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11 Types of Landscaping Rocks for a Low Maintenance Yard

Collage of different types of landscaping rocks.

While using plants, grass, or wood mulch are viable options instead of rocks for landscaping, these materials also require maintenance, including water.

Low Maintenance Landscaping with Rocks

Maintenance requires time and energy, while water can drive up utility bills. However, using rocks as your landscape material can be a no-brainer and an easy solution to the problem of investing time and money into the landscaping of your home.

People have been gardening and landscaping with rocks for many generations. This includes using them for drainage and as decorative rock accents, such as in a rock garden. You can join the people of years past by using rocks in your own landscaping.

Landscaping gravel tends to range in price anywhere from $60 to $75 per cubic yard. Below, we’ll discuss the different types of rocks you can use in your yard landscaping… an excellent source for rock garden landscaping ideas.

Related: DIY Raised Rock Garden | Backyard Tree Ideas | Backyard Zen Garden Ideas 

Different Types of Landscaping Rocks

1. Pea Gravel

Pea gravel landscaping

Pea gravel is a type of landscaping rock that is composed of rocks that are each roughly the size of – you guessed it – a pea.

The rocks that make up pea gravel typically have a smooth finish, which makes this type of landscaping rock appealing both to the touch and aesthetically. Pea gravel’s aesthetic and tactile appeal, combined with its affordability, make this type of gravel a consistent favorite type of landscaping gravel.

Pea gravel has multiple uses, in addition to its mass appeal as landscaping rock. These smaller rocks are commonly used in areas that get a lot of foot traffic, such as dog runs, playgrounds, walkways, and patios.

However, pea gravel is also handy for use in areas that need drainage, including underground projects.

2. River Rock

River rock garden landscaping

River rocks are another type of smooth rock. River rock is a durable alternative to mulch in landscaping. Due to this natural stone’s attractive appearance, these rocks are often used to fill in the spaces between stepping stones or as a decorative rock drainage option for areas that need it.

River rocks’ smooth surface makes this type of landscaping rock ideal for use in a backyard water feature.

If you don’t have a water feature in your outdoor space or live in an arid region, river rocks can bring the same tranquility that water features do to a front or backyard when used as decorative rocks for landscaping.

The common consensus about river rock size is that river rocks of one-inch width are ideal, though these rocks are available in sizes up to three inches. However, large river rocks for landscaping leave gaps between them, and especially around a water feature, these gaps can attract creatures like snakes.

3. Flagstone

Flagstone for landscaping

Flagstones are flat landscape rocks. They are a type of sedimentary rock that is broken up into layers. They are used in rock landscaping, typically in flatter areas, such as a path or a driveway, as paver stones.

Flagstones can also be used to build rock retaining walls, as stepping stones, as edging around a garden bed or other landscape edging, or even around a fire pit.

The two cheapest types of flagstones are sandstone and limestone, but varieties like bluestone and quartzite are also popular in rock landscaping. 

These two latter landscaping rocks are each a beautiful type of decorative landscaping stone. They can be filled around using sand, but typically other smaller rocks, such as pea gravel, are used to surround flagstone stepping stones and paths.

4. Brick chips

Brick chips for landscaping

Brick chips are a type of landscape rock that is made from bricks that have been crushed, screened, and then sized for use in rock landscaping projects.

They are typically used for trails, baseball warning tracks, walkways, as well as planting beds. Brick chips are incredibly useful for the maintenance of soil temperatures and for retaining moisture in the soil.

Both of these things can help promote healthy plant growth. Brick chips do not fade, rot, or deteriorate, and they do not attract insects. This makes them very attractive for use as ground cover in a flower bed.

5. Crushed Stones (Gravel)

Crushed stone garden and landscaping

Though on the surface, it may seem that landscaping gravel and crushed stones are the same things, in actuality, there is an important difference between the two.

Gravel is produced naturally, but crushed stones are typically made using man-made machinery, such as in quarries when the machinery is cutting larger rocks. These byproducts of quarrying are then gathered for sale and use in construction and landscaping.

The difference between gravel and crushed stones is evident in their appearance, as well.

