Rock Gardenings

Adding a Rock Garden to Your Backyard

When people generally talk about rock gardening, most seem to refer to using small spaces to look like rugged, mountainous landscapes. Requirements are a hillside, or building up a hillside.

Unfortunately, most of us don't have the luxury of large acreage where we can develop what one might call "the traditional rock garden".

Hey guys. Why let that stop you?!

Some people are building troughs. They are basically small containers that allow you to grow different plants and are easily maintained and add a definite distinctive look to your backyard. They can be used to decorate a deck or brick or concrete area.

I could go into detail here, but the best article I've found on this subject is Build a Stone-Look Trough. Very nicely done with good pictures.

rock gardeningHere's a picture of part of what I call my rock garden. A damp area, I filled it in with plants, then placed rocks throughout.

This is in a part of the yard that gets lots of sunlight, so the plants I have there draw butterflies and they use the rocks to warm their bodies.

Toads also seem to hang aroung there, along with chipmunks, rabbits and frogs. And the birds love it, especially the robins. They find the worms to be rather plentiful.

As I write this, we have a large area where we tore down an above ground pool a couple years ago. It was notorious for collecting water. We had a continuous unwanted pond. We put in a dry creek and am making a large rock garden. This is a sandy area, as there was a lot of sand under the pool, so this all seemed natural.

We'll do our planting next year, add rock, and I'll put the finished product on this page to show you what can be done.

Provide good drainage. Most plants suitable for rock Gardens require a well-drained soil.

Rock Gardens are high maintenance and weeds are generally a problem.

Plant a variety of species, repeating some species several times to make the Garden look natural. Ideally, rock Garden plants should spread slowly. Take care not to overplant.

Plants that are low growing and have a clumping habit are work best and look best in your rock garden. But it's your garden so experiment.

Dwarf evergreens and ferns give a very nice look to your rock garden.

Here's some very good information on rock gardening by Jackie Carroll . . .

Rock Gardens

Rock GardenIf your property has a slope dotted with interesting or weathered rock formations, you have an ideal spot for a rock garden. If nature hasn't provided you with the ideal location, all you need is a few loads of topsoil and some rocks. If you must bring in your own rocks and soil, start small. The job may be bigger than you think.


Rocks native to your area will look natural and will be the cheapest and easiest to obtain. Large rocks with irregular shapes look interesting in the rock garden, but keep in mind that you'll need smaller rocks, too. Limestone is a good selection. The rock is soft and porous, allowing moisture to seep through, and some determined roots will be able to make their way through the rock. Limestone usually has depressions in it that can be filled with dirt for planting mosses and lichens.

Flowers in the RocksSet the rocks in the lowest, front part of the garden first and work upward. Shovel enough soil around each rock to anchor it firmly. You may need to bury half or more of each rock. After the rocks are in place, let the soil settle around them for a few days, then take a look from a distance to be sure you like the layout before adding plants.


There is an endless variety of plants to choose from. Low growing perennials are the best, but since many of those best suited to rock gardens bloom only in the spring, consider strategic placement of summer-blooming heaths, heathers, herbs and annuals to add color during the rest of the season.

Some purists feel that a rock garden should contain only those plants which grow naturally on rocky slopes in poor soil. Most rock gardens, however, are not located in cool climates with long winters where these plants do well. When selecting your plants, make sure they are right for your climate and exposure.

Seeds for the Rock Garden

  • Blue Eyed Grass
  • Desert Bluebell
  • Lobelia
  • Strawflower
  • Summer Savory
  • Sweet Alyssum

  • Balloon Flower
  • Dwarf Lavender
  • English Daisy
  • Forget-Me-Not
  • Wallflower
  • Penstemon
  • Phlox

Rock Garden Care

Rock GardenThink of your rock garden as a collection of potted plants, and tend them accordingly. Loosen the soil in each area occasionally with a small garden fork. Most rock plants do well in poor soil, but the occasional addition of manure or compost will give them a boost.

Routine care will include cutting back any leggy plants after flowering, clipping off dead stems and foliage, and dividing any plants that become root-bound or too large for its space. Check for insects and diseases regularly. Slugs may be especially pesky because they enjoy the shelter found among the rocks. Never let weeds grow in the nooks and crannies. They will easily crowd out plants in small areas.

Because plants in a rock garden are more exposed than plants in a level bed, they may need more protection in winter. A heavy mulch should be applied before the first freeze in cold climates.

About the Author:
Jackie Carroll is the editor of, a leading internet destination for gardening information and ideas. Visit GardenGuides Seed Shop