How To Build A Rock Garden

A Garden Without Human Efforts

A Rock Garden- a-rock-garden
A Rock Garden

A rock garden has such an appeal. These gardens look so natural like no human efforts were involved as long as it is constructed in the right way. Rock gardens can be of any size and shape but the gold is to design your rock garden in such a way that it will be pleasing to the eyes looking all-natural.

My Personal Story

I have a personal story to tell about these gardens. Several years ago I made the suggestion to my then manager to install one of these gardens which he agreed. The place where this rock garden was to be constructed was at our international airport. I was more excited to get this projected underway than any of the crew members which was assigned to work this project with me.

I was also given the responsibility to oversee this project which was a real task. The area that was chosen was a large area which was in the public’s view so to install a garden in this area would make a major impact bringing that much-needed flavor. So what we did first was to come up with a plan of action such as

  • The size of the garden
  • The Design
  • Soil Type
  • Plants
  • Rocks
  • Rock placement

We will be looking at this plan of action in detail as we go down the list

The Size

1. The first thing to be considered is the size. This is so important because the decision or design of your rock garden will be influenced by the size. Now I know for some this may not be that important seeing that a rock garden can be of any size but the thing to remember is that a rock garden is not a rock garden without the rocks that’s why it is called a rock garden.

If the space you are working with is small then choosing the right size rocks for that garden size is so important. What you don’t want is to use large rocks in a small garden because these rocks will overpower your small rock garden taking up most of that much need space to work with because your plants need to occupy parts of that space and besides this will look odd. Rocks of varies sizes can be used but these rocks should never be overpowering. The rocks that are chosen should complement each other and the size of your garden.

The design

2. Just as a rock garden can be of any size these gardens can be designed in so many ways. Again what you want is a design that looks natural but at the seem time creates interest. I have seen so many rock gardens over the years and those designs were really great giving such flavor and a restful feeling that really impacted the landscapes.

Don’t get stuck here nor overthink this process just go for it and let those creative juices flow as you connect with nature in such an awesome way providing a home also for wildlife with these gardens.

 Soil type

3. When it comes to soil type to use in your rock garden it all depends on the type of plants that you want for your garden. We will be looking at this more in-depth in step four.

Type of plants for your rock garden

4. The plants that we used in our rock garden project were drought-tolerant plants ( plants that requires very little water to survive). Depending on which plants you are using will determine the soil type. For example, you would not want to use soils that retain water and install drought-tolerant plants such as cactus, bromeliads, etc.. because your plants will die from root rot.

Cactus and bromeliads love well-drain soil such as sandy soils. Most rock gardens at one time were designed with drought-tolerant plants to give that natural look but for the past several years garden designers have been using different species of plants which brings that flavor and gives that WOW. So A very important rule to remember the soil must compliment the plants.


5. We touch on this a bit earlier and that is using the right rocks for your garden. The rocks that are chosen should complement your garden, these rocks should also be of varies shapes. The different shapes will create interest and give that all-natural look. For example, some rocks can be round, flat, and so on. The goal is to give your garden a natural look which will create interest.

Proper placement of rocks

6. When placing rocks in your garden, place them randomly just as they appear in nature. Rocks should not be placed on a straight line this will take away from your design. Some rocks should be placed at the rare some at the front, in the middle and on the sides. To make your job a little easier just go on a nature walk and observe the natural laying of rocks. This will give you an idea.

How my team created a beautiful rock garden

Creating a rock garden is not difficult at all it takes is some imagination some planning and you are set to go.  Don’t overthink this just relax and let your creativity flow.

1. First, we laid out the plan, envision what you want.

2. Next, we had to clear the area of debris.

3. After the debris was cleared we leveled the existing soil, also it is good to put down weed fabric. This material will keep weeds down making your job of maintaining your garden much easier.

4. Then we brought in the topsoil. Because the plants that were chosen were drought-tolerant plants we brought in sandy soils. This soil was evenly spread and leveled.

5. Next came the rocks and trust me because of the size of this rock garden the rocks that were chosen was heavy and a bit huge but of varies shapes.

6. These rocks were placed randomly or set in place like no human efforts were involved.

7. Next, we added the plants and installed them so they looked natural as if they grew there. Some of the plants that were used were Agaves, ornamental grasses, mother in law tongue and a few others. Because you have placed the weed fabric down you will have to use scissors to cut out the fabric where the plant is to be installed.

Once you measure the size of fabric to use, cut or remove that piece of fabric with your scissors dig the hole and install your plant. The piece of fabric that is removed should be a bit larger than the plant root ball so when comes time to water the water will make contact and be absorbed into the soil.

The end result

The project took several days but it was worth the effort. In the end, it was a success and really brought that area to life for both the staff and visitors to enjoy.

