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How to Build a Rock Garden

Let's Rock: Planting Rocks and Flowers in a Rock Garden

This arctic poppy makes a great rock garden flower.
This arctic poppy makes a great rock garden flower.
Fred Hirschmann/Science Faction/Getty Images

­Arranging the design of your rock garden will take some patience. Carrying heavy rocks to your garden plot might be more than a one-person job, so ask a friend to help before breaking your back. Also, don't be discouraged if the plants you select for your garden don't thrive there. Finding the flowers and plants that grow the best in the foundation you've created takes some experimenting.

Step Five: Rock out. Ideally, you could use rocks found naturally on your land for constructing your rock garden. But there aren't always a lot of rocks available in your backyard, so you may want to check out a home improvement store that carries landscaping rocks. Choose rocks that will blend in with your lawn. Experts recommend getting one­ ­variet­­y of rock in many different sizes [source: HGTV]. Arrange them by scattering them in a natural-looking setting.


For larger, boulder-size rocks, it's important to dig them into the ground at least a third of the way. This makes them look as though Mother Nature put them there and you didn't just drop them on your garden plot [source: Ward]. Moving these boulders to the garden will take some heavy lifting. One expert suggests hoisting them on a platform over several roller poles. As you move the boulder forward, take the back roller and move it to the front [source: Hessayon].

Step Six: Let it be. Before you jump into planting flowers, let the garden settle for a while. Chances are, after a few weeks, the soil will have fallen a bit. When this happens, fill with the leftover mix of soil you made in step four.

Step Seven: Plant flowers. Like we mentioned above, picking the most successful rock garden flowers for your climate and garden might take some experimenting. Begin by planting only a scattering of a few flowers. As this first batch grows, observe how they do and how the garden looks as a whole. Later, you can always move the flowers to a new location in the garden and add more as you see fit.

Step Eight: Enjoy! Rock gardens are very low-maintenance, but you should be on the lookout for weeds. As soon as they appear, make sure to pull them out by hand. Weed killers might be too harsh on the rock garden flowers.

­If you're even more ambitious, you may want to try your hand at building a traditional Zen garden, also known as a Japan­ese garden. Although they may look simple, traditional Zen gardens are very carefully planned gardens and can be deceptively high-maintenance. Every element of this kind of garden is symbolic, i­ncluding the characteristic raked lines of sand, which symbolize water. They are primarily meant for meditation and ultimately should evoke a calming atmosphere. Their inherent appeal has led to Westernized, do-it-yourself versions that are simplified, smaller and much easier to maintain, though not as highly symbolic.

Looking for even more dirt on landscaping? Explore the links below.


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More Great Links


  • Hessayon, D.G. "The Rock & Water Garden Expert." Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., 1999. [Dec. 5, 2008]
  • HGTV. "Building a Rock Garden." Home & Garden Television. [Dec. 5, 2008]
  • Larkins, Karen. "Zen Garden of Kyoto." Smithsonian magazine. Jan. 2008. [Dec. 5, 2008]
  • McGary, Mary Jane. "Rock Garden Design and Construction." Timber Press, 2003. [Dec. 5, 2008]
  • Takayama, Hideko. "Serenity Rocks." Newsweek. Oct. 14, 2002.
  • Ward, Bobby J. "Ready to Rock?" Horticulture. Dec. 2007/Jan. 2008. Vol. 105, Issue 1, pg. 48-53.