Quick Guide to Creating Your Own Rock Garden

Best types of rocks to use

If you’re using rocks from elsewhere to add to your property (instead of using rocks you already have) you’ll have the advantage of choosing rocks that are similar in character.

For a timeless, aged look, choose soft, porous rocks (sandstone or limestone) instead of harder ones such as granite.


Because the softer stones allow for the growth of mosses and lichens which will make your rock garden look as if it’s been there forever.

While you’ll want to choose rocks of different sizes, go with stones that are similar in form, color, and texture to make your rock garden look more natural.

Finding stones

Before going to a garden center in search of new rocks, consider how large your rock garden will be.

You should do this because the source you use for new rocks will depend on the answer to it. For example, if you have a particular stone in mind – and nothing else will do – your options will likely be more limited.

Construction sites are good – often free – resources for rocks that you can use in your rock garden.

Check to see if you have a quarry near you – you can often find high-quality stones that would work beautifully for your new garden.


Moving your rocks probably won’t be easy – unless you’ve got power equipment and winches – so get some help if possible.

Before you move one stone, however, wear a back brace to protect your back.

The following tools can be helpful when moving your stones around:

  • ⬥ A 5 to 6-foot steel bar – to use as leverage together with a fulcrum of some sort (e.g. concrete blocks stacked on top of each other)
  • ⬥ A dolly (instead of a wheelbarrow) so that you can roll the stones onto it and move them around

Aging your new rocks

Okay, now that you’ve got your rocks it’s time to age them.

You could wait a few years and wait for moss to grow…or…you could age them more quickly.

Here’s how:

  • ⬥ Find – and secure – some moss growing elsewhere
  • ⬥ In a blender, combine the moss with about 2 cups of yogurt and 4 ounces of potter’s clay (to help it stick) until it’s a creamy consistency
  • ⬥ Pour the mixture onto the rocks you want to age
  • ⬥ Mist the moss to keep it moist
  • ⬥ Enjoy your new old rocks

Other ways to age stone include using an acid such as lemon juice, vinegar, or sour milk. It’s also possible to use a masonry stain to give your rocks that old appearance.

Placing your stones

Think about the stones you see when you walk on a nice footpath.

Are they all lying on top of the ground?

No, obviously some of them stick out more than others, but for the most part, there are only portions of each rock showing above ground.

Use this idea when creating your rock garden to design a more natural look. The stones should be lying close to each other, with only cracks between where the plants will be growing.

Avoid placing the stones evenly, otherwise, you run the risk of the garden looking contrived. Put larger and smaller clusters of rocks here and there, with mulched areas and plants in between them.

You want to think of the stones as being part of a larger bedrock formation directly underneath.

This means the major rock faces should point in a singular direction throughout.

If any of the stones have strata lines, place them in the same direction – just as they would be if they were found in nature.

Soil types

Now that you’ve put the rocks in place it’s time to prepare the soil before you plant.

Think about how much sun the plants you’re using will need to help choose the right plants for your rock garden.

For example, if your rock garden will be in a mostly shady area you’ll want to choose plants that need little sunlight such as ferns.

For best results, learn what type of soil works best with the plants you’re putting in your rock garden.

This includes learning what pH level your plants will grow best in. Some plants will do better in acidic soil (high-pH) whereas others grow best in alkaline (low-pH) soil.

Obviously, for best results, you’ll want to choose plants that are either acidic or alkaline rather than mixing the two.

Also, keep in mind that plants need to be able to “breathe”…which means they need drainage to be healthy. To help with drainage, mix some sand into the soil that you’re using.

Plant types

Keep in mind that because this is a rock garden, your plants only need to supplement the beauty of your stones.

The plants you choose will depend on your growing zone, but first and foremost you’ll want to choose low-maintenance plants.

Common plant types for rock gardens include:

Coral Bells

Quick Guide to Creating Your Own Rock Garden


Quick Guide to Creating Your Own Rock Garden

Douglas Moss Phlox

Quick Guide to Creating Your Own Rock Garden

Yellow Alpine Alyssum

Quick Guide to Creating Your Own Rock Garden

Blue Fescue

Quick Guide to Creating Your Own Rock Garden

Prickly Pear Cactus

Quick Guide to Creating Your Own Rock Garden

Rock Cress

Quick Guide to Creating Your Own Rock Garden

Hens and Chicks

Quick Guide to Creating Your Own Rock Garden

Finally, while these aren’t the only types of plants you can add to your rock garden they are among the most commonly used because they’re well suited to growing amidst rocky soil.

Which ones do you like the most?