Good advice

The good advice that I want to share with you is when seeking to choose plants it is good to go with plants that are low maintenance because these plants will save you time and labor cost. Plants of this nature require very little water, maintenance such as grooming and the pest problem is low. Using this type of plants is a win-win for you. Just thought I might throw that in.


Here is a list of a few drought-tolerant plants that work well in a rock garden

  • Lantanas
  • Agaves
  • Sage
  • Verbena
  • Portulaca
  • Saxifraga
  • Aubrieta

The final word

Building a rock garden is not as hard, as mention earlier these gardens are really amazing and will stand out in the landscapes. So if you haven’t thought of building a rock garden then why not give it a try or probably you may have given it some thought but still not sure if these gardens can give that WOW, trust me they can and you will be happy that you made the investment which will pay off. With that said let’s get started on that rock garden as you take your landscape to the next level.


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About the author

+ posts

Norman loves being in the garden, both at home and for his job....
he is 'Natures Little helper' being outdoors, growing his vegetables and flowers from an early age.
Now having spent over 22 years in the profession he want to give some of his knowledge to others...
his vast array of hints and tips you will find scattered over this site will help you no end growing plants in your garden.

14 thoughts on “How To Build A Rock Garden”

  1. Hello again, Norman. I really like your blog!  I enjoyed reading your other post about growing allspice so much that I couldn’t help looking at this other post of yours about building a rock garden. 🙂 You make this sound so easy, really! I am very visual and would love to see some photos of that rock garden you and your team built at the international where you were working. Any other photos of rock gardens you could share to get my inspiration started would really be helpful! Thanks!! Nathalie

    • Hello Nathalie so good to hear from you again and thanks so much for your kind words. So happy That I could help and I will do my best to get these pictures to you. Wishing you all the best and have a good day.

  2. This site has really been posting something awesome,informative,educative about garden and I’ve been enjoying it even decided to follow their guidelines,but I’m not aware of this rock garden,i will confess I’m seeing this for the first time and I wish I can give it a try. Trying something new to me and different.

    • Hello Lok and thanks so much for those kind words and your support. Rock gardens are really great and makes such a great impact so giving these type garden a try is so great and both you and your family will love it. All the best with your project and have a good day.

  3. I love to tend to my little backyard. The summer is right around the corner and I stumbled to your post. This is great, I am going to give this little project a try over this coming spring. Do you think I can grow Agave in NY? I guess since it is a tolerant plants it will be really nice with the rocks in the back yard. Great post!

    • Hello again.It is so good to hear that you are going to give this type garden a try. Agave will work, well how do I know that because the rock garden that was designed by both my team and my self has several of them that is doing just fine so agave will work well. All the best with your garden project and have a good day.

  4. wow what a great memory you must have if building such a beautiful rock garden in your previous work. I must say I have a small garden and have to think hard on what to put on it. But for sure a rock garden would go so well with what my wife and have done already. Thanks Kenny 

    • Hello Kenny, having this type of garden is pretty amazing and do work wonders. I am so happy that I could help. All the best to you and have a good day.

  5. Hi!

    I came across a very interesting article. Building a rock Garden seems to be not a simple task. If one is having interest definitely it will make it easier. You have given your experience as to how to make a bigger rock garden. Your effort and interest should be appreciated. Now, After reading your article I started thinking of building a small rock garden in my backyard.The choice of drought-resistant plant is a very good Idea. Can we build an indoor rock garden with a smaller size?

    Thanks for a wonderful article.

    • Hello so nice to meet you and I am so happy that I could help. It is possible to build and indoor rock garden but  much thought must go into where will it go, will the area be getting sufficient sunlight are you planning on using containers or do you have a space for and atrium to bring in the soil, all these things must be consider or provided first before you can move ahead with your indoor plans for a rock garden. Hope this helps.

  6. I love the idea of a rock garden! One of the best things about it that you mentioned was that it looks natural, like no human effort was involved. That is the best kind of garden to me as nature does a pretty great job of being beautiful all by itself. I also like them in combination with drought resistant plants. Good on you for beautifying a place where you don’t normally expect to see something visually pleasing. Airports can be places of high stress, but I bet your garden is relieving that every day! 

    • Hello, rock gardens are so amazing and can bring that much needed flavour I love these type of gardens because they look so natural. The rock garden that was installed at the airport looks so great and to think that, that area was just and area with trash now it is cleaned and the rock garden that was installed there is doing great.

  7. Rock gardens are usually a wonderful sight to behold, especially when built with lots of attention to details so as to recreate nature. They can also create a relaxation area with the presence of wild flowers, trees and recreation benches .(large stones can be improvised into sitting areas for relaxing in the cool of the day).

    Do you think that other plants such as small daffodils, blue eyed grass, wild tulip species or creeping plants can be used in making rock gardens? 

    • Good to meet you zuchii and thanks so much for responding. Rock garden are so amazing and the good part is you can include different type plants as look as thet are drought tolerant. So happy that I can help and wishingyou all the best of success.


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