Increasingly, many of us are starting to recognise the benefits of creating a green roof. Easy to maintain and stunningly attractive, a green roof also supports abundant wildlife and can even have an insulating effect on a structure.
Green roof plants need to be chosen with care, however, as not all plants are suitable for growing in this way. When choosing plants for a green roof, they need to be able to withstand wind and frost, be drought-resistant, tolerate living in poor soil, and be maintenance-free. Green roof plants should also be attractive and offer food and shelter for wildlife. With all this in mind, here are ten of the best green roof plants to choose from.
Gold sedum – Sedum Kamtschaticum
A honeybee enjoys feeding from the flowers of Sedum kamtschaticum
Sedums are one of the star plants for creating a green roof, and a sedum roof needs no extra growing medium. As well as affording excellent ground cover, this hardy, easy-to-maintain plant grows happily in a shallow layer of substrate, minimising the amount of pressure it puts on a structure. The gold sedum produces stunning yellow flowers that attract insects and will light up any roof.
White stonecrop – Sedum album
When viewed en-mass, the flowers of Sedum album look like swathes of candyfloss
Hardy and easy to grow, this sedum is a mass of mat-like stems and leaves, producing eye-catching, star-shaped white flowers in summer. Thriving in thin, dry soil, white stonecrop needs little maintenance, making it a perfect choice for a sedum roof. Growing low to the ground it offers excellent cover, insulating a roof and providing food and shelter for wildlife.
Widow’s cross – Sedum pulchellum
Sedum pulchellum flower head is made up of lots of tiny pink star-shaped flowers
In conditions where many other plants perish, the widow’s cross thrives. Incredibly hardy, this drought-resistant sedum is a favourite for any green roof. With its delicate pink and lime green flowers, this intensely attractive, wildlife-friendly plant brings a sedum roof alive with colour throughout spring and summer.
Meadow saxifrage – Saxifraga granulata
The snowy white flowers of Meadow saxifrage appear early in the year.
From April until June, this perennial plant is covered in snow-white blooms. The green, kidney-shaped leaves contrast with the white of the flowers, creating a stunning visual display. Growing up to 50cm, meadow saxifrage provides volume to a green roof, and contrasts beautifully with low-growing plants. Preferring full sun and well-drained soil, this grassland plant is rich in nectar and pollen, so offers plenty of food for bees.
Two row stonecrop – Sedum spurium
This bumblebee is feeding from Sedum spurium. A lovely flower that blooms from late summer into autumn
Thriving in well-drained, poor soil, the two row stonecrop is a tough ground cover plant, perfect for a sedum roof. With a mass of green succulent leaves, the plant produces clusters of star-shaped flowers in vivid pink and red throughout summer. Succulent leaves retain water, so this plant offers excellent fire protection for a rooftop compared to grass covers.
Birdsfoot trefoil. A native wildflower that is invaluable for bees
Often found growing in lawns, this low-lying plant is part of the pea family and produces a mass of yellow flowers in summer, which then develop into seedpods. Ideal as a green roof plant, birdsfoot trefoil is rich in pollen, so a favourite for bees and butterflies.
Often found living in pots indoors, Sempervivums or houseleeks are surprisingly hardy and ideal for green roofing
Also known as sempervivums, these evergreen, alpine plants are incredibly hardy and can even survive growing in bricks or rocks. Ideal for a green roof, houseleeks are eye catching, with their mass of rosettes and spiral foliage bearing attractive flowers in summer. There are many varieties of houseleek, with the cobweb species being one of the most popular.
pinky-white yarrow flowers growing amongst lady’s bedstraw and maiden pinks
Easy to please and sweet-smelling, yarrow produces clumps of white or pink flowers and is a favourite choice for a green roof. Attractive to wildlife, yarrow has medicinal properties and can be eaten. When choosing a wildflower such as yarrow for your green roof, bear in mind that you may need at least 100mm of growing medium to support it, which can increase the weight. Wildflowers may also need watering during dry spells.
Sea thrift, seen here growing on a cliff top, is well adapted to the harsh conditions of a green roof
Often found in coastal areas and favouring dry, sandy soils, sea thrift is well suited as a green roof plant. A grassy plant producing long stems of pink or white flowers in summer, at its prime sea thrift can look stunning growing on a roof.
Mediterannean herbs are usually well suited to the conditions on a green roof
Found growing throughout the Mediterranean, oregano thrives in well-drained soil and requires little maintenance. Used on a green roof, it can add new meaning to creating a herb garden. Providing excellent ground cover, it produces attractive pollen-rich flowers that insects adore.
Two green-roofing products that make planting easy
Many of the plants featured in this article appear either in Enviromat sedum matting or in Meadowmat Roofmeadow. Click on the links below to find out more about these easy-to-install vegetation blankets or watch our video on how to make a green roof with Enviromat sedum matting.
How to make a green roof with sedum matting
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