How to Make a Rock Garden No Matter your Skill

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No Matter Your Skill as a Gardener: You Can have a Beautiful Rock Garden

Rock and stones can help you create a beautiful garden: with just a few stones, with or without plants that grow in harsh conditions, you can create a beautiful garden even if you have a black thumb like me! Rock gardens can be elaborate and complex, suitable for master gardeners only, to people who have struggling growing plants. It is comforting to know how I – or you can definitely make a beautiful rock garden, even if it is just a tabletop Japanese zen garden. This lens will tell you how, and show you some examples of the beautiful results that others have obtained decorating their homes with stones.

Personally, I love my rock garden and have found that adding a rock from every vacation, place I work, school that I or my children attend, etc. is like having a little album in stone. I recently visited Sedona, Az and added some red rocks from there, and have some rocks from my parents home in Missouri.

Rock gardens are not barren of plants however, many flourish there – especially succulents.

Rock gardens beautify our homes and public places the world over. These lovely gardens from stone range from hauntingly simple Japanese zen gardens to elaborate stone gardens with elegant plantings and masonry like waterfalls and stonewalls.

This photo of a rock garden is from incredible gardens in Chandigarh, India – visiting here is definitely a bucket list item in my life.

Rock Gardens Tap into Crystal Magic

Crystals and gemstones are fascinating. Many people believe that there are special energies behind rocks, that certain stones can be used for healing others for protection or luck. That is part of the magic of birthstones.

I don’t know but I do feel a specialness around rocks – rocks that have been here since the Earth began and will remain even if the human race perishes.

I Love My Own Little Rock Garden

I love my own little rock garden. I try to dedicated corners of my yard for different rock gardens: this is my “Serenity Garden” based on the Serenity rock. I also love the shells, since I live by the ocean. Around Valentine’s Day heart-shaped objects are just perfect: from heart-shaped candy, heart-shaped jewelry to these Arizona heart-shaped red rocks. I purchased them off of eBay. Since my beloved sister Carolyn in heaven lived in Sedona, these are especially meaningful. I am sure she is smiling down from Heaven at the Sedona red rock.



Basics of a Stone Garden – Just a little Rock and a lot of Beauty

Large rocks will be the centerpiece of the rock garden of course. Some should be buried, so they look like they are growing out of the ground. Local stone adds a natural touch. In the garden you can place gravel, or broken stone, or even broken pottery to create a natural look. A friend of mine gave me a lovely angel plaque that broke, it now decorates my rock garden which is very forgiving. Natural stone, which a large boulder or small gravel is attractive and adds color and texture.

A dry stone path, especially with plants growing in it is a stone garden.

As you create your stone garden, you will start finding rocks everywhere. However, there are beautiful landscaping rocks available commercially. The Rainforest collection comes from pristine beaches throughout the world.

Rainforest  Large White Caribbean Beach Pebble 3 in. to 5 inRainforest Large White Caribbean Beach Pebble 3 in. to 5 inRainforest Large Mexican Grey Beach Pebble 3 in. to 5 in.Rainforest Large Mexican Grey Beach Pebble 3 in. to 5 in.Large Rectangular Stone Garden Border Path Mats - Set Of 4Large Rectangular Stone Garden Border Path Mats – Set Of 4Amgate 1 LB Miniature Fairy Garden Decorative Pebbles River RocksAmgate 1 LB Miniature Fairy Garden Decorative Pebbles River RocksAbbott Collection Micro Black River Decorative Zen StonesAbbott Collection Micro Black River Decorative Zen Stones

The Joyous Rocks of Ohio

Potlifters Make it Easier to Work on Your Rock Garden and Save Your Back

Gardening is hard work, but these potlifters make it much easier. I have featured different versions for different needs.

PotLifter 200-Pound Gardening Heavy Lifting Tool: Pick up Flower Pots, Rocks, PlantsPotLifter 200-Pound Gardening Heavy Lifting Tool: Pick up Flower Pots, Rocks, PlantsShoulder Dolly 2-Person Lifting and Moving System - Easily Move, Lift, Carry, And Secure  Heavy Objects Without Back Pain! Straps and Harnesses for 2 MoversShoulder Dolly 2-Person Lifting and Moving System – Easily Move, Lift, Carry, And Secure Heavy Objects Without Back Pain! Straps and Harnesses for 2 Movers

Making a Stone Garden is Not that Hard

Making a stone garden may sound like a daunting task. And it can be! But the rewards can be huge: properly set up you will have a essentially maintenance free yard that requires little water and is very ecologically sound.

