Rockin’ It! How to Design a Rock Garden

Got an uneven, sloped spot in your yard? Live in a hot, dry ‘hood? If you think you can’t create a beautiful garden, think again! Designing a rock garden (also known as an alpine garden) brimming with native plants, swaying grasses, dwarf shrubs and colorful low-growing succulents will add gorgeous texture and a commanding focal point to your landscape. It’s low-maintenance, plus, you’ll be creating a fabulous haven for bees, butterflies and other beneficial bugs! Here’s how to get started.

Need some inspiration? Take a hike!
Mother Nature always has great ideas when it comes to layout. Visit a national park, or hoof up a local trail and snap some photos of plants or rocks that appeal to you. Rock gardens can take any shape, and can include various elements, including flowers, foliage, ponds, or waterfalls.

Hunt for rocks
If you or your neighbors have some spare boulders, great! Some construction sites have piles of rocks available for free; take a drive in your area to see what you can find. If not, you’ll need to purchase stones from a dealer or garden center. Just be sure to use real rocks, not man-made ones, which can leak toxins into your soil.

Prepare your tools and materials. Grab some gardening gloves, a spade shovel and tools to turn the soil, sand, limestone or sandstone, and your rocks. Dig at least one foot into your soil wherever you want to place your rocks. Bury the largest rocks with their widest side in the soil. If your property is sloped, be sure to put them at the bottom of the garden. Don’t line them up neatly – you want it to look as if they’ve always been there. Place medium- and smaller-sized rocks randomly around the bigger ones. Let the rocks settle for a few days.

Ready for pretty plants?
First, add some sand and extra topsoil if needed. The best rock garden plants are drought-tolerant, low growing or mid-sized, so they don’t hide the rocks themselves. Boost your soil with compost and be sure it’s well drained; otherwise your plants will rot! Add sand to encourage better drainage. Check plant tags before purchasing that will thrive in your specific spot, whether it’s full-sun or mostly shade. Here are some ideal plants for your rock garden:
• Succulents
• Heuchera
• Ornamental grasses, like All Gold Japanese Forest Grass
• Verbena
• Dwarf irises
• Ajuga
• Pinks (Dianthus)

Now stand back and admire the view – you’ve just upped your property value!


Rock garden with green cascading plant
Photo Credit: patrick_standish via Compfight cc

One Response to Rockin’ It! How to Design a Rock Garden

  1. I have tried growing this plant a couple of different times in my garden but it has died each time. I am not sure what the problem is at this point since my garden meets the growing requirements mentioned in this article. Hmmm…I don’t know. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.


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