Rock or Mulch for Landscaping: What You Need to Know

We landscapers care about adding a touch of beauty to our space because we want the landscape to stand out. And whether we use rock or mulch for landscaping goes beyond just personal preferences.

If you’re anything like me, there’s a high chance that you care about a detailed landscape that looks a lot more inviting than the plain, standard, earth soil. And from what I’ve learned from experience over the years, there’s no better way to get that cozy, aesthetic look than to landscape right.

The question is:

Which option should you use between mulch and rock for landscaping?

We’ll look at the two options in detail in this guide. The goal is to help you understand the value as well as the drawback of each so you can make an informed decision on what to use.

Let’s get to it. 

What Is Rock Mulch?

Rock mulch is a collection of decorative stones used as ground cover on landscapes. You can use them to add an aesthetic touch around tree bases, outdoor patio, home’s driveway, or even flowerbeds.

Given that they come in different types, dimensions, textures, and color, you do have a variety of options to use to give your landscape an epitome of environmental beauty and uniqueness.

Traditional mulch is different in the sense that there’s a limit in the shades that you can use. Here you have the option to choose only from shades of brown.

And if you’re a curious observer, you must have noticed that even red mulch features a brownish tint.

Types of Rock Mulch You Can Use

Types of Rock Mulch You Can Use

If you opt to use rock for landscaping, it’s important to know your options so you can choose what best suits you. Below are the types of rock mulch that you can use.

1. Decomposed Granite

Composed of minerals such as feldspar, mica, and quartz, and formed as hot lava or magma that cools and solidifies, decomposed granite is the most common igneous type of rock mulch you can use.

It’s available in more than 30 colors, so you have the option to customize your landscape in a personalized dimension.

Decomposed granites are a good option for rock mulching because they are not only easy to install but also have an excellent level of drainage.

2. Pea Gravel

These come from river stone smoothened by flowing water. They look much like the traditional mulch, and they’re just as good as decomposed granite because they don’t affect the quality of a lawn.

Given how beautiful they look, pea gravels make a good option for areas such as patios, driveways, and walkways.

We also like that it comes in a variety of colors, which means you have the option of custom personalization to make your landscape stand out.

Pea gravels aren’t without their drawback, though. Because they don’t lock in place, they aren’t the best choice to consider for slopped landscape. You can’t also use them in an area without defined boundaries because they’ll end up scattered all over the place.

How to keep landscape rocks from sliding

The Disadvantages of Organic Mulch

3. Lava Tock

These rocks occur naturally as a result of volcano eruption. The spout lava takes time to cool and harvested rocks are broken into stones that are good enough for landscaping.

They are particularly good for desert landscapes and yards where they can easily match the surrounding terrains.

The best thing about lava rock for landscaping is that it’s lightweight, which is why it spreads out easily on a property.

How do I remove gravel from my yard

4. River Rock

River rocks can add a unique kind of embodiment to a landscape thanks to their rounded, smoothed, and flattened surface. Unlike pea gravels, river rocks are bigger, often ranging from 3/4  to 5 inches in size.

The Benefits of Rock Mulching

Dump carts for lawn tractor

The Benefits of Rock Mulching

The following are the benefits that make rock mulching a better option to consider than no mulching at all:

  • Rock mulch requires little or no maintenance at all.  They are more like set and forget because you almost never have to replace them.
  • It’s less expensive to mulch with rocks and their ability to keep away weeds for longer is an added advantage
  • Rock mulching can help control soil erosion in windy areas

Where do snakes hide in your yard?

The Drawbacks of Rock Mulching

  • Rocks don’t benefit plants in any way and can therefore hinder their growth
  • Rocks can ruin the pH of soil by turning it from acidic to alkaline, which is bad for the growth of trees
  • Rock mulching can cause compacted soil

The Benefits of Organic Mulch for Landscaping

The following are the benefits of using organic mulch instead of rocks for landscaping:

  • Organic mulch promotes better growth. Research shows that organic mulching can make trees and plants grow twice as fast, which is why it’s a better option to consider.
  • Organic mulch reduces soil compaction and controls soil erosion. The ability to reduce chances of heavy erosion by up to 85% makes organic mulching a better option.
  • With organic mulching, there’s less evaporation, which means you won’t spend a lot of time and money irrigating. And given that the mulch breaks down naturally with time, the soil gets the nutrients that plants, flowers, and grass need to thrive.
  • Naturally, organic mulch can easily keep plants cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Furthermore, they keep weed from growing so you don’t spend a lot of time weeding manually.

How do I get a skunk to leave my yard

The Disadvantages of Organic Mulch

The following are the disadvantages that make organic mulching a less good option compared to rocks for landscaping:

  • If you mulch early, you slow down how quickly the ground can warm up. As such, it’s likely that you’ll see blooms late.
  • You need to replace your mulch every one to four years depending on the type. That means repetitive task that requires time and money.
  • Too much mulch of a layer of more than 3 inches high can stress plants. 

FAQs- Rock or Mulch for Landscaping

Rock vs traditional mulch:  which is better?

Both rock and traditional mulch are useful in different circumstances and at times what you choose to use comes down to personal preference.

Generally, rocks are good for preventing weeds and require very low maintenance. They also add personalization, which make your landscape look great.

However, you shouldn’t add them to gardens that receive a lot of sun because they can retain too much heat that can destroy plants.

Organic mulch is a good option to consider if you love gardening and won’t mind mulching from time to time.

Rock vs traditional mulch: which is cheaper?

Rock mulch is two to three times more expensive than organic mulch. However, you do pay for the buying and shipping cost only once.

While organic mulch is cheaper, you have to incur recurring cost every year, which is necessary to pay for if you must maintain the beauty of your landscape.

Also: No-mow lawn cover alternatives

Because rock mulches are heavier than shredded bark or organic mulches, they can easily cause soil compaction in areas with large stones.

With soil compaction comes water pooling and inhibition of water, air, and nutrient supply, which are necessary for plants to survive.

Patio drainage options for pooling water

Given that rock mulches don’t benefit plants and the fact that they raise soil temperature that lead to stressed thirsty plants, organic mulch is far much better than stone mulching.

In some cases, though, rock mulching may be good than no mulching at all.


  • Ricky

    Hi, I’m Ricky. I’ve been involved in lawn care and landscaping from when I was 15. To be honest, I didn’t like the idea of pushing mowers, collecting grass clippings, and maintaining flowerbeds at the time. But having seem the passion my parents had for gardening and outdoors and the effort they put in maintaining the health and beauty of our landscape, I couldn’t help but not only admire their hard work but also I became a part of it. As someone who loves to spend time with nature’s best, I find myself learning a lot more about gardening and outdoors on a daily basis. Not to mention I love to share the knowledge I’ve gathered over the years with my readers at We Mow Dallas. To be clear, I don’t have a Master’s degree in gardening or anything like that. Everything I’ve learned about gardening, landscaping, and lawn care spring from passion and engagement with my parents. And with a ton of free information out there, plus the ability to run tests and determine what works best for lawn care and landscaping, every day is an opportunity to learn and implement something new. My goal with We Mow Dallas is to teach you exactly how to maintain your lawn and landscape. And since I walk the talk in reality, you shouldn’t hesitate to join me in this wonderful world of landscaping and lawn care. K Beatrice

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *