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How to Make a Rockery Garden – All in One Guide!

Creating a rockery garden is a lovely way to add an exciting centerpiece to your backyard or homestead. Rock gardens are also relatively easy to plan once you know how to make them. But – how do you make a rockery garden?

When I first looked into making my first rock garden, I thought I was in for weeks of work! But it only took a couple of days.

In this rock garden guide, we’ll reveal all – including the following rock garden tips.

Here are simple steps to follow to make a lovely rock garden in your yard:

  1. Plan out your rockery and mark off the area with string and pegs
  2. Prepare the area by taking out weeds
  3. Put your landscaping fabric down 
  4. Start placing your stones 
  5. Mix compost and plant your flowers

We’ll also discuss some of the most vital rock garden nuances like the following:

What equipment will you need to build a stunning rock garden? What plants can grow in full sun rock gardens – and what if you have a shady garden?

I will go through all of this and more in this article to help you create your perfect rock garden!

Read More – How to Stop Weeds From Growing in Your Rockery Garden! – Step by Step Guide!

How to Make a Rockery Garden

To make your own rockery garden, start by planning out the area with string and pegs. Prepare the area by removing weeds and putting landscaping fabric down. It’s now time to lay out your rocks! Mix compost or topsoil to fill the gaps and start planting your plants.

We’ll go into making your rockery garden in detail, step-by-step below!

rock garden proper drainage
Remember that no two rock gardens are alike! We advise letting your creativity run wild when planning your rock garden. Also – consider what natural materials you have to work with from the start.

Rock gardens are a fun DIY project to keep you busy, plus they add a nice dynamic to your garden. They give you something beautiful to behold as you enjoy your yard, and they can be a place for relaxation, depending on which rock garden style you choose.

Before you get started on your rock garden, I have created a list of the materials and equipment you need for creating your lovely rock garden.

The equipment you will need is a spade, a wheelbarrow, pegs and string, a trowel, and a crowbar. You probably already own most of these tools, while you can attain the rest at a gardening store or online from Amazon.

The materials you will need include rocks, topsoil, a good amount of rubble, landscape fabric, compost, and plants. Further on in this article, I have listed a few plants that will work well in your rock garden.

Now that you know and understand what you need to create your rock garden – let us go through the steps to make it.

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Step 1: Plan Out Your Rockery 

drought tolerant rock garden with succulents cactus
Don’t judge a rock garden by the number of rocks! More important is the layout, the design, and the functionality of your arrangement. The more healthy your plants and shrubs are – the more successful your rockery! Who says you need countless dozens of rocks? Not us!

Before you begin to build your rockery, you need to do some planning.

I found that a walk in my garden helped with this step, as I was able to judge my rock garden’s size better, and it gave me a sense of what my rock garden could look like, so I would recommend you do the same.

First – decide on the perfect place in your garden for your rock garden. Make sure it is a place you can get to without fuss and that it’s an area that you can see from your house or patio so you can always enjoy the peaceful sight of your rockery garden.

You’ll also want everyone to see your rock garden! You can show it off because, with the amount of work you will put forth, you will want people to see it. No doubt!

Once you have found the perfect spot, you should mark off the area to give you an idea of how big the rock garden will be. Doublecheck to ensure you are happy with the garden size as it’s easy to fix now, but it will not be later. 

Also – consider your forecast. I found it was easier starting my rock garden after a good rain, as the ground was easier to manipulate. 

Read More – How to Xeriscape on a Budget – Save Water!

Step 2: Prepare the Rockery Area 

Now you are ready to prepare the area for your rock garden. You need to remove any weeds from the garden area entirely as they can become a big problem in your rock garden later.

If you have many weeds, I would suggest using a weed killer first to help you with this part of the process.

If you find any uneven patches in the ground, try and even them out into gentle slopes. Once the weeds are gone – and the soil is now somewhat even, you can add a layer of rubble across the area of your soon-to-be rock garden.

This layer of rubble will help with drainage, and it will help support the rocks you are going to place over the ground.

The layer of gravel is a critical part of building a rock garden, as having good drainage is key to creating and keeping a healthy rockery!

