Types of Rock for Landscaping

When it comes to naturally enhancing landscapes, there is a lot more to consider than merely grass and plants. In recent times, rock landscaping has become a popular and gorgeous addition to any landscape, particularly for different shapes and styles.

best landscaping rocks

Table of Contents

What is rock landscaping?

Rock landscaping is all about forming and polishing landscaping rocks, which provide a distinct look to your garden or lawn that evokes a cool sense of aesthetics. The moment you decide to engage in rock landscaping, the next big question is, “What is the best rock I should consider for rock landscaping?”

Well, before you determine the perfect rock, you need to know about the types of rocks available and whether or not they will suit your project. Now, let’s have a look at the most popular rock choices used in rock landscaping.

types of landscaping rocks

The Top 11 Rocks for Landscaping

1. Decomposed Granite

Decomposed granite is a granitic rock that has worn out to the point of disintegrating into tiny pieces and silt-like particles. Originally, it is reddish, but over time, it fades to a lighter tan. You can use decomposed granite for rustic patios and pathways. If you have arid plants in your garden, you can use these rock pieces as topdressing.

The best part about choosing decomposed granite for your rock landscaping project is that it is readily available and relatively inexpensive.

decomposed granite

2. Pea Gravel

Pea gravel is formed of small, rounded rocks. As the name implies, these rocks are usually about the size of a pea. Pea gravel is available in a range of brown, tan, and white colour mixes. This rock is ideal for filling pathways, patio areas, and in between flat rocks such as flagstone.

There are different types of pea gravel. A few are more expensive than the others, for instance, rainbow gravel. Make sure you have a good look at the gravel before buying so that you get the one that best suits your project.

Pea Gravel

3. River Rock

River rocks are bigger and more polished compared to pea gravel. If you intend to build a retaining wall, fill in the space around shrubs or empty surfaces, or use rocks to edge a flower bed, river rocks are an ideal choice, given their size and shape.

River rocks serve both practical and aesthetic purposes. You can ideally use these rocks if you’ve got water fixtures such as waterfalls or fountains in your garden, as they help create a more natural look to the entire space.

Due to their incredible size and shapes and versatility, river rocks tend to be a little pricey. But they are worth your money. Another important feature is that you don’t have to fret much to clean the river rocks. Even if you feel the need to clean them, you can use a water hose or spray.

River Rock

4. Exotic Pebbles Polished Gravel

Polished pebbles are largely used as mulch in the exterior or interior garden beds. Being smooth and glossy, they give space an elegant look. Moreover, these are perfect for driveways and walkways as well. You can find these polished pebbles in a variety of colours that provide an attractive and unique appearance for your space.

The exotic pebbles polished gravel is portable due to its small size. To clean and maintain these durable pebbles, you just have to hose them down to get rid of any debris, dirt, or grass clippings.

Exotic Pebbles Polished Gravel

5. Flagstone Stepping Stones

If you want to add a distinct charm to your walkway, flagstone stepping stones should be your choice. These stones add a sense of uniqueness and attraction to the surroundings, and they will never fail to impress you. Moreover, stepping stones are a lot of fun as well.

Flagstone happens to be a sedimentary rock that disintegrates into layers, after which it can be used appropriately for rock landscaping. As flagstone comes in different designs and shapes, you have a variety of options to choose from, from quartzite and sandstone to paver stones and roundish, irregular stones.

Aside from being versatile, flagstone is durable as well. Also, its rough texture means it is slip-resistant. That is why you can confidently use them as stepping stones for the walkways. To keep flagstones in good condition, keep water away from them. Water not only damages the stone, but it can also discolour it. You can choose to clean the stones using a stone cleaner and treat the stains using white vinegar or bleach. 

Flagstone Stepping Stones

6. Crushed Stones (gravel)

Crushed stones are best for mulch. Generally, most types of mulch seem to be organic and prone to decomposition over time. But, crushed stone is inorganic. It is sourced from stone quarries.

