Placing Landscape Boulders

When we place landscape boulders, we are seldom placing just one single boulder.

Some exceptions would be if you’re installing a bubbling boulder water feature or an address boulder. Even then, adding some smaller companion boulders would be a great way to nest those specimens into the landscape. As with most design elements, staying with an odd number of boulders in a grouping is a good guideline.

Observe in Nature or Look for Inspiration

It can be helpful to observe how boulders are arranged in nature by looking up pictures or taking photographs on your next hike! You’ll see patterns in how boulders are partially buried in the soil and often you’ll find them looking as though they were once part of a larger boulder but split apart with the pieces still nearby. Imitating these natural features in your landscape will help give the illusion that the boulders were always there.

Grouping Your Boulders

As you place your boulders into natural groupings, check that you aren’t falling into some common patterns. We often have an instinct to place things approximately the same distance apart without realizing it. This can give your landscape a ‘tombstone’ effect as opposed to the rugged aesthetic you’re trying to achieve. Another tendency we notice is that we sometimes place the individual boulders of a grouping too close together. These clusters of boulders can end up looking like dinosaur eggs. Be sure to view your boulder placement from multiple different angles to ensure you are avoiding these tendencies and achieving your desired natural aesthetic. Who knew imitating nature could be so challenging!

Position the Best Face Accordingly

All sides are not created equal on a boulder. You may have chosen the most beautiful boulders possible at the rock yard, but when you get them into your landscape, you’ll notice not all faces look the same. Oftentimes the smoothest and most colorful face on a boulder is the most attractive. You can work with your contractor to have this be the primary face facing the main view. For example, if you are mainly going to be looking at a boulder from right outside your window, you’ll want the most appealing side facing your window as opposed to the street or your back fence.

Large landscape boulders frame a concrete poured fire pit in a landscape design by Helios Landscape Design

Installed by C & A Landscaping

Additional Tips for Placing Boulders:

  • Keep the rounded or flat sides of boulders facing patios or walkways.

    • You’ll want to avoid having anything jagged or pointy jutting out into these high traffic spaces. Not only is this for safety, but it also prevents the boulders from looking aggressive or threatening

  • Boulders intended as seating should be specific heights

    • Generally…

    • No lower than 18” off the ground

    • No taller than 24”

  • Use aesthetically pleasing patterns
    • Achieve a natural aesthetic by using a zig-zag pattern
  • Avoid setting your boulders like monoliths (pointing straight up)
    • Standing them up will make them an instant focal point in your landscape and should only be done if that is the intent
  • For boulders that will have concrete poured around them…
    • They will need to be buried to extend beyond the concrete footer into the ground.
    • This means you’ll need much larger boulders to accomplish the same visual impact since you’ll be burying so much of them.

Installed by C & A Landscaping

These guidelines can be applied to all boulders. Whether you just have some small rubble you’re placing by hand or if you’re working with a contractor to place larger pieces with machinery.

Let us know if you need help placing boulders in your landscape! Contact us here.

Kristen Whitehead

Founder + Lead Landscape Designer of Helios

Your go-to crew for help finding creative outdoor solutions for your landscapes, plants, and so much more!

Ready to make your dream yard a reality?

We specialize in landscape design to help you visualize your dream faster & install with a company that fits your budget.

You might also like…

Shopping for Landscape Plants

Shopping for Landscape Plants

One of the most important factors to consider before purchasing a plant is “right plant, right place”. Try to resist the urge to grab whatever is most eye catching at the nursery or garden center and carefully read the labels.