Step 3: Put Your Landscaping Fabric Down 

After you prepare your rock garden, you can now put down a layer of landscaping fabric over the layer of rubble. This layer of landscaping fabric will help prevent weeds from growing gaps between the stones you place down later.

I found that letting the landscaping fabric be slightly slack over the ground and letting the landscaping fabric form the shapes and slopes of the ground made the rest of the process easier.

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Step 4: Start Placing Your Stones 

white and brown pebbles for rock garden
If you don’t have the budget to hire a heavy-hitting mason to bring you or arrange large stones, then adding a short stack of pebbles and rocks can bring immense levels of life to your rock garden. Small pebbles go a far way!

Now that the foundation of your rock garden is complete, you can begin the fun part. Start putting down the stones for your garden. The best way to begin this is to start with the most impressive rocks you have.

These rocks are your keystone rocks!

You need to place these rocks across your rock garden; I found that putting these keystone rocks on the tops of the slight slopes makes them stand out more and look like mountain peaks, which can look beautiful.

Remember to place them facing different directions, as this will help create a microclimate in your rock garden. This microclimate will help protect the plants in your rock garden from any bad weather and keep them healthy.

Bed these keystone rocks with some small stones and soil to keep them in place.

Choose some of your other stones to create a small outer wall for your rock garden; ensure they are not too big that you cannot step over them. Then bed these wall stones with soil and some smaller stone too.

Once these stones are in place, you can now fill the gaps with some small rocks. But, I advise leaving openings in these small rocks. That way – you have space to make a bed to plant your plants.

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Step 5: Mix Compost and Plant Your Flowers

Now you can mix some compost for your plants to be bedded in. I found that the best mixture for this is horticultural grit, weed-free topsoil, and either coir or leaf mold mixed in equal quantities, but you can use any compost you are comfortable using. 

When you have mixed your compost, place it into the gaps you have left in the smaller stones, you can also use this compost mix to fill any crevices you see between any rocks.

Compost mix will also give your rock garden a more put-together and natural look.

Now, you can settle your plants!

Ensure the plants are firmly bedded into the compost and water them with a generous amount of water to help them establish better.

You can then add a handful of gravel or girt over the compost to help improve drainage and make the plants look like they have settled in the stones of your rock garden.

The natural placement of plants adds to the aesthetic of your rock garden. All that is left to do is enjoy your new rock garden!

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Plants for Rock Gardens in Full Sun

succulent rock garden backyard
Most homesteaders love to arrange their rockery so that it receives as much sun as possible! Here’s another lovely rockery stuffed with a variety of succulents and flowering cacti. Perfect for a sunny spot in your yard!

Rock gardens excel in a location of your garden that is in full sun. For these rock gardens, you need to have the right plants that can not only survive the heat but can thrive in it.

I have put together a carefully thought-out list of some plants that are perfect for your full sun rock garden.

Yellow Alyssum

yellow alyssum for rockery garden
Yellow Alyssum is a gorgeous flowering plant for your rockery garden!

The Yellow Alyssum is a low-growing plant that spreads effortlessly, so you do not need to plant many; it will fill the space as it grows. This plant develops clusters of small yellow flowers in April and May.

Yellow Alyssum is a plant that can survive in poor soil, and it is also drought tolerant.

Blue Fescue Grass

Blue fescue grass is an ornamental grass that has blue-tinted foliage and produces yellowish-green flowers.

This plant produces its best foliage when planted in full sun, and it generally grows to a spread and height of one foot.

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Candytuft 

iberis sempervirens
The stunning snow-white flowers of the Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens) make a huge impact in your rockery garden!

The Candytuft is a beautiful plant that produces lovely snow-white flowers in mid-spring. Even though this plant is breathtaking, and its petals form a lovely pattern, it does not have a pleasant aroma.

So, this plant can tolerate drought conditions and is gorgeous to look at; maybe plant it in the back of your rock garden – so you do not get the smell.

Pasque Flower

pasque flower rockery garden
The Pasque Flower has gorgeous bell-shaped flowers and is perfect for your rockery garden

The Pasque Flower is a clump-forming, low-growing plant that blooms early in the spring.