In terms of rock landscaping, you can use crushed stone to mulch around specific types of plants and create a patch of land where dogs are kept. Dogs tend to destroy a lawn. Unlike grass, crushed stones provide a low-maintenance option that cuts down on the mess dogs make through urination, digging, and general wear and tear. 

When using crushed stone around plants, make sure to only use it around drought-resistant plants because the stone gets hotter in the summer and the heat retention may be detrimental to some annuals and perennials.

If you want to learn more about crushed stone sizes, then make sure you have read an article I wrote that covers this in detail.

Crushed Stones

7. Mexican Beach Pebbles

Mexican beach pebbles are my personal favourite. These small, greyish-black rocks are extremely smooth and rounded. You can use this rock for decorative purposes in your garden – to puddle around boulders, to top-dress container plantings, and to line the borders of beds and patios. With a unique look,

Mexican beach pebbles are perfect for modern or Zen-like gardens.

Of all the rocks available for landscaping, the Mexican beach pebbles provide an elegant and sophisticated look to your garden. However, it is fairly expensive. So, go for it if it’s the sophisticated look you crave.

Mexican Beach Pebbles

8. Lava Rocks

You can consider using lava rocks as accents in rock gardens. While they mostly come in red, black rocks are also available. Pick the colour depending on your design requirements. You can choose the colour based on the plant material in the rock garden. For example, white flowers contrast well with black lava rocks and red lava rocks look great with hens-and-chicks plants. These rocks are also perfect for fire pits.

Lava Rock

9. Boulders

If you are looking for large rocks that can fill in any space, you can’t go wrong with boulders. These are the largest landscaping rocks, perfect for a large landscape.

Boulders are also an excellent choice if you wish to make rocks the main attraction of your landscape. Besides looking distinguished and unique in extensive rock gardens, boulders also support large plants as they grow. You can also consider incorporating these rocks into your water fixtures, such as waterfalls or fountains.

Boulders come in two basic shapes – angular and round. Round boulders have smooth edges and curves while angular boulders exhibit jagged, blasted edges with flat faces. The good news is that boulders come in a wide range of colours that many people don’t know about, such as brown, pink, gold, grey, green, tan, and many other unique combinations. 

If you are looking for landscaping rocks that don’t break the bank on maintenance, boulders are an amazing choice.

garden boulders

10. Marble Chips

Marbles are not merely for kitchen countertops anymore! Marble chips, being sleek and classy, are a wonderful option for landscaping design elements and covering the soil around container gardens. Just one thing you have to keep in mind is that you should avoid using these around plants requiring high levels of acid because marble is known to change the pH level of the soil.

Marble Chips

11. Natural Sandstone Landscape Rock

Natural sandstones are sedimentary rocks, which are extremely hard. They generally come with small grains, which are cemented by siliceous, feldspathic, or calcareous cementing materials. These rocks are called natural sandstones because they are naturally formed.

Natural sandstones vary in colour, and the colour is determined by the type and amount of minerals present in the sand. Sandstones are extremely durable and exhibit a rough, granular texture. Hence, they can be employed to build raised garden beds. Moreover, these rocks tend to give your garden design an extra dimension. 

When it comes to maintenance, the process is pretty simple and straightforward, but not as easy as it sounds. You have to seal the natural sandstone regularly to protect it. In addition, when there are any spills, clean immediately to prevent the liquid from entering the pores of the stone.

retaining walls

Conclusion

You can see that there are several different types of rocks for landscaping your outdoor space. I understand that given the varied uses, attributes, textures, types, and cost ranges, picking the right rock for landscaping is a tricky task. However, I’m sure this list will make the selection quite easy for you. Just keep in mind the following factors when choosing rocks for your landscaping project:

  • The budget
  • The kind of plants in the garden
  • Aesthetics
  • The soil type
  • Availability of landscaping rocks in your region
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Oliver Wright
Oliver Wright

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