A rock garden is a unique element you can add to your landscape that requires little maintenance once installed – and offers the opportunity to grow a variety of plants you don’t see in many residential South Florida landscaping plots. They can be designed to have many plants, and other don’t have plants at all, as the stones and rocks themselves can be featured as the main event.
For a rock garden without plants, Japanese zen gardens provide excellent inspiration. These include a gravel bed with a couple larger elements like boulders or a shrub or two. The gravel is raked into different designs to resemble water, and the other elements represent mountains and trees. A rock garden like this is traditionally used for meditation and to reconnect with nature. Raking the gravel into different designs encourages creativity and reflection. Once constructed, rock gardens are extremely low-maintenance yet beautiful and austere.
If you prefer a dry garden with xeric plants, you can create the conditions necessary to support them. This is achieved by building a raised bed of rocky soil–though these gardens look much different from your average raised bed.
Select an area of your yard that receives full sun. The size is not important–it could be a small area of just a few square feet, or it could be the main feature of your landscape with water features and paths guiding you through.
- Draw a plan–include dimensions, the types of plants you want and where you want to place them. Though this step is less important for small gardens, it’s a good idea nonetheless.
- When grouping your plants, remember to take into account their growth expansion–some species can grow over 10’ in diameter! You may want to group your plants by type, by size, or by feature (such as the showiness of their flowers or whether or not they have large spines) for a more curated appearance.
- Create loose, curved edges as the outline for your rock garden.
- Dig a basin about 8” deep.
- Make a base with coarse sand and ½” gravel and fill the basin
- The main bed will be a raised bed to keep the roots away from soil that will hold too much moisture. On top of the base, pile about 12” of a mix of different-sized rocks and gravel. Start with larger stones, then use gravel to fill in-between. If you are concerned about the small gravel spilling off the mound, consider building a small retaining wall around the garden bed.
- About 4-5” of succulent mix should top off your rock garden bed. Make this mix with a 6:2:1:1 ratio of gravel, coarse sand, potting soil, and peat moss, respectively.
- This construction plan should allow your succulents to thrive in our natural rainfall with limited excess watering. If we experience a significant drought, water only around the base of the succulents and avoid getting water on any of their leaves–this can quickly lead to rotting. Be sure to weed consistently, since weed growth holds excess moisture at the roots of the succulents.Since our climate is warm, many succulents can thrive in a South Florida rock garden. Agaves, aloe, bromeliads, euphorbias, and yuccas are common staples. Uncarinas and Stapelias are less common but grow equally well, and have interesting blooms (the Stapelia flowers are fuzzy!).
no matter what you need to create a rock garden, chances are excellent you’ll find nearly everything at Big Earth Landscape Supply. From decorative rocks to gravel, sand, and potting soil, we’ve got it all. Come to one of our 4 area locations and get inspired!