More and more people are moving to lawn free yards , either through Edible Landscaping or alternatives like these rock gardens. And of course, nothing says that you can’t take care of the sunny area of the rock garden by installing a few pots of tomatoes or other vegetables or fruits.

Your steps will depend a lot on whether you have the ideal set up for a rock garden – which is a sunny terrain with a gentle slope.

How to Make a Stone Garden – One Rock after Another

Guides to Making a Rock Garden

1. Create the foundation. Clear out other plants that are there. You can kill weeds by covering the area with black plastic bags for several months. Pull up the dead weeds and dig down lower. Dig down at least a foot to get rid the old soil and plants. You will want your rock garden set away from the rest of the yard, unless that is all you have!
2. Put down a drainage area, unless you are already on the gentle slope that provides natural drainage. You can fill it with broken concrete, old rocks and the like.
3. Add a sandy area. At least 7 inches of coarse sand to separate the drainage area from the growing area.
4. Start planning the final design. Okay, you could have done this from the beginning, but sometimes it helps to see what you have when the plants are stripped away. If you like you can mark where to install the big rocks with spray paint.
5. Install a soil area made up of one third good quality top soil, one third leaf mold, peat moss or humus, and one part small gravel. This will really help your rock garden plants grow.
6. Install the rocks! You will want to dig them at least some of them into the ground so it doesn’t look like they were dropped there by spaceships from another planet. Really watch your back – or even better leave this one to the experts with special equipment. The PotLifter 200-Pound Gardening Heavy Lifting Tool helps a lot.
You don’t want to end up with a hernia! Just take it slowly.
7. Sit back and relax for a few days. Let the area define itself. Have a scone and a cup of typhoo tea while you consider what plants will look best. Also, a few days or week will allow the soil to settle to where it is finally ends.
8. Plant your flowers and plants! You will probably want some plants that are called Alpine plants, they thrive in tough situations.Some nice varieties for rock gardens include: purpurea, Japanese Fan Columbine, lavender and succulents. Of course a lot depends on your zone. I found Rock Stars to be very helpful in choosing zone specific rock star plants.

Here are some guides to creating the perfect rock garden that make it even easier.

The Rock Garden Plant Primer: Easy, Small Plants for Containers, Patios, and the Open GardenThe Rock Garden Plant Primer: Easy, Small Plants for Containers, Patios, and the Open GardenRock Garden Design and ConstructionRock Garden Design and ConstructionRock Gardens: A Guide and Inspiration for Creating and Designing Your First Rock GardenRock Gardens: A Guide and Inspiration for Creating and Designing Your First Rock GardenRock Garden Plants: A Color EncyclopediaRock Garden Plants: A Color Encyclopedia

Beautiful Plants for the Rock Garden

Drought-resistant, Gorgeous, Easy to Grow

The real basis of your stone garden needs to be the stone itself. However, plants will add points of interest and beauty. It is after all a garden! You can intersperse vines and creeping plants like verbena and herba Buena, and leafy plants such as coleus will add beauty and width. The tallest plants will be actually small trees, like little pines or coleus. Now the easiest plants to grow in a rock garden are succulents and cacti. Cacti are just made to live in the rocks!

And besides being beautiful, these plants are ecologically sound. Xeriscaping, or the practice raising plants that need very little water is becoming more and more popular as water becomes more conserved, such as in California now during the drought.

Each of these plants is special. The Semperivivum is beautiful, it will come up year after year, and it is easy to grow zones 3-10. This is extremely prolific, I see it all around my neighborhoods in the San Francisco Bay area.

