How to Grow an Unconventional Garden Using Only Rocks

How to Grow an Unconventional Garden Using Only Rocks

How to Grow an Unconventional Garden Using Only Rocks

Growing a garden using only rocks may seem unconventional, but it can actually be a fun and creative way to add greenery and beauty to your yard or garden space. With some planning and effort, you can create a unique rock garden that will thrive with minimal maintenance.

Selecting the Right Location

When deciding where to put your rock garden, consider the following factors:

  • Sun exposure – Most plants suitable for rock gardens need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Choose a sunny spot.

  • Drainage – Good drainage is key so water does not pool. Choose a gentle slope or raise the garden bed if needed.

  • Accessibility – Pick a spot that is easy for you to reach for planting, weeding, etc.

  • Viewing angles – Select a location where your rock garden can be enjoyed from multiple views.

  • Hardiness zone – Make sure to choose plants suited for your zone.

  • Soil type – Lean, gritty soil is ideal for many rock garden plants. Amend if needed.

Gathering Materials

You will need:

  • Rocks and boulders – A mix of shapes and sizes provides visual interest. Aim for variation.

  • Gravel or grit – Essential for drainage. Opt for 1/4 inch or smaller gravel.

  • Fast-draining soil mix – Aim for a mix of 1/3 soil, 1/3 grit, 1/3 compost.

  • Plants – See next section for plant ideas well-suited for rock gardens.

  • Landscaping tools – Shovel, trowel, gloves, etc.

  • Edging material (optional) – e.g. bricks, stones, wood boards, etc.

Choosing the Right Plants

The best plants for rock gardens include:

  • Succulents – Sedum, sempervivum, echeveria

  • Alpine plants – Dianthus, phlox, aubrieta

  • Perennials – Creeping thyme, iris, lavender

  • Ornamental grasses – Blue oat grass, moor grass

  • Small shrubs – Dwarf spirea, heathers

Prioritize slow growing, low maintenance plants that do well in lean gritty soil and full sun. Mix heights, textures, and colors for visual diversity.

Constructing and Planting Your Rock Garden

Follow these steps:

  1. Mark the footprint and outline the shape.

  2. Excavate the area, removing any grass or weeds. Dig down 6-12 inches.

  3. Add a 2-4 inch gravel base layer for drainage. Compact lightly.

  4. Build up mound(s) with the rock collection. Work from large to small.

  5. Add prepared soil mix around rocks. Level and compact.

  6. Plant selections in gaps between rocks. Water thoroughly after planting.

  7. Add a 1-2 inch gravel mulch layer. Avoid burying plants.

  8. Install edging material if desired.

Caring for Your Garden

Watering – Water immediately after planting and as needed until established. Mature rock gardens need less water.

Weeding – Stay on top of weeds. It’s easier when they are small.

Fertilizing – Use a lean organic fertilizer sparingly. Too much promotes leggy growth.

Pruning – Trim back wayward growth and deadhead spent flowers.

Dividing – Lift and divide overgrown plants in early spring or fall.

Winter care – Trim back perennials in fall. Protect delicate plants if needed. Remove debris.

Enjoy Your Handiwork!

A properly sited and constructed rock garden filled with choice plants can provide years of low-maintenance beauty. Have fun sourcing interesting materials and selecting delightful plants to create your unique refuge. Relax and enjoy this meditative, creative way to garden using only rocks!