This plant blooms lovely bell-shaped flowers that add a nice color to your rock garden. They are hardy plants and can handle some light shade if necessary.

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Plants for Rock Gardens in Shade

beautiful backyard rock garden
Your rock garden doesn’t have to be the front and center of your yard – if you don’t want to! Rockery gardens also look beautiful in the corner of your yard. Or alongside your pathway, or even adjacent to your patio, shed, or garage.

Even though rock gardens work best in the sunniest parts of the yard, sometimes this is not possible, and you have to make your rock garden in a half-shaded or completely shaded area of your garden.

The location of your rock garden is not an issue to lose too much sleep over – and will only affect the types of plants you can plant in your rock garden. I have created a list to give you some examples of plants that I found to work well in shaded rock gardens. 

Trillium

The Trillium is the trinity flower! Trillium has three leaves and three petals on the flowers when they bloom, with three sepals. These plants bloom a lovely white, yellow or red flower in the spring and are perfect for shady areas in your rock garden as they prefer shade.

Hostas

Hostas are a hardy perennial plant that is pretty versatile. This plant comes in several colors and sizes, and they work well in most climates and conditions as they can handle shade very well.

Hostas plants produce a very delicate flower in the summer; these flowers can be lavender, white, or pink.

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Coral Bells 

Coral Bells are a plant that thrives in partial shade but can also handle full shade pretty well. These plants have tall stems that produce small pink bell flowers at the end.

These plants can add color to your rock garden, and they can attract hummingbirds if they live in your area.

That, for me, is always a plus!

Astilbe 

Astilbe plants are shade-loving perennial plants with fern-like foliage and showy blooms on top of the plants.

These plants can thrive in areas of your rock garden where other plants cannot grow, and they add a nice bit of color that is always pleasing to the eyes.

Rock Garden Ideas With Images

If you are having issues deciding what type of rock garden you want to create in your garden, then look at a few of these ideas that I have put together to help get your mind and creative juices going.

Japanese Style Rock Garden

japanese rock garden meditation
Japanese maple trees are one of my favorite trees for rock gardens! They add a majestic feeling of peace and calm that’s difficult to find elsewhere.

Japanese rock gardens are all about zen and relaxation. They a filled with soft colors and small bushes that trim into almost any shape. You can even add in a lovely water feature to create a calming atmosphere.

Water Style Rock Garden

lily flower rock garden
If you have a body of water, creek, or drainage ditch in your backyard – adding some strategically-placed rocks can be the best way to transform your backyard into a paradise.

Water-style rock gardens are rock gardens that include a little body of water, like a small pond, in the rock garden. Adding water to your rock garden can add an exciting dynamic to your rock garden if you place it well and add the right plants.

Succulent Rock Garden

succulent and rock garden art
If you live in a temperate area, succulents are some of the most interesting plants for your rock garden. They look breathtaking – and will assuredly earn compliments from your friends and neighbors!

A lot of my homesteading friends ask me how to decorate their rock garden if they’re xeriscaping. If that’s the case – I recommend succulents and cacti plants. Both are famous for retaining water. The more you have, the merrier!

FAQ About Rockery Gardens

There are some frequently asked questions that keep popping up whenever I talk about creating rock gardens. So, I will answer these in this section to give you more information – so you are 100% ready when you build your garden.

Rock Gardens Made Easy!

Building and creating a rock garden can be an enjoyable process and gives you a good sense of accomplishment when it’s complete.

Rock gardens also offer a lovely centerpiece to your garden that can be interesting for all to see! They are a fun way to make your garden your own. Good luck creating the perfect rock garden for you!

Also – let us know if you have any rock garden questions – we’re happy to help you brainstorm.

Thanks again for reading!

Read More – 13 Spectacular Flowering Cacti and Succulents!

Author

  • Jack of all trades, master of some. Wild garden grower. Loves creating stuff. From food forests and survival gardens to soap and yoghurt. A girl on a farm with two kids and one husband (yep, just one - although another one would be handy). Weirdly enjoys fixing fences and digging holes. Qualified permaculture teacher and garden go-to.