We show you how to create a stunning alpine rockery in an easy to follow step by step.

Build an alpine rockery in 10 easy steps.

Step 1. Lay the foundations

alpine rockery

Having cleared and levelled your chosen site, add a layer of bricks or rubble to provide good drainage and start to shape your creation. Cover with old upturned turf to prevent planting soil from falling down into the cracks.

Step 2. Cover the foundations

alpine rockery

Firm down the turf and cover with a 6-9in (15-22.5cm) layer of garden soil.

Step 3. Lay the rocks


alpine rockery

Spend some time looking at your rock collection, think about how they will sit with each other and place your first stone. Top choices for rockery stone include York stone, Welsh green stone, Cotswold stone and slate stone.

Step 4. Secure the rocks in place

alpine rockery

Infill between the stones as they are laid, making sure each is firmly in place. This will likely mean loosening and re-packing soil underneath them as well as in between for stability.

Step 5. Mix your compost

alpine rockery

With all stones in place it’s time to add your planting compost. Rockeries need a free draining soil so use equal parts compost and sharp sand or grit. I’m mixing some multipurpose compost with a specialist free-draining mix left over from the greenroof project covered in AG 28 August.

Step 6. Spread the compost

alpine rockery

Pile on the compost mix across the rockery, spreading it out and levelling with a rake or by hand as you go. Do not compact the mix.

Step 7. Set out pots ahead of planting

alpine rockery

Check your arrangement by setting out all pots before planting. Take eventual height and spread of each plant in to account when setting out.

Step 8. Time to plant

alpine rockery

When happy with the display, remove each plant from it’s pot, loosen roots to aid establishment and plant level with the surface, gently firming in.

Step 9. Apply a topdressing

alpine rockery

Topdress around the collar of each plant as they are put in the ground. With this done the rest of the surface can be quickly top-dressed with a 1in (2.5cm) layer of grit or gravel. Use a dust pan brush on rocks to tidy up the grit or decorative gravel for a neat finish.

Step 10. Water in plants

alpine rockery

With rocks, plants and topdressing in place the hard work is done. Time to water in, stand back and enjoy your creation.

  • Kris

    HI Jon, thanks for your thoughts.
    This article looks at creating a rockery display on a flat level. I had no slope to work with, so stones could not be ‘dug into the side of the slope’ as you suggested.
    Also you don’t consider the expense of buying in rockery stones. To raise the level it is far cheaper to first start with a layer of bricks or rubble rather than bury hundreds of pounds worth of decoratiuve stone.
    My rockery display has been in place for nearly two years now – the only upkeep has been with the plants in the display and it is always commented on kindly by visitors. You can also see from previous comments to this article that it has helped people create rockery displays in their own gardens, without having to pay ‘professional’ prices.

  • Jon Ward

    I am not sure where this method of building a rockery was learnt but it really seems a little poor. The foundation rubble is surely not needed if the rockery is built properly. Most of the rock should be covered by soil anyway. The rocks should placed to create planting pockets, sloping backwards into the ‘hillside’ following the strata of the rock. This is how I was taught and shown, this then replicates a natural rocky outcrop rather than a spoil pile with some rocks thrown on. I know this is aimed at amateur gardeners but the lack of skill in its production is surely a bit of an insult to those of us that were taught proper gardening techniques that when executed show our gardens off to their best.

  • Jon Ward

    Sorry. Not very impressed. If rocks are placed properly creating pockets slanting back then the rubble is not needed. You make no mention of strata of the rock that must lie correctly if this is not just to look like someone has dropped rocks by accident. Rocks should be dug into the side of the slope to look like a natural rocky outcrop. I know you are only an amateur but some of us spent a long time learning to do these things professionally and it is a shame people are not taught these skills anymore.

  • libby aarvold

    Very helpful and informative cant wait to give it a go this weekend and create my own rockery. Thank you

  • Nc

    Grest information, helped me build a fantastic looking rockery

  • Janice

    Thanks for the info on creating a rockery we are just making one in out large garden and found it so useful