8 Types of Landscaping Rocks and How to Choose One

Landscaping rocks can add visual interest, texture, and functionality to yards and gardens. With many types of rocks to choose from, it’s important to select the right one for your needs. Here’s a guide to the eight most popular types of landscaping rocks and tips for choosing the best option.

Pea Gravel

Pea gravel is a small, rounded rock that is about the size of a pea. It comes in natural shades of tan, brown, gray, white, or red. Pea gravel is an affordable and versatile landscaping material.


  • Size ranges from 1/8” to 3/8”
  • Smooth, rounded shape
  • Available in a variety of natural colors
  • Affordable price point


Pea gravel is commonly used for:

  • Walkways and garden paths
  • Ground cover in small areas
  • Drainage in plant beds and beneath porous surfaces
  • Landscape edging
  • Pet areas and children’s play areas due to its soft texture

It can also fill gaps between pavers, disguise utility areas, and act as a colorful mulch around plants and trees. Its small size makes it easy to walk on comfortably with shoes on. Pea gravel packs tightly together, which prevents erosion issues.


Pea gravel can get displaced easily and require frequent raking to maintain its appearance. It does not provide great traction when wet. When used as a ground cover, weeds may sprout up between pebbles. Using a weed barrier fabric can help reduce this problem.


Pea gravel typically costs $30 – $50 per cubic yard.

River Rocks

River rocks are naturally smooth, rounded rocks that come from rivers and streams. They range in size and are multi-colored from their mineral composition.


  • Naturally smooth and rounded
  • Multi-colored from gray, tan, brown, red, white
  • Range of sizes from 1” to 6” typically
  • Irregular, organic shapes


The organic look of river rocks makes them popular for:

  • Flower beds and planting areas
  • Landscape beds and borders
  • Decorative rock gardens
  • Ponds and water features
  • Drainage areas
  • Erosion control on slopes

Their smoothness and rounded edges give river rocks a clean, contemporary look. They are also used to fill spaces between paving stones and line walkways or patios.


River rocks may contain silt or clay sediments that can stain them over time. Using a sealer can help keep the rocks looking clean. Their rounded shape allows them to shift easily, so they may need to be re-leveled occasionally. Avoid very small river rocks in high foot traffic areas, as they can create an uneven walking surface.


River rocks average $40 – $60 per cubic yard depending on rock size.

Lava Rocks

Lava rock gets its name from volcanic lava that solidified into porous, lightweight rock. It comes in shades of black, gray, or red. The porous nature gives it a rough, craggy texture.


  • Lightweight and porous
  • Jagged and angular appearance
  • Shades of black, gray, red
  • Provides good drainage


Lava rock works well for:

  • Accent boulders or mixed boulders in gardens
  • Ground cover instead of mulch
  • Excellent drainage material below pots or in wet areas
  • Fire pits or fireplaces
  • Paths and hardscape edging

Its bold colors and texture make lava rock ideal for creating visual interest in the yard.


Lava rock can stain surrounding materials from its oxidization or from minerals leaching out. Its sharp, jagged edges make it uncomfortable to walk on barefoot. Frequent expansion and contraction can also cause the rocks to shift. Using it along with other colored rocks helps add contrast.


Lava rock costs approximately $35 – $45 per cubic yard.

Landscape Gravel

Landscape gravel contains crushed gravel chips in sizes ranging from 1/8” to 1”. It comes in various natural colors like tans, browns, grays, and white. The angular gravel pieces interlock well for stability.


  • Angular crushed stone pieces
  • Range of natural colors
  • Sizes from 1/8” to 1”
  • Packs tightly together


The stability and tight packing of landscape gravel make it ideal for:

  • Driveways
  • Paths
  • Patios
  • Walkways
  • Play areas
  • Garden edging

It provides excellent drainage below retaining walls or porous hardscapes. The crushed stone spreads weight evenly, which prevents shifting and sinking.


Landscape gravel requires frequent raking to smooth out uneven spots. It can get lodged in shoe treads easily, making a mess indoors. Weed barrier fabric below the gravel can help reduce weed growth. Avoid very small gravel in high foot traffic areas since it is prone to shifting.


Landscape gravel starts at approximately $35 per cubic yard.

Decomposed Granite

Decomposed granite consists of small pieces of granite rock that broke down into sand-like particles. It comes in natural hues of tan, gold, brown, gray, or rust red. The powdery texture makes it easily compactable.


