How To Landscape With Rock

Written by Sherry Rauh and published on

Landscaping with rock is a great way to add character to a yard that is either very shaded or does not lend itself well to growing plants. Rocks can also be combined with flowers, shrubs, succulents, and trees as inorganic mulch. No matter how you use them, stones are an eco-friendly solution that saves water, reduces yard maintenance, and minimizes fertilizer use. Here’s more information about how to landscape with a rock.

How to Use Rocks in Your Landscape

Natural stone is one of the most versatile elements available for a landscape makeover. Landscaping with rocks adds texture and contrast, providing durable groundcover that requires little or no maintenance.

Choosing the Right Rocks for Your Landscape

The rocks you choose will help set the tone for the rest of your garden. Tawny beach pebbles or river rocks add warmth, while white marble chips help brighten up shady areas. Flat terracotta stones complement a tropical landscape, but can seem out of place in a more formal garden. For a minimalist modern landscape or Polynesian-themed garden, try black lava rocks. Check out photos of rockscapes online to see what appeals to you. Because stones last indefinitely, it’s important to choose a look you’ll be happy with for many years.

Replace Mulch

Rocks may be more expensive than mulch, but they have several advantages as a groundcover. The first is durability. Mulch must be replaced every season, while rocks can last the lifetime of your garden. Another advantage is that pale-colored stones provide striking contrast against deep-colored foliage and help brighten up shady corners of your landscape.

“Call attention to a favorite shrub or specimen tree by surrounding it with medium-sized river stones. This creates the effect of a ‘living sculpture’,” says landscape architect Maureen Smith. Rocks will also discourage weed growth around your prized plant, but for the best results, install a weed barrier before putting the stones in place.

Use Rocks in a French Drain

Install a French drain using pebbles to create an appealing drainage solution in your yard.

Sidewalk Landscaping With Rocks

If there are no major HOA restrictions on landscaping your street strip, why not be creative? This sample from garden designer Rebecca Sweet features a colorful, eye-pleasing mixture of river rocks, mulch and ornamental grasses, and plants for maximum curb appeal.

Use Landscaping Rocks to Create a Fairy Ring

Stack landscaping rocks a few rows high to create a barrier between the plants and the play area in this DIY children’s fairy ring you can create in your backyard.

Asian Garden Design

This Asian garden uses stepping stones and rocks to create an organic landscaping design that blends beautifully with nature.

Create a Beautiful Vignette

A mixture of rocks, stone slabs, potted plants, ornamental grasses, and ground covers transform the border areas of this pool into a wonderful study in textures and contrasts.

Plant a Rock Garden

For a more exotic look, add a rock garden to your landscape. Choose an area that gets plenty of sun and install two or three small boulders. Surround the boulders with closely spaced low-lying flowers, such as portulaca (left), ground orchids or decorative cactus. Carefully fill in the gaps with smaller stones that complement the color of your boulders.

Create a Centerpiece

A large, unusually-shaped boulder can serve as an eye-catching focal point. Use as a tidy, low-maintenance centerpiece in a small garden, where an ornamental shrub might become too large or unruly. In larger gardens, a rock centerpiece can add visual interest to monotonous border areas, such as hedges.

Cornerstones in Herb Gardening

This beautiful front yard edible garden by Home & Garden Design, Inc features a quartet of raised beds with natural stones and a variety of cool-season favorites such as thyme, kales, lettuces, fennel, and parsley.

Round Fire Pit in Middle of Outdoor Kitchen

These homeowners have it made in the shade, with a built-in outdoor kitchen and stone fire pit that makes their yard ready for entertaining.

Front Entrance to Beautifully Landscaped Home

The front yard of this contemporary lakeside home features a beautiful, symmetrical design with concrete retaining walls, a gravel walkway, and green shrubs filling the landscape with natural color.

Stone Fence Close-up

A stone fence can add a charming sense of character to a yard and garden. This fence uses stones of different sizes and hues to fit in with the wooded landscape.

Build a Naturalistic Poolscape

Stacked stones and natural rocks are placed around this swimming pool to create an organic design that compliments the nearby lake view.

Rustic Fire Pit

A small fire pit embedded in a stone patio and circled by wooden chairs creates a rustic feel.

Build a Pond Border

Large rocks are the key to giving your backyard pond that fairytale look. The right type of stone will help camouflage unsightly black pond liners and provide contrast to the dark pond water. Avoid using even rectangular pavers. For the most natural effect, choose rocks that are similar in size but irregular in shape and color.

Create a Low-Maintenance Container Garden

Instead of setting up a container garden on your deck or patio, where the pots need regular watering, place them in a rockscape that’s within reach of your sprinkler system. Line the area with a weed barrier and set the containers on top. Cut holes in the barrier, so the bottoms of the pots can fit through and settle into the soil. Make sure the pots have adequate holes for drainage. Surround the pots with small stones in a complementary color. The result is a striking container garden that gets watered whenever your sprinklers come on.

Driftwood Bench and Natural Stone Fire Pit

This seating area utilizes driftwood for benches and natural stones to surround the simple fire pit. Its proximity to the dock makes it a perfect place to relax right off the lake.

Make a Stepping Stone Path

A stepping stone path is a picturesque option for those shady areas alongside your house, where there is too little sun for most plants to thrive. It’s also a practical way to keep shoes clean when walking up to a side door or back door. For a tidy look, surround large stepping stones with small pebbles in a contrasting color.

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