While naturally-occurring gravel is typically made from water-borne sediment and therefore has rounded edges, crushed stones can have more angular sides. This is likely due to the way they are created.

6. Lava Rocks

Lava stones for garden landscaping

Lava rocks are also known as volcanic rocks. Gravel made from a lava rock is typically available in rich colors, such as burnt red.

Lava rocks can also be useful for rock mulch, as they do not decompose, which means that they don’t require replacement the way mulch does. Lava rocks are porous, which makes them useful in drainage areas, as well.

This volcanic rock can be useful in suppressing weed growth. If you lay a landscape fabric layer below a spread of lava rock ground cover, it will help to prevent any weed growth in your garden.

In order to keep weeds from growing between lava rocks, you must be careful not to allow any soil between the fabric and volcanic rock layer.

This means ensuring that the landscape fabric layer is in good repair. If soil is present between these layers, this may allow weeds to seed and grow.

7. Marble Rocks

White marble rocks for landscaping

When you think of marble, you probably also think of opulence. This beautiful landscape material brings a sense of luxury to whatever space it occupies. Crushed marble can cost anywhere from $0.80 to $1.50 per foot.

Because marble stone is made from rock that has a high pH, it will, over time, make the soil around it more alkaline. This can be beneficial to some plants, such as hydrangea flowers, whose colors change based on the acidity of the soil where they grow.

On the other hand, some plants prefer more acidic soil, so it isn’t the best idea to place marble gravel around a plant or flower bed with plants that require acidic soil to flourish.

8. Boulders

Boulders in a garden for landscaping

Boulders have great use in landscaping.  While you probably need to hire a service to source, deliver and place them, they look great and/or can serve as retaining walls. 

Boulders add texture and attract an eye in any yard, whether scattered in a large garden, stacked, placed around the base of a tree, or any other creative placement.

How much do boulders cost for landscaping?  Expect to pay around $100 per boulder.  Nope, it’s not cheap.

9. Beach Pebbles

Beach pebble garden

Beach pebbles give a similar effect as river rock, but they’re smaller.  They can be used for walkways or garden beds.

10. Retaining Wall Rocks

Rock retaining wall landscaping

Another way to incorporate rocks into landscaping is with retaining walls. Retaining walls are a topic unto themselves, with many different types of retaining walls and rocks used.

11. Gabion Rock Fences and Walls

Rock gabion wall landscaping

Lastly, there’s the interesting fence or retaining wall design called gabion, which is creating a fence or wall with wire wrapped around rocks.

When it comes to rocks for landscaping, there really is no wrong decision to be made. All the types of rocks for landscaping options listed above have special features as well as practical uses, and all are appealing to the eye.

Which type of rocks for landscaping you use is truly up to you and your needs and preferences.

Whether you need landscape material for a driveway, a rock garden, rock mulch, a water feature, edging for a flower bed, or just as ground cover, there is a type or type of rocks for landscaping for you.


What is the most popular type of landscaping rocks for the yard?  

Interestingly, based on monthly searches, lava rocks are the most popular, followed by boulders, river rock, gravel, brick chips, pea gravel, marble rocks, and lastly, flagstone.

What kind of rock should you use for landscaping?

That really depends on where you live, what’s available, your budget, what you’ll be using the rocks for, and the look you want.

I love the more austere look that lightly crushed stones or white marble gives off. I recognize that’s a more manicured look, but I like that.  In a more rustic yard, river rock and boulders look fantastic.  For walkways and patios, flagstone is perfect.

I don’t particularly like pea gravel, brick chips, or lava rocks.

Is it okay to mix a variety of different types of stones in landscaping?

Yes, absolutely, but you don’t want to go nuts. I wouldn’t mix colors too much because it won’t take long until it’s just a big messy mix.  But you could use different rocks in different gardens, including different sizes, for different effects throughout your yard. 

Again, you don’t want to get too eclectic, but with a good eye, you could pull this off to create a stunning yard.

Here’s an example that looks good now but imagines the effort to keep the rocks striped like that, especially if you have kids and/or pets:

Multi-rock garden