  • Fine powdery texture
  • Natural earthen colors
  • Compactable for firm surface
  • Sand-like appearance


Decomposed granite works well for:

  • Informal garden paths
  • Patios or courtyards
  • Driveways with light vehicle use
  • Temporary roads or parking areas
  • Surfacing for dog runs
  • Paver joint material

It provides a natural crushed rock appearance at a lower cost than other landscaping rocks. The compacted material creates a firmer surface than gravel.


Frequent rain can erode decomposed granite paths or walkways. Stabilizing the material with a binder helps harden it. Foot traffic also kicks up dust, so it works best in low traffic areas. Decomposed granite shifts easily, requiring occasional re-leveling to keep the surface even.


Decomposed granite costs approximately $30 – $45 per cubic yard. Stabilizing binders add $10 – $15 per square foot.

Crushed Granite

Crushed granite comes from mechanically crushing granite boulders or courser gravel into smaller pieces. The angular fragments create highly compactable material.


  • Angular rock fragments rather than rounded
  • Gray, salt and pepper coloring
  • Compacts tightly for firm surface
  • Sizes range from fines to 3/8”


Crushed granite is suitable for:

  • Driveways
  • Landscape paths
  • Patios
  • Underneath pavers
  • Play sand alternative

It packs firmly to create a stable base. The stone’s light color reflects heat well in sunny areas. Crushed granite also allows for drainage better than solid concrete.


Granite easily stains, so periodic sealing is required to keep the color vibrant, especially with wet weather exposure. Crushed granite can also loosen and erode over time if the base is not firmly compacted initially. Avoid crushed granite fines or “stone dust” in high traffic areas as it can kick up dust.


Crushed granite averages $35 – $55 per cubic yard.

Pea Pebbles

Pea pebbles are tiny naturally weathered rocks in shades of gray, brown, tan, or red. Their smooth, rounded shape gives them a uniform appearance. The size ranges from 1/8” to 1/4”.


  • Tiny, smooth pebbles
  • Round shape
  • Natural earthen colors
  • Very small 1/8” to 1/4” size


Pea pebbles work nicely for:

  • Accent areas like potted plants or flower beds
  • Succulent and cactus plantings
  • Bonsai displays
  • Fairy or miniature gardens
  • Aquariums and terrariums
  • Top dressing on container plants

The tiny pebbles allow for intricate designs in small spaces. Their smoothness also makes them comfortable for walking on with bare feet.


Such small pebbles are easily displaced by rain or foot traffic. Placing them over weed barrier fabric helps keep them neatly in place. Avoid pea pebbles on slopes or high traffic zones where they can scatter. They may also blow away in windy unprotected areas.


Pea pebbles run approximately $25 – $40 per cubic yard.

Marble Chips

Marble chips come from crushing up scrap marble into small, irregularly shaped pieces. They are extremely smooth with a polished appearance.


  • Irregular chunky shape
  • Smooth polished texture
  • Bright white coloring
  • Small chip sized pieces


Marble chips are ideal for:

  • Filling cracks between paving stones
  • Accenting flower beds
  • Leveling stepping stones
  • Mixed into decorative concrete
  • Radiant floor heat
  • Aquarium or vase filler

Their bright white color provides excellent visual contrast against lush greenery. Marble chips also resist weathering and retain their smooth polish long-term.


Marble chips stain easily from dirt, leaves, water minerals and more. Their irregular shape can allow them to shift out of place underfoot on walkways. Avoid marble chips in extremely wet areas where staining can be difficult to remove. Rinse them periodically with water to retain their white color.


Marble chips average $20 – $40 per cubic yard.

Crushed Stone

Crushed stone refers to a mixture of small irregularly shaped rock fragments. The stone comes from mechanical crushing of rocks like limestone or dolomite. The fragments are angular and sharply broken rather than smooth and rounded.


  • Angular, broken fragments
  • Gray, brown, rust, white color
  • Compacts well but drainage
  • Sizes from fines up to 3”


Crushed stone works well:

  • As a gravel driveway or parking lot base
  • Beneath porous paving surfaces
  • Retaining wall drainage
  • Landscaping mulch around plants
  • Walkway or patio sub-base layer
  • Play sand alternative

It compacts tightly while still allowing water drainage. The angular rock pieces interlock together firmly.


