Best Landscaping Rocks for Your Yard Project

Not all beauty is planted or grown. Landscaping rocks are formed and polished. Using landscaping rocks for your yard project could cut down on maintenance and conserve water. The question is, which ones are best for your landscaping project?

You have several options:

  • Decorative gravel
  • Pea gravel
  • River rock
  • Lava rock
  • Beach pebbles
  • Polished pebbles
  • Boulders
  • Cobblestone
  • Flagstone
  • Bricks

Using landscaping rocks for your yard project can improve the value of your property by making it unique. Think of a brick sidewalk to your front door, or shiny pebbles for your Zen garden. Landscaping rocks can also be functional, such as flagstone stairs leading to your hot tub or garden.

Bricks, river rocks, and flagstone are excellent for accenting flower beds. They’ll also work to create a path to a gazebo or serve as a wall around your garden. All these materials are only a stone’s-throw away.

Let’s break up the rocks into which ones are best for your landscape:

Rocks as Ground Covers

A rock garden can save you a brick load of money on landscaping. Why? It’s a bed of rocks often featuring shrubs or cactus. There’s no lawn to mow, fertilize, or water, and the porous rock allows rain to soak into the ground.

Landscaping rocks also can help prevent erosion and runoff. Several varieties will work for a rock garden, but these rocks work best for ground cover:

Pea gravel

Pea Gravel as a Landscaping Rock

Already polished, thanks to mother nature, pea gravel rocks are quite tiny. You can use them to fill flower beds or small crevices.

Cost: Pea gravel usually costs about $35 a cubic yard. If you want colored pea gravel, prepare to budget for an extra $20-50 per cubic yard.

Lava rock

Red Rock Background #2Lava Landscaping Rocks  Photo credit: CC0 Public Domain

A good replacement for mulch in flower beds, lava rock is popular among homeowners. The rough, misshapen, red rocks are a bit more expensive than pea gravel but an excellent long-term investment.

Lava rocks retain moisture, keep weeds and pests away, and have a long lifespan. They also absorb heat during the day and release it at night.

Cost: Lava rocks cost around $20 for a 10-lb bag.

River rocks

More polished than pea gravel and much bigger, river rocks can be used for more than filling in around shrubs. You can stack them, use them to edge a bed, build a retaining wall, or fill in some empty land for a colorful patch of stone.

Cost: River rocks can be a bit pricey, ranging from $45 to $280 a ton depending on the size. But they’re a versatile landscaping rock for your yard projects.

Rocks as Pavers

Photo Courtesy: TANAKA Juuyoh CC BY 2.0

If you’re using landscaping rocks for your paving project, you may want a smoother texture. These are the best rocks for your patio or walkway:

Flagstone

Perhaps the most popular choice for paths and patios, flagstone has several perks. It comes in a wide variety of colors, allows water to spread rather than run off, and it’s quite durable.

You also can add grass or greenery between the individual stones.

Cost: Flagstone has several subtypes, so the price may vary depending on if you’re getting slate, limestone, or sandstone.

Cobblestone

Looking for an old-world feel for your yard? Consider cobblestone. You also could choose granite shaped to look like old-fashioned cobblestone. Both are highly durable.

Note: Cobblestone can discolor outdoors over time, unless you weatherproof it.

Cost: Cobblestone is quite pricey, ranging from $690-$915 per 100 square feet.

Brick

Traditionally fired clay, contemporary brick now comes in all sorts of materials. It’s a versatile landscaping rock that can shine with some design planning.

For example, you can use bricks to build a patio, walkways, or a raised garden. Or you can arrange bricks in a unique style that suits your tastes.

Cost: The price of brick varies with the materials, but ranges from $6 to $10.50 per square foot.

Build the Bed

Screen Shot 2020-09-17 at 2.00.12 PM.pngPhoto Courtesy: Rebecca Siegel CC BY 2.0

Thinking about raised garden beds or a retaining wall? Landscaping rocks can help. The rocks can give your yard a lift and create layers of beauty around the property.

You can use just about any sort of landscaping rock to build retaining walls or raised beds. It’s more about how you organize them and drainage.

Organization: Group your landscaping rocks into large, medium, and small. You’ll build the walls of your garden bed with the large landscaping rocks at the bottom and use the smaller ones as filler and support. Depending on your design, there are different techniques for building sturdy garden bed walls.

Drainage: For good garden bed drainage, you want to use crushed rock or pea gravel at the bottom of the bed. This will prevent the water from being trapped and drowning the leafy plants.

How to Use Landscaping Rocks in Creative Ways

Photo Courtesy: PumpkinSky CC BY-SA 4.0

When it comes to landscaping, you can let your imagination run wild. Build natural ponds or streams through the yard, or a retaining wall with plants, or accent a koi bond.

Whether building a waterfall, decorating a pond, or constructing a themed garden, it’s best to mix-up rock types. Include some boulders, use flagstone to create the base and limestone for a porous effect, and create an interesting flow of water. Look for examples at home and garden shows (and, of course, here on LawnStarter’s landscaping pages).

When to Call a Landscaping Pro

If your landscaping vision is far outside your skillset (a large rock wall with water flowing down the sides into a bog garden, for example), you want expert advice, or you just don’t have the time, a professional landscaper near you can show you how to make your yard the talk of the town — and then make it so.

Sometimes people start landscaping projects and need a pro to finish the job. In this case, whether you are landscaping with flagstone, pea gravel, or boulders, a landscaping expert can come to the rescue so you’re not stuck between a rock and a hard place for long.

Main image credit: Zipity11 CC By-SA 3.0

Brenda Ryan

Brenda Ryan

Brenda Ryan is a former radio newscaster and journalist who writes for LawnStarter’s blog pages. In her free time she enjoys traveling, gardening, visiting wineries, and running 5K and 10K races in her home state of Colorado.