Types of Landscape Rocks

June 30, 2014


When planning a landscape, people tend to focus their efforts on plants and shrubs. Green foliage is great, but don’t forget about the rocks. Landscaping rocks are a nice focal point and add interesting contours to an otherwise flat area. What types of rocks are best for your garden?

River rocks are rounded stones, typically an inch or larger in diameter, readily available in different types and costs. You can use the small ones as mulch for heat-loving plants or for plants in the shade. Avoid mulching your plants with river rocks if they aren’t heat-tolerant, because river rocks retain warmth from the sun and some plants need their roots kept cool. Placing medium to large river rocks in a wide path give the look of a dry riverbed. They can also be used to direct drainage through a property.

Large stones can range from the size of a soccer ball to the size of a small car. On the edge of your property, large stones can act as barriers to protect your garden from unwanted and accidental road traffic. You can place them alone or surrounded by plants and have them serve as a nice focal point for your landscape.

Gravel comes in several varieties. Among them is crushed gravel or pea gravel. The former is best used as a top layer for unpaved driveways, though it’s too rough for use where people might walk barefoot. Pea gravel is made up of tiny, smooth pebbles and is often placed around large boulders in Japanese gardens to simulate a pond. Pea gravel is also an excellent choice for medium-traffic pathways. It works as mulch because it doesn’t retain heat and won’t overheat your roots. You can also get decomposed gravel, which has a lot of silt and sand-like particles. Make sure you buy gravel in bulk, instead of by the bag, to save money. Consider using a landscape fabric underneath your gravel to suppress weeds and allow rain to penetrate while keeping the rocks from the sinking into the ground.

Lava rock comes in nice bright colors. It’s often used to fill driveways and easements. If you have plants like yucca or cactus, lava rocks can offer an excellent complement.

Flagstones are wide, flat rocks that work well as stepping-stones. They can be used in pathways. Place them over a bed of sand to ensure good drainage. You can plant a low-growing ground cover like creeping thyme in the spaces between the stones to complement the flagstones and give a natural look to the landscape.