong by having soil that is too compact, sticky or too damp for long periods. This can often be caused by inappropriate watering.
A very well-drained growing medium is essential. You can make up a mix as follows: 1/4 silty soil, 1/4 leaf compost, 1/2 filter sand (2-5 mm).
Silver saxifrages or crusted-leaved saxifrages form the biggest group grown in gardens. They are easily recognised by the lime incrustations on their leaves, which together form rosettes with silvery highlights.
They need neutral to alkaline soil. You can add lime to the mix as chalk, crushed shells or lithothamnium.
- Keep the base moist and the head in the sun.
In the garden they can be planted in an alpine rockery in cracks, on scree, squeezed in between two stones, in a trough or as specimen plants in an alpine greenhouse, grown in a flower pot pushed into a container filled with sand.
They all prefer a sunny or light-filled spot, but cold and well-ventilated.
- How to water saxifrages properly
Keep the root ball slightly moist by watering only occasionally from the middle of spring until the end of summer. A damp growing medium combined with summer heat will quickly lead to rot in the plant's collet. (The collet is the transition zone between the root and the stem.)
Severely reduce watering in autumn and until the middle of the following spring.
Do not water when the weather is damp or overcast. Avoid watering the leaves which will damage the plant. It's preferable to water around the plant.
In the nursery we grow our saxifrages in an alpine greenhouse in flower pots embedded in big containers filled with sand. Drip feeders are buried in the sand and keep it moist, providing regular water by percolation through the terracotta of the flower pots. This makes watering so much simpler!
Photo Credit: Le Clos d'Armoise, Wikipedia (www.fleurs-des-montagnes.net), Curtis 's Botanical Magazine (v. 109 - 1883)
Bibliography : The Book of Hardy Flowers (Thomas, H. H. 1915), Bulletin de la Société Botanique de France (V.7 - 1860), Flore des Alpes Maritimes (V.3 - 1892)
- 0,5L pot
- Hardiness zones : zone 7-10
- Height: less than 10 cm
- Plant spacing: 30 cm
- Flower colour: white
- Flowering period: spring flowers
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