How to Make a Simple Rock Garden


A rock garden structures space and adds a pleasing, low-maintenance yard feature. A simple rock garden design can echo nature, providing an area of tranquility. A rock garden without plants, or incorporating drought-resistant plants, saves water and labor. Rocks offer a range of colors and texture, allowing you to evoke a creek bed, a desert, an alpine trail, a zen garden, a beach or almost any natural or designed setting you prefer. The space you have available and the rocks you choose can guide your design.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Rocks of various sizes
  • Plants (optional)
  • Potting soil (optional)

Basic Rock Garden

  • Arrange the rocks in a pleasing design. For instance, place a group of five large rocks in the back corner of the yard and set up groups of three medium rocks in a random pattern around them.

  • Fill in the area with smaller rocks, gravel or coarse sand. Raking the sand in patterns gives a zen garden effect; gravel acts as a weed barrier.

  • Add height to your simple rock garden by creating a mound of earth for a hill, or use a hillside on your property to embed rocks in. Dig a hole a third of the height of the rock and make sure to seat the rock firmly so that it will remain in place. This gives a natural look to larger rocks in a rock garden. A rise of rocks works well for an herb or succulent garden or for small flowers.

Adding Plants

  • Pour soil between rocks to create natural clefts for growing plants. Make a small hole in the soil with your fingers. Plant a small plant or moss in the soil.

  • Press the the soil gently and firmly around the plant. Plant eye-catching or hanging plants near the top of the rock garden and shorter plants near the the base of the rock grouping.

  • Water the plants immediately. Moss gardens work best where there is at least partial shade and plenty of moisture. Succulents make a good choice for a low-water garden.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use rocks in colors that add contrast to your yard. For example, if you have a pale-colored house, use dark-colored rocks such as red and black lava rocks. If you have a dark-colored house or a lot of dark brick in your landscaping, use some light-colored rocks.
  • Combining rocks with different colors and shapes adds interest to a rock garden. For example, couple flat dark gray slabs of slate with pale oval rocks.
  • Gravel lasts longer than sand in areas with heavy rainfall.
  • Supervise children playing near a rock garden to reduce the risk of injury.
  • Get help if needed for moving large, heavy rocks. Bend your knees and use your legs, not your back when you shift rocks.
  • Lava rocks provide a dramatic addition to the landscape and are relatively light in weight due to their porous nature. They're safer for carrying up a hillside than dense, heavy rocks.

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