While using plants, grass, or wood mulch are viable options instead of rocks for landscaping, these materials also require maintenance, including water. 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 problems of investing time and money into the landscaping of your home.
People have used rocks in gardening and landscaping 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. 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.
1. Pea Gravel
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 a 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 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 a decorative rock.
The common consensus about river rock size is that river rocks of one inch width are the ideal, though these rocks are available in sizes up to three inches. However, larger rocks leave gaps between them, and especially around a water feature, these gaps can attract creatures like snakes.
Flagstones 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, or as stepping stones, or 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 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 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, and walkways, as well as planting beds. Brick chips are incredibly useful for maintenance of soil temperatures and for retaining moisture in 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)
Though on the surface it may seem that gravel and crushed stones are the same thing, 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-occuring 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 rocks are also known as volcanic rock. 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
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.
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 placements.
How much do boulders cost for landscaping? Expect to pay around $100 per boulder. Nope, it’s not cheap.
9. Beach Pebbles
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
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
Lastly, there’s the interesting fence or retaining wall design called gabion which is creating a fence or wall with wire wrapped around rocks.
Read our “50 Gabion Wall and Fence Ideas” gallery and article.
When it comes to rocks for landscaping, there really is no wrong decision to be made. All the type 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 types 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 light 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 too 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 imagine the effort to keep the rocks striped like that especially if you have kids and/or pets: