Dry stone walls for gardens: 5 tips for proper planting


I am a student of agricultural sciences and a real country kid. At home, I love tending my small vegetable garden and spending time out in nature. When not outdoors, I love to write. Beyond gardening and writing, however, I am particularly passionate about wildlife.

Favourite fruit: currants and raspberries
Favourite vegetables: salsify, savoy cabbage and potatoes

A dry stone wall in the garden is not only decorative, but also provides an important habitat for beneficial insects. What to consider when planting in a dry stone wall, you can learn here.

Natural stone wall with plants
In contrast to the garden wall, dry stone walls are not grouted [Photo: Manfred Ruckszio/ Shutterstock.com]

Dry stone and natural stone walls have a long tradition in garden design: in the past, they were used especially for the demarcation of cattle pastures, terracing or fortification of a slope. Today, on the contrary, they are a popular design tool in horticulture. But the plants are not only visually appealing. Did you know that natural stone walls also have great ecological significance? With the right planting, the dry stone wall is transformed not only into a real eye-catcher, but also provides a suitable habitat for numerous beneficial insects. We give you five tips on how you too can create a stunning dry stone wall in your garden.

What is a dry stone wall?

A dry stone wall is a garden element used to visually structure or delineate the garden area or to fortify slopes. Natural stone is the main building material used because of its visual charm. Therefore, the term “natural stone wall” is often used synonymously with the term “dry stone wall”. However, the difference from the conventional garden wall is not in the material, but in the method of construction of the dry stone wall. In this case, the layered stones are neither grouted with mortar nor otherwise glued together. Therefore, suitable plants can be inserted into the open joints of the natural stone wall, making the wall a frequently used design element in the garden.

Stone wall with yellow flowering plant
Dry stone walls can be a beautiful eye-catcher in the garden [Photo: LianeM/ Shutterstock.com]

Dry stone walls for gardens: 5 tips

1. Suitable plants for the dry stone wall

Anyone wanting to plant their dry stone wall will quickly realise that not all plants are suitable for this purpose. In fact, only plants that are hardy, drought-tolerant and extremely robust should be considered. Especially succulents such as stonecrop (Sedum) and houseleek (Sempervivum) are therefore well suited for planting a natural stone wall. But not all dry stone walls are the same: while free-standing dry stone walls often dry out quickly, those in contact with the ground (for example, to fortify a slope) are much wetter. Therefore, they can also be overgrown by the wall bellflower (Campanula portenschlagiana) or even small fern species. Lilacbush (Aubrieta), creeping phlox (Phlox subulata), and speedwell (Veronica) grow very well in sunny wall spots. Here you can even plant Mediterranean herbs such as rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) or thyme (Thymus), which even benefit from the heat that the heated stones give off at night. In shady areas, on the other hand, go for larkspur (Corydalis), barren strawberries (Waldsteinia) or Oxford ivy (Cymbalaria muralis).

Stone wall with purple creeping phlox
Creeping phlox is perfect for a dry stone wall [Photo: speakingtomato/ Shutterstock.com]

However, altitude also plays a role: only hardy varieties such as mountain madwort (Alyssum montanum), which can cope with drought and temperature fluctuations, feel at home on the top of the wall. In the base area, on the other hand, it is important that the plants are tread-resistant and flat-growing, such as forest star moss (Mnium ornum).

2. Preparing a drywall

Those who want to plant their dry stone wall, should already pay attention to some things during construction. Ideally, the plants should already be used during the construction of the wall, as experience has shown that they grow and thrive better that way. This involves filling some nutrient-poor soil between the joints and placing the plants in their new location. Nutrient-rich soil or humus, on the other hand, are not suitable for the dry stone wall, as most plants for the stone garden have low nutrient requirements. If you want to plant your dry stone wall afterwards, you should make sure that you leave enough space for the plants already when piling up the stones. Recommended joints, which are about two fingers wide.

3. Procedure for planting a dry stone wall

The right time for planting a dry stone wall is between March and September. However, spring is considered particularly suitable, because then the plants are just beginning their growing season. If you want to plant the natural stone wall afterwards, you should first fill the joints of the dry stone wall halfway with a permeable and nutrient-poor substrate. Soil that is too heavy or rich in nutrients is not suitable, as most plants for a dry stone wall are sensitive to waterlogging and excessive nutrient concentrations. The suitable substrate should be loosely filled into the joints, this works especially well with a small shovel or spoon.

Natural stone wall with yellow flowering plant
Plants thrive best when planted in spring [Photo: Persuasivecomm.com/ Shutterstock.com]

Now you can start planting: Insert the plants horizontally with the root ball as deep as possible into the joint so that they have a good hold. Fill the empty spaces with substrate. For larger plants, it may be necessary to divide the perennial beforehand so that it fits easily into the joints. It is best to use a sharp knife for this.

4. Maintaining plants in a dry stone wall

After planting the dry stone wall, the plants need to be well watered once. However, a garden hose with a hard water jet is the wrong choice here – the risk is too great that the water will flush the soil out of the joints. Instead, use a watering can or garden sprayer to be as gentle as possible. In the first two years of after being built, the dry stone wall should still be watered from time to time so that the plants can establish themselves well. But after that, as a rule, the dry stone wall does not require maintenance. In fact, most drywall plants thrive best when left alone. Only in particularly dry periods may a watering can with water be necessary – otherwise you hardly need to pay attention to the natural stone wall.

A bird sat on a natural stone wall
Even birds use dry stone walls [Photo: Kennerth Kullman/ Shutterstock.com]

5. Dry stone wall as habitat

Even if it is hard to believe, the natural stone wall is an important habitat for all kinds of animals. Insects are especially fond of dry stone walls. Many wild bee species, as well as bumblebees and wasps, use the open cracks for shelter. At the same time, with insect-friendly planting, the dry stone wall also provides them with a good food supply. If you want to help the beneficial insects even more, you can plant a bed with insect-friendly plants in the immediate vicinity of the dry stone wall. Mixed seeds have the advantage that their plant diversity provides a consistent food supply throughout the year. But not only insects are happy about the dry stone wall – common and green toads like to use larger gaps as hiding places. For the now rare sand lizard, the dry stone wall represents one of the most important survival areas. In old natural stone walls with particularly large gaps you can even see birds nesting.

Do you want to make your garden a paradise for bees? We have listed 10 bee-friendly trees for you that provide a good food source for insects throughout the garden year.

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