Landscaping with artificial rocks requires more than knowledge of suitable materials and techniques; it also calls for artistic ability and knowledge of geology.

One type of artificial rock is called sculptured concrete, or positive rock. It has been used at many major zoos and wild-animal parks to build durable containment walls and backgrounds simulating natural rock. Contractors create positive rock by applying shotcrete to light steel framing, paper-backed mesh, or expanded metal lath.

Cast rock is generally the most realistic manufactured rock available - primarily because production crews use molds of real rocks and outcroppings. Another important reason for cast rocks' realism is the use, in recent years, of newer, stronger, lightweight concretes, such as glass-fiber-reinforced concrete.

To achieve rock and waterscapes that are both serviceable and stunning, contractors must analyze the purpose of the artificial rocks. Will the rocks be aesthetic additions to a resort? Or will they be used to control erosion along coastal bluffs and residential hillsides? Any truly successful application will combine both functional and aesthetic elements.