8 Landscaping Rock Types: How to Choose Perfectly

Landscaping rocks are a popular and enduring choice for enhancing outdoor spaces. These natural elements bring out the beauty of plants, offer functionality in landscape features, and effectively address various landscaping challenges. With their durability and low maintenance requirements, landscaping rocks have proven their versatility over time. However, the sheer variety of options available can be overwhelming, especially for new homeowners.

Different projects call for different sizes and types of landscaping rocks, so in this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore eight distinct types of landscaping rocks and provide valuable insights into choosing the right one for your yard.

1. Crushed Stone

Best for: Mulch

Crushed stone, commonly sourced from quarries, is an inorganic mulch composed of small, angular stones around 1 inch in size. It’s not just a mulch but also finds use as patio underlayment. One of its significant benefits is its utility in mulching around specific plant types and areas where pets frequent. Unlike organic mulches, crushed stone doesn’t break down, making it a practical solution to minimize mess caused by pets. However, be mindful of its heat-retaining properties in sunny areas, as it may impact certain plants.


  • Durability
  • Facilitates water and oxygen penetration
  • Ideal for trees, shrubs, and cacti


  • Non-organic, so it doesn’t release nutrients
  • Less soft to walk on compared to wood or straw mulch
  • Leaves can accumulate between stones, leading to weed growth

2. Black Polished Pebbles

Best for: Accents in water features

Black polished pebbles, known as black polished river rock or beach pebbles, are ornamental quartzite stones with a glossy finish. They offer versatility as accents in water features, mulch for walkways and patios, or fillers in container gardens. Unlike crushed stone, these pebbles can be bought by the bag, making them a manageable DIY option. To create contrast, consider mixing white marble pebbles with the black polished variety. These pebbles provide an elegant touch and can enhance various landscaping elements.

3. River Rocks

Best for: Dry creek beds

“River rocks” refer not to a geological category but to rocks found in river beds, shaped by natural processes. Available in various sizes, from gravel to boulders, they look most appealing in mixed arrangements. River rocks are particularly suitable for creating the appearance of natural dry creek beds. Apart from aesthetics, dry creek beds offer a functional solution for managing excess water runoff. These rocks are often available for purchase from home improvement centers and online retailers.

4. Lava Rocks

Best for: Accents in rock gardens

Lava rocks, available in red or black, can add distinctive accents to rock gardens or offer a bold contrast in different landscape elements. These rocks are commonly used as decorative mulch and can also serve well in fire pits. When selecting lava rocks, consider how their color complements your design, how they interact with other elements, and their long-term appearance under sunlight.

5. Flagstone

Best for: Walkways and patios

Flagstone, which includes sandstone and slate varieties, is a flat sedimentary rock used for walkways and patios. Its irregular shapes and durable nature make it an appealing choice for creating visually captivating paved surfaces. Incorporating a mix of colors can add depth to your design, or you can opt for a monochromatic look to match or complement your home’s exterior.

6. Cobblestone

Best for: Driveway aprons

Cobblestones, also known as “Belgian blocks,” are rectangular stones cut from granite, limestone, or basalt. They exude a traditional charm and are commonly used for driveway aprons. Cobblestones can provide the look of a cobblestone driveway without the full cost. When considering cobblestones, remember that their uneven surface can make snow removal challenging.

7. Fieldstone

Best for: Stone walls, including stone retaining walls

Fieldstone, originating from fields where farmers would collect stones to clear their land, is used to build both decorative and functional stone walls. Available in flat and rounded shapes, fieldstones add a rustic touch to your landscape. Mortarless walls using flat stones and stone retaining walls are popular uses for fieldstone, adding both aesthetic appeal and structural support.

8. Boulders

Best for: Terracing, accents that need to show up from a distance

Boulders are substantial rocks that can make a strong visual impact. They find use in terracing slopes, creating focal points, or emphasizing landscape features. Due to their size, boulders command attention and offer stability. While they require professional installation due to their weight, they provide an opportunity to create unique and captivating designs that leave a lasting impression.

Choosing Landscaping Rock

When selecting landscaping rock, several factors come into play, including size, color, cost, and ease of use. Smaller rocks excel in drainage applications, while larger rocks offer structural support and stability. Color choices are subjective, allowing you to match or contrast with other design elements. Keep your project’s budget in mind, especially for larger rocks like boulders that may require professional installation.


In conclusion, the selection of landscaping rocks should align with your project’s specific requirements, aesthetic preferences, and intended functionality. By carefully evaluating these factors, you can confidently choose the right type of landscaping rock to elevate the beauty and practicality of your outdoor space.

Take a look at The Top 8 Benefits of Landscape Design in Los Angeles for more information.