How to to build a rockery in your back garden

Updated February 21, 2017

Transform your back garden from a bland collection of everyday plants to something out of the ordinary. Plants and rocks complement one another naturally, yet introduce strong textural contrasts to your yard. Make your rockery or rock garden a realistic depiction of something you might find in nature or create a fanciful world all your own. When you add optional elements such as a wind chime or a water feature, you can make your rockery a destination where you and your guests will want to spend time.

Plot a layout of your rock garden on paper. Include as much detail as possible so that you will be able to identify and resolve problems before you have to move heavy rocks around to correct mistakes.

Choose a location based on the type of plants you want to include in your rockery. Locate your rockery in a sunny location for plants that require several hours daily of full sun as well as to mimic a rock formation on the top of a mountain. Select a shaded location to mimic the natural setting of rocks and plants in a wooded area.

Introduce some visually unifying element into your rockery either by selecting rocks that all come from one geographic region or rocks that are all the same size or shape.

Establish the rockery on a sloped part of your landscape to produce the most versatile arrangements.

Lay the rocks out in the pattern of your choice. View the set-up from the angles and distances from where you expect to view the finished project. Alter the rocks' positions until you achieve the look you want.

Spread 10 to 12.5 cm (4 to 5 inches) of fertile soil in the rock area.

Bury 1/3 of the majority of rocks in the earth to increase the overall stability of the rockery and to create a natural looking environment. Choose some of the rocks to balance against other rocks or to sit on the surface of the soil.

Place your plants among the rocks. Arrange plants that need faster and more thorough drainage at the top of the slope. Incorporate plants that prefer moister conditions at the base of the slope or at plateaus within your rockery.

Place fragrant plants near the edges of the rockery where you will have the best chance of catching their aroma when you visit your rockery.


Pay attention to the scale of your rocks and plants. Do not pair undersized rocks with large plants or the plants will overwhelm the rocks and you will lose the look of a rock garden.


Solicit help to move any heavy rocks or boulders.

Things You'll Need

  • Rocks
  • Plants
  • Soil
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About the Author

Lee Roberts has written professionally in different capacities throughout her career. She has written for not-for-profit and commercial entities since she received her Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University of Michigan in 1986. She is currently writing an extensive work of fiction.