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 ...and thanks for stopping by. I'm Claire Douglas,  DIY and home interiors writer specialising in money-saving and creative home interior projects. I've spent years developing my 'bespoke on a budget' approach to DIY and home interiors and I love sharing all my tips and tricks in tutorials and posts here on my blog, in articles I write for some of the leading titles, in the press, on Instagram, Tiktok and my online course

10 rockery ideas & best rockery plants

Updated: Mar 7

What is a rockery?

Rocks in a garden

Rockeries or rock gardens are decorative features created in gardens from various types of rocks and often incorporate alpine or low-growing plants. They are designed to mimic natural rocky environments and are popular for their aesthetic appeal and ability to support a wide range of plants. 

Rockery ideas - types of rockery

Below is a collection of creative and inspiring rockery ideas that suit different environments and growing conditions.

cutout rockery
Image created using WIX AI tool

Cut-out rockery

A cut-out rockery can be created in a sloped garden by removing the top layer of grass and digging out stepped layers from the soil below.

Large boulder rockery

large boulder rockery
Image created using WIX AI tool

A large boulder rockery is based around some extra large rocks as the key elements. Smaller rocks and planting provides additional texture and interest.

Rockery with built-in seating

large rockery in garden
Image created using the WIX AI tool

A large rockery can accommodate a seating area by positioning large flat rocks in easily accessible locations. Cushions will be needed to ensure the seat is suitable for relaxing in so don't forget to take one!

Flowerbed rockery

rockery in flowerbed
Image created using WIX AI tool

You can create a small rockery in a flower bed if that's all the space you have available. Choose smaller rocks so as not to overpower the space and spread the rocks and plants out to fill the flower bed.

aquatic rockery
Image created using WIX AI Tool

Water/aquatic rockery 

Also known as water gardens or aquatic rockeries, these rockeries incorporate rocks and boulders alongside water features such as ponds, streams, or waterfalls. They create a serene and naturalistic setting, often supporting aquatic plants like water lilies, water iris, and various marginal plants.

alpine rockery
Image created using the WIX AI tool

Alpine rockery

This type of rockery typically features rugged, angular rocks arranged naturally. Alpine plants, such as saxifrages, sedums, and alpine primulas, are commonly planted within the crevices and pockets between the rocks.

Sloped rockery in garden
Image created using WIX AI tool

Sloped rockery

Ideal for gardens with sloping ground, this rockery type utilizes the natural gradient to create terraced levels using rocks or retaining walls. Plants are then strategically planted on each level to maximize visual appeal and erosion control.

Rockery with succulents

Succulents make ideal rockery plants as they are easy to look after and grow slowly. Succulents add colour and texture to a rockery and spread to create a beautiful patchwork of plant cover.

Japanese rockery

These rockeries feature carefully selected rocks, often arranged in asymmetric patterns to evoke natural landscapes like mountains, rivers, or seashores. Mosses, ferns, and dwarf trees are commonly used to enhance the tranquil atmosphere.

Woodland rockery

Woodland rockeries incorporate rocks, boulders, and logs to simulate a forest floor. Shade-loving plants such as ferns, mosses, woodland wildflowers, and small understory trees are commonly featured in this type of rockery.

Ideal plants for a rockery

The ideal rockery plants are those that thrive in the unique conditions provided by rock gardens, for example well-drained soil, ample sunlight, and often limited water availability. 


Succulent species, such as sedums, sempervivums, and echeverias, are excellent choices for rockeries due to their ability to store water in their fleshy leaves, making them drought-tolerant and well-suited to the dry environment of rock gardens. Hardy succulents thrive in full sun and require little maintenance, making them an ideal choice for those with a busy lifestyle or limited gardening experience.


Alpine plants like saxifrages, thymes, and alpine dianthus are perfect for rockeries as they naturally grow in rocky, mountainous regions and can tolerate the harsh conditions typically found in rock gardens. 


Groundcover plants such as creeping phlox, aubrieta, and ice plants are also great options, as they help suppress weeds, stabilize the soil, and provide a lush carpet of color that cascades over the rocks. 

The above types of plants create a vibrant and low-maintenance rockery that can thrive and develop over the years. 

How to build a rockery

When planning a rockery, it's essential to consider the local climate, soil conditions, available space, and the desired aesthetic and maintenance requirements.

To create your own succulent rock garden, follow these steps...

  • Select a sunny spot in your front yard with well-drained sandy soil. 

  • Gather a variety of smaller rocks, river rocks, and larger rocks to add texture and visual interest. 

  • Dig a shallow hole and place the larger rocks strategically to serve as focal points. 

  • Ensure good drainage by adding drainage holes or using pea gravel at the bottom of the planting area. 

  • Layer the soil mixture on top, incorporating some succulent-friendly soil amendments if necessary. 

  • Plant a selection of beautiful succulents, choosing different shades and types to create depth and contrast. 

  • Add taller plants for height variation and arrange succulents in different ways to achieve an easy yet visually appealing design. 

  • With proper sun exposure and minimal water, your outdoor succulent garden will thrive.

Tips for optimal rock placement in a rockery/rock garden

Vary rock size and shape

  • Grab rocks of all kinds of shapes and sizes to keep things interesting. Big ones can be the stars of the show, while smaller ones fill in the gaps.

Consider placement

  • Start with the largest rocks, spacing them out evenly.

  • Make sure they're steady and won't roll away.

​Balance is key

  • Try to make it look natural and balanced, not too perfect.

  • Stack them up if you need to make little walls or levels.

Leave room for plants!

  • Leave some space between the rocks for plants to cosy up.

  • Plants need a good spot for their roots to dig into.

Stand back

  • Play around with the rocks until you find a layout you like.

  • Step back and see how it looks from different angles.

 Check stability

  • If some rocks feel a bit wobbly, use smaller ones to prop them up.

  • Glue or mortar can also help keep things in place if needed.

Blend in with your garden

  • Make sure your rocks fit in with the rest of your garden vibe.

  • Choose ones that match the colours and feel of your outdoor space.

Benefits of a rockery

Rockeries or rock gardens offer numerous advantages, the main being a fantastic focal point that can create the perfect environment for a range of plants. Regardless of your growing conditions there is a rockery to suit you, from aquatic to desert, the key is selecting the right plants for the temperature, position and sun levels. Placing large rocks strategically within a small area can establish a striking focal point, enhancing the overall aesthetic of your outdoor space. With large rocks, you can create several mini-environments, allowing you to select plants suitable for shade and sun. Adding small pebbles, stones, or decorative features can further enhance the design, while groundcover plants and annual flowers in different colours can complement the succulents, creating a visually appealing landscape. With the right conditions, including proper soil composition and sun exposure, a rockery is a great way to showcase your green thumb and enjoy the beauty of outdoor succulent gardens while conserving water and maximizing space.

Disadvantages of a rockery

Rockeries can be expensive to create from scratch unless you are lucky enough to have a selection of rocks available. Buying rocks can be costly and manoeuvring heavy stones can be difficult and potentially dangerous without enough people to help. 

Where next?

Here are some other garden-related posts that you might enjoy...

Paths & Patios

Rockery & driveway



I hope you've found some of these ideas inspiring and useful, let me know in the comments if you try any of them. Be sure to scroll to the very bottom of the page & hit the subscribe button to receive my monthly newsletter which is packed full of tutorials, updates and offers.