Poorly crushed stone can have sharp edges that are uncomfortable underfoot. The rock fragments shift and scatter easily underfoot or rainfall. Frequent applications are needed as crushed stone settles into the soil. Sealing helps reduce dust and fading.


Crushed stone averages $20 – $45 per cubic yard.

How to Choose the Right Landscaping Rocks

With so many landscaping rock options, consider these tips to select the right type for your needs:

  • Purpose – Determine your primary use – ground cover, decorative accents, drainage, pathways, etc. Choose an appropriate rock size, texture and color for the intended purpose.
  • Foot Traffic – Consider how much foot traffic the area will receive. Larger, angular rocks like crushed granite provide better stability underfoot than small, smooth pebbles.
  • Slope – On steep slopes or drainage areas, use larger rocks 1-3” that will resist washing away better than small pea gravel or decompose granite.
  • Budget – Less expensive options include pea gravel, decomposed granite and lava rock. More distinctive types like marble chips and colored river rock cost a little more.
  • Aesthetics – Select rock colors that match your home, hardscape and plants. Combine various rocks like crushed granite and river pebbles for visual interest.
  • Maintenance – Some rocks like decomposed granite require stabilizing to prevent erosion. Marble chips and river rocks may need occasional sealing.
  • Durability – Hardscape areas need durable, weather-resistant rock like granite. Save delicate marble chips for accent areas or container gardens.
  • Weeds – Tiny pea gravel lets weeds sneak through easily. Use landscape fabric underneath as a barrier. Larger rocks don’t allow weed growth.
  • Drainage – Angular crushed rocks and lava stones allow better water flow. Smooth pebbles may create poor drainage.

By considering the unique landscape needs and setting, it becomes much easier to select the ideal rocks that offer both aesthetics and functionality. Most landscapes benefit from using a combination of different colored and sized stones. Don’t be afraid to blend various rocks throughout your yard and gardens to achieve your perfect vision.

Frequently Asked Questions About Landscaping Rocks

What are the most popular sizes for landscaping rocks?

The most common rock sizes for landscapes are:

  • 3⁄4” minus – Mix of small pebbles under 3⁄4″ (decor, walkways)
  • 1-2″ – Small accent rocks and filler around plants
  • 2-4″ – Medium rocks, decorative mulch, drainage
  • 4-8″ – Large accent boulders and decorative beds

Should I use landscape fabric under rock beds?

Yes, landscape fabric acts as a weed barrier and keeps rocks separated from the soil. This prevents weeds and allows proper drainage.

How thick should I make a layer of landscaping rocks?

Most landscape rocks require 2-4 inches of depth for proper coverage. Small pea gravel can be 1-2 inches. Larger rocks or slopes may need a 4-6 inch layer.

What kind of projects are landscaping rocks good for?

Rocks are ideal for walkways, patios, retaining walls, erosion control, decorative mulch, flower beds, tree rings, planters, water features and more.

Can I use more than one type of rock in the same area?

Absolutely! Blending different rocks creates visual interest through varying colors, textures and sizes. Popular combinations include pea gravel with lava rock or river pebbles with larger boulders.

How often will landscaping rocks need maintenance?

Maintenance is minimal, but occasional weeding, raking out dips, and replenishing displaced rocks may be needed every year or so. Sealing some natural rocks helps retain their color.

Should I wet rocks before spreading them?

Spraying a light mist of water over rocks can help prevent dust and make them easier to work with. However, soaking the rocks thoroughly can make them overly heavy for spreading.

What can I use to fill gaps between landscaping rocks?

You can fill small gaps with loose pea gravel, sand, topsoil or decomposed granite. Avoid using cement between natural rocks.

How do I calculate how many landscaping rocks I need?

Measure the square footage of the area, multiply by depth in feet, then multiply by 1.4 to allow extra for spreading. This gives you cubic yards needed to order.


The endless options for landscaping rocks allow you to get creative and find solutions tailored to your yard. Consider a combination of different stones throughout garden beds, walkways, patios and decorative areas. Larger accent boulders paired with pea gravel offer visual variety. Mixing rounded river pebbles with angular crushed granite also adds appealing texture. With the right selection and placement, rocks can take your landscape to the next level. Just be sure to choose materials suited to each use, accounting for foot traffic, drainage, and aesthetic preferences. Your local quarry or landscape supply retailer can help guide you to the types of rocks that will bring your vision to life.