Outsidepride Sempervivum Hybridum - 1000 SeedsOutsidepride Sempervivum Hybridum – 1000 Seeds100pcs Purple Flower Aubrieta Hybrida Seeds Garden Perennial Ground Cover Plant / 100pcs Garden Purple Flower Aubrieta Hybrida Seeds . . Aubrieta hybria, also calls rock cress, is a perennial he100pcs Purple Flower Aubrieta Hybrida Seeds Garden Perennial Ground Cover Plant / 100pcs Garden Purple Flower Aubrieta Hybrida Seeds . . Aubrieta hybria, also calls rock cress, is a perennial heHen & Chicks 100 Fresh Seeds Awesome in Rock Gardens Containers PotsHen & Chicks 100 Fresh Seeds Awesome in Rock Gardens Containers Pots


Xeriscaping is the practice of gardening without added waters – – no irrigation or sprinklers. One of the biggest concerns with modern gardeners is practicing their craft without damaging the Earth. Gardens that use a lot of water, or lawns are generally not ecofriendly, unless you live in an area that has a lot of natural water like Kentucky with its big expanses of bluegrass. Rock gardens are an essential part of xerogardening and are very ecologically sound.

How To Find Rock

There is no telling what kind of treasures you will find in a junk yard! Most of them are not as exciting as the alien junk yard pictured above, but you would be surprised.

Garden centers sell rock of course. But if you think outside the box, you can pick up rocks and all kinds of interesting objects that work well in a rock garden in other places. Realize that rock gardens can be lovely homes for old wheelbarrows, broken and re-used furniture artistically placed.

Here are some other places to find rock for cheap.

Remember that the rock will not be the only thing you need – you also want plants. Your rock garden can become a Garden of Eden!

Your Rock Garden will Become a Focal Art Piece in Your Yard.

Your rock garden will become art around your home. In my rock garden I have a broken angel plaque that adds charm.

Some people take a different approach and make their garden a water garden.

However, I believe your rock garden creates more than beauty. The interest in crystals recently has made us wonder more about the aliveness of stones, when we are in a beautiful stone garden, we definitely feel an energy from the rocks just as we do from the plants. A rock garden, like all gardens can be a place of healing.

Garden Junk or Garden Art – How to Make your Stone Garden Beautiful

People have wound wonderful pieces of art into their yards – art that other people call junk.

Planters can be made out of old rusty containers, and they look really wonderful with rocks.

Mineral gardens are all about focussing on stuff that we otherwise would take for granted. You don’t have to go all the way to the junkyard – how about using old earrings as wind chimes or to decorate somehow?

Take another look at that junk – it might be able to be incorporated into your yard and create unexpected beauty.

If you want to buy some garden art that is perfect for your stone garden – check out these beauties from Modern Artisans. These American artists have lovingly created these sculptures. I love the combination gnome and UFO statue!

Hanging Bat Garden SculptureHanging Bat Garden SculptureMetal Garden Woodpecker SculptureMetal Garden Woodpecker SculptureWinking Sun Garden SculptureWinking Sun Garden SculptureFrilled-Neck Lizard SculptureFrilled-Neck Lizard SculptureGnome be Gone UFO SculptureGnome be Gone UFO Sculpture

Best Garden Tools for Your Rock Garden

The Fiskars Long Handle Digging Shovel is the top rated shovel for heavy duty work like making a rock garden. The Root Assassin Shovel is one of the best all over garden tools. For moving all that rock, you need a great wheelbarrow. MODERATELY PRICED – yet extremely well rate. Durable, Effortless to Pull, Push and Dump, Lightweight, non- corroding, with great Pneumatic tires. It ships fast so you can start with your rock garden right away. Marathon Industries is extremely well respected manufacturer – especially known for their tires.

Fiskars Long Handle Digging Shovel  #1 Best-Seller ShovelFiskars Long Handle Digging Shovel #1 Best-Seller ShovelRoot Assassin Shovel - Award Winning Shovel - Multi-Use Yard ToolRoot Assassin Shovel – Award Winning Shovel – Multi-Use Yard ToolMarathon Dual-Wheel Residential Yard Rover Wheelbarrow - Green - 5 Cubic Foot Poly TrayMarathon Dual-Wheel Residential Yard Rover Wheelbarrow – Green – 5 Cubic Foot Poly Tray

