Beautiful Back Yard Landscape With Stones And Evergreens

Landscaping Ideas To Help Build Your Rock Garden

Christa Ross7 mInute read time
July 12, 2021

Adding a rock garden to your yard is a creative way to add height and depth to a flat space. Incorporating a rock garden in your yard can even introduce the element of surprise. Rock gardens are low-maintenance and can range from a simple area cornered with gravel and motley pebbles or a large-scale project with many layers and aspects. Whether you want to make the most of an area in your garden or spice up your front or backyard, rock gardens are a great way to do so.

How To Make A Rock Garden: The Basics

Building a rock garden can be simple. First, you’ll need to gather the materials needed to complete this project. Then, locate land to use for your garden and clear off a section of that land. Next, determine a design or style for your rock garden. While preparing to make your garden, make sure you consider the color scheme, which will help you identify what plants to use in your rock garden. Something else to consider is how much space is available and if you are making a small, raised rock garden or a large, sprawling rock garden.

Gather Materials

There are some basic tools you’ll need once you’ve decided on building your rock garden. The tools and supplies necessary for this project are:

  • Shovel
  • Soil
  • Plants
  • Rocks
  • Tape measure
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Trowel

Locate Land To Use

The first step in building a rock garden is making or finding space in your yard to create one. Would you prefer to build it in the backyard to create a space to sit and relax, or do you want it in your front yard?

Once you decide on where you’ll be building your garden, you’re ready for the next step.

Clean Off The Area

Now that you’ve located the area in which you’ll be creating the garden, next, you need to clean off that section of land. If the ground you’re using to build your rock garden is covered in grass, you should figure out what you want to do with it. If the space is already clear, you can move to the next step.

The biggest thing you don’t want to happen to your rock garden is grass sprouting. This will make the garden hard to maintain. An easy solution to grass sprouting is digging up your grass, laying down your rocks or newspapers over the grass, and putting soil on top to hold the papers in place. The newspaper will cause the grass to decompose, and the newspaper will decompose without causing any damage to the garden.

Determine The Design

A good idea is to plan out exactly what you want to with your land and area. This is important so that you can avoid extra work. Your design project plan should entail physical labor, color schemes and plants to be used. Have a good idea of how you want your rock garden to look.

Choose The Rocks

Next, select the rocks you want to use in your garden. You can choose rocks based on what’s available to you at your local gardening or landscaping store. However, if you are going for larger boulders or rocks, you’ll need to contact stone suppliers.

Lay Down The First Layer

Now, lay down the first layer of rocks. This is essential to creating the elevated bed for your rock garden. Start by placing the bigger, less attractive rocks for the bottom layer. The initial layer provides the rock garden support for the other layers. Lay the rocks down in a circle or another preferred garden bed shape.

Add Soil

Now that the first layer of rocks is down, you can add in the soil. Rock gardens generally require a type of soil that has good drainage, like sandy soils. If you’re creating a raised rock garden bed, use a shovel to fill in the entire circular bed with soil. Otherwise, fill all the spaces in between your sprawling rock garden. You can walk on the soil to pack it down and help it settle.

Create Another Layer

Here’s where you really get to let your creativity flow. The second layer typically features smaller, more attractive rocks than the first layer and can be the best way to feature your favorite stones.

You’ll begin by making a second circle within the first circle, if building a raised rock garden bed. Your garden bed doesn’t have to be a circle, and it doesn’t have to be in the exact center of the first circle – get creative! Just make sure it’s a shape small enough to fit inside a bigger shape.

Make sure to leave space between the two shapes to grow plants inside this area and enough plant room within your second circle. This extra soil creates more layers and space for gardening.

Stones And Grasses In Rock Garden

How To Choose The Right Rock Garden Plants

Rock garden plants are typically smaller to complement the scale of the rocks. Make sure to choose plants that will thrive in your climate. Consider elements like color, texture, size and height. Think about which plants will look better closer together than others or if smaller plants look better on the first or second layer.

Some popular plants to consider include flowering thyme, phlox, sedums and perennials. These plants are perfect because they need a well-drained and not-too-rich soil.

Burros Tail Sedum In Rock Garden

Rock Garden Landscaping Ideas And Design

Before starting this project, you must figure out what the goal of your rock garden is. Will it just be an added aesthetic to your yard, or is it going to be used for meditation and quiet time?

Whether you want a large, expensive rock garden or something quite simpler, there are many landscape ideas and designs to choose from.

Japanese Rock Garden

Japanese Rock Zen Garden

A Japanese rock garden, often referred to as a Zen garden, uses rocks and gravel or sand to recreate the essence of nature. These beautiful gardens are intended to stimulate meditation and evoke feelings of peace and tranquility. Zen rock gardens symbolize parts of nature (such as the sand imitating water) and inspire deep meditative thought on the nature of existence. Before building a Japanese rock garden, it’s important to understand the meanings and intentions behind this landscaping style and to not appropriate its culture.

Colorful Rocks Or Motley Pebbles

Variated Stones In Rock Garden With Moss And Green Plants

Rock gardens feature a variety of rocks in different sizes and colors. Rocks included in your garden can be gray, tan, shades of blue or other colors. Motley pebbles are commonly used in small rock gardens.

Small Koi Pond

Koi Pond

Turning your rock garden into the perfect aquatic environment could be the best landscape design for you. A small koi pond can add tranquility and entertainment to your garden. The pond should have different stones and rocks that vary in size, and you could even install a fountain to make it more elegant.


Decorative Gravel With Boxwoods In Front Yard Of Modern Apartment

Gravel is often used for front and backyard paths, patios, and driveways, but it can be a great addition to your rock garden. Gravel can be used as mulch around plants, and it makes it easy to achieve a beautiful, yet practical, outside space.



Xeriscaping is the practice of designing landscapes to reduce or eliminate the need for irrigation. With xeriscaping, you would need to design your rock garden so that it requires little or no water beyond what it would naturally receive from the climate.

Vibrant Blossoms

Vibrant Flowers In Rock Garden With Winding Stone Path

You can add color to your lawn by incorporating vibrant blossoms in your rock garden. As mentioned earlier, blossoms such as flowering thyme, phlox, sedums and perennials make the perfect addition to a rock garden.

The Bottom Line: Rock Gardens Can Enhance Your Yard

Rock gardens can be a great way to bring style and add color to your lawn or yard. One of the most important steps of making a rock garden is planning before you start. The best rock gardens emulate nature and give a natural look to enhance your yard. You can even consider learning more about other alternative landscaping ideas, like building a rain garden, if you find that a rock garden isn’t the exact look you’re going for.

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Christa Ross

Christa Ross is a versatile student journalist with a passion for storytelling, blogging, digital media, feature writing, and reporting. Currently a Junior at Savannah State University, Ross enjoys traveling, serving in the GA Air National Guard, and spending time with her family.