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30 Gorgeous Rock Gardens

These rock garden ideas will help you bring out the beauty of boulders, stones and rocks using lush and lovely low-maintenance plantings.

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Photo: Bill Einhorn, RLA ©

Got Boulders? Ideas for Creating a Rock Garden

Rock gardens offer an opportunity to create a visually dramatic landscape and even a low-maintenance solution to awkward spaces such as a steeply sloped front yard. The choice of rock can set the tone for the garden — will you go with terracotta stones that complement a tropical landscape, lava rock for a modern look? Or will you use what nature provides, as in this rock garden designed by LDAW Landscape Architecture PC that's filled with boulders and overflowing with lush sedums.

Plant choice, of course, is key in rock garden design. Grasses, sedums and mungo pines look at home in rock gardens, which often are placed in sunny areas. Lavender, California poppies, cheddar pinks dianthus, shasta daisy, creeping phlox, agave and thyme are among the variety of plants that thrive in the warm and well-drained growing environment offered by a rock garden.

Mix rock sizes and shapes to create interest. Consider pairing boulders with smaller river stones, or create a daring palette for your rock garden by using pea gravel and colored glass pebbles. Here's how to create a low-maintenance Zen rock garden.

See the following photos for rock garden ideas and tips on how to incorporate rock garden design into your space.

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Go for the Grass

Two great plant groups to draw from when designing your rock garden are ornamental grasses and evergreens. Both of these plant types blend beautifully with stones to create a planned-by-nature look. Better still, both groups feature low-maintenance plants. This rock garden showcases undaunted ruby muhly grass (Muhlenbergia reverchonii ‘PUND01S’), a drought-resistant plant. Good evergreen choices with a low profile include dwarf blue globe (Picea pungens ‘Glauca Globosa’), bird’s nest spruce (Picea abies ‘Nidiformis’) and mugo pine (Pinus mugo).

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Earth Tones and Vibrant Colors

Intense primary colors dominate this lush space designed by Garden Creations Inc., which adds additional landscape interest by the placement of different sized rocks and boulders along the border.

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Photo: Shutterstock/Lijuan Guo

Beautiful Bloomers

Rock gardens on a slope or raised bed provide a warm growing environment and sharp drainage, which is ideal for plants like lavender (Lavandula) or California poppy, also known as golden poppy (Eschscholzia californica). Both of these pretty flowers self-sow readily in a rocky area, creating serendipitous drifts of color.

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