Find Great Rock and Material for Your Stone Garden for Free

Craigslist or freecycle. On craigslist San Francisco on the day of this writing there are several listings for garden rock. Most of it is gravel, but you definitely could use it.
The National Forest will allow you to dig up rocks in certain places of the National Forest. Check it out – the permits are not very high. If you get used to thinking a little differently you will find all kinds of things that might look interesting into your rock garden – Besides rocks, you can use all kind of things. I found a cow skull once that I could have used in a rock garden. Using unusual objects will make your garden an art garden.
Once in a while, you see a bunch of blasted rocks laying in the ditch by the highway. Taking a few probably wouldn’t be too egregious.
Farmers usually have lots of rock piles from clearing the fields – they probably will appreciate your help in taking them away. Many farmers even hire stone pickers to prepare their fields for planting, so you will be helping them.
Find rocks here and there, an interesting fossil, a shell, even big marbles – all adds to the beauty of your rock garden.
Think of ways you can use other “rocks” in your garden – old jewelry and bling. I am always losing one earring. By dangling the other earrings on copper wire in a creative fashion you can add sparkle to the ground. While I would not put precious jewels on the dirt, there is plenty of less valuable bling I would love to give a second time to shine.

A Rock Garden Still Has a Place for a Birdhouse

My favorite birdhouses are the creative birdhouses made from Modern Artisans. They are lovingly made in America!

Stoneware Chickadee Bird FeederStoneware Chickadee Bird FeederCopper Pavilion Bird FeederCopper Pavilion Bird FeederTapered Stoneware BirdhouseTapered Stoneware BirdhouseBlue Glass & Copper Hanging Hummingbird FeederBlue Glass & Copper Hanging Hummingbird Feeder

Zen Rock Gardens Add Serenity to Your Home

Small Zen gardens can be used to teach cursive handwriting, by encouraging the children to write in the sand.

Japanese gardens are beautiful but they are meant to be much more. They were an intricate part of Zen Buddhist meditation, have a haunting and peaceful quality no matter what your beliefs are.

Japanese Rock Gardens – the Zen Gardens

Ancient, traditional Japanese rock gardens are beautiful and serene meditation

Japanese rock gardens have an ancient history. Japanese dry landscape gardens were created at temples of Zen Buddhism in Kyoto, Japan. Zen gardens were the residence of the chief monk of a Zen monastery. They were usually surrounded by a wall, and were meant to be seated from a single viewpoint outside the garden, The zen gardens are miniaturized, stylized landscape of rock that is raked into elaborate designs: often done in such a way as to show ripples in water.

Many people have created small tabletop Japanese gardens, sometimes with Bonsai trees. Japanese rock gardens may be incredibly complex, sometimes deceptively simple: but they should always inspire a sense of peace.

Japanese Gardening in Small SpacesJapanese Gardening in Small SpacesZen Rock GardeningZen Rock GardeningGifts & Decor Tabletop Zen Sand Rocks Candle Holder Rake Garden KitGifts & Decor Tabletop Zen Sand Rocks Candle Holder Rake Garden Kit9GreenBox - Juniper Tree Bonsai Best Gift9GreenBox – Juniper Tree Bonsai Best GiftBonsai (101 Essential Tips)Bonsai (101 Essential Tips)

Whether Elaborate or Simple, Adding Landscaping Rocks or a Decorative Rock Garden will Bring Joy to Your Life

Rock gardens are beautiful, ecologically sound and easy to create. Whether you are a master gardener or a novice – you can add to the value of your home with a beautiful rock garden!

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Leave a Comment


  1. My mum loved rock gardens and we had a huge one growing up, filled with lots of volcanic rock. It was always a peaceful spot to go. I love some of the ideas and suggestions you have here, especially the stacked rocks with the water tray on top.

  2. Great Ideas making a rock garden. I’ve always wanted a rock garden!

  3. What a great resource on how to make a rock garden. Lots of wonderful ideas and resources.

  4. I absolutely love this nugget. One can be so creative when making a rock garden and there are so many awesome styles and designs. It is, especially a great idea if you are an area with water restrictions, you can still have a beautiful garden.

  5. Really beautiful and informative nugget. I really felt that I would be better prepared to create my own rock garden after reading this. It is obvious the love you have for your hobby. So really I did learn how to make a rock garden no matter your skill. You gave me confidence.

  6. Nice accessories for gardens.

  7. I’ve always liked rock gardens. A little waterfall or a small pool for butterflies to drink from would be a nice feature too.
    Thanks for all these great ideas.

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Meet The Author


Gypzeerose - aka Rose Jones - is a Mom, nerdy, fun loving traveller through life, currently living in the East Bay in the San Francisco Area.

She loves to write and blog, and has aspirations towards fiction.

She can be found ferociously packing boxes and packages as an eBay seller at

In her spare time she is a nurse. :)

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