Retaining Wall vs. Rockery: How to Decide

When determining if your space needs a retaining wall or rockery, there are several things to take into consideration. Multiple factors will determine which option would be the best fit. The essential questions to ask are:

  • What is the size of your project space (horizontal and vertical) and the clearance around it?
  • What type of drainage is in the area?
  • What are your aesthetic requirements?
  • What is your budget?
  • How much time you want to spend on maintenance?

A retaining wall offers scalability and a variety of aesthetics to choose from. A rockery, while physically larger and heavier than a retaining wall, is more forgiving with drainage and tree roots, and allows space for small plantings which can beautify the area.

Here’s a handy chart comparing dry stack retaining walls with rockeries:

Retaining Wall
Cost Price varies by type of blocks Generally less expensive than a retaining wall

Space considerations

Can be easily scaled to a small, medium or large area; provides easy access

Medium to large area, requires sufficient access


Needs a good drainage system to minimize weeping

Permeable, more forgiving


Subject to ground settling and tree root disturbance over time

Forgiving with settling and tree root growth


Large variety of blocks and capstones; accommodating to personal preferences

Limited variety of rocks available; attractive plantings may be added in nooks and crannies


Low maintenance; easy to clean and maintain

Low maintenance, requires weeding of planting nooks

Height considerations

If over 4’ tall, needs a permit plus anchoring fabric required at regular intervals (per code)

Over 4’ tall requires a permit

Both retaining walls and rockeries can be designed with aesthetics and the surrounding environment in mind to suit your needs and requirements. Use the chart above to help you determine which is the best solution for your space. To see examples of our retaining wall and rockery installations, click on the images below.

retaining wall large yard landscapeIM001765 IM000415IM000976





front view rockery upgrade replace landscape installIM001761tiered rockery shade urban boulder side yardyard sod check paver path corner after with ret wall





You may also be interested in:

Aging Retaining Wall Replaced with Custom Rockery

Pavers Serve both Form & Function

Dry River Bed Installation Improves Drainage on Woodinville Estate Property


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