14 Fast and Easy Landscaping Ideas with Mulch and Rocks

geometric design

In general, people avoid using rocks in their landscape because it tends to make the design look rather harsh. However, a new trend is starting to take over gardens worldwide: using rocks and mulch for the garden design. Besides being a good aesthetical combination, they also have some practical aspects. In this article, we are going to look over various landscaping ideas with mulch and rocks and see if we can inspire you today.

Landscaping Ideas with Mulch and Rocks to Spice Up Your Garden

1. Use Stone Mulch

Stone mulch? What’s that? Though it may sound weird, there is such thing as stone mulch. In general, mulch can be divided into two categories: organic and inorganic.

  • Organic mulch: compost, grass clippings, shredded bark, pine straw, etc.
  • Inorganic mulch: weed fabric, geotextile or rubber mats, stone, etc.

The difference between them is that the organic materials will break down in time, thus adding some organic matter to the soil. Meanwhile, inorganic mulch doesn’t readily degrade. That’s why you can also use stones in case you need to mulch a certain area in your garden.

2. River Pebble Design

The river pebble mulch comes from an array of riverbeds. It’s one of the most popular rock mulches you can find, and it goes by different names: Mississippi stone, river rock, etc. The best thing about it is that you can diversify your landscape with various sizes, from using small pebbles to irregular large chunks. The smooth stones that come in natural shades of tan, gray, etc., can be easily integrated into any design. One of the most popular landscaping ideas with mulch and rocks is to random spread the pebbles around the space. You can even create a pattern and include large pots with pebble decorations on them as well.

landscaping ideas with mulch and rocks side view of a mulch design

3. Pits and Grills

Pits and grills are also great spaces to use some landscaping ideas with mulch and rocks. The good thing about the rocks is that they are not flammable like regular mulch, so you can place them as close to the fire as you want. Any fire pit will look great if you create a stone circle around it, for instance. You can even divide your garden into different round areas delimited by increasingly larger stones. The key is to use your imagination, as well as the elements that are already available in your backyard.

4. Pools and Ponds

Another one of the most effective landscaping ideas with mulch and rocks would be to use them around pools and ponds. Besides having a great aesthetic impact, they can also help you keep the area around your pool tidy and dry. However, if you plan on stepping on the rocks, you should make sure they aren’t too slippery, and they are flat enough to be comfortable. You can mark the beginning of a planting area outside the stones by including a mulch zone. There will be a nice contrast, and you can have a smooth passage from the pool to your plants.

5. Drought Tolerant Plants

Most people prefer the landscaping ideas with mulch and rocks that also include green plants. If you live in an area where it doesn’t rain that often, you can choose some drought tolerant shrubs or some plants that are suitable for a rock garden. If you want to enjoy their lively green shades during the cold season as well, you should consider using some plants that survive winter to contrast with the gray rocks. Mulch can also help you protect these plants since it maintains a perfect level of moisture and temperate. However, it may be too humid for drought-tolerant options, so make sure you are using the right combination.

landscaping ideas with mulch and rocks mulch and grass decor

6. Large Pavers and Mulch

Instead of the river bed pebbles we were mentioning earlier, you can also oversize everything and choose some large pavers. Placing them tightly together would give off a harsh aspect of your space. If that’s not what you intend, then it would be a good idea to space them around and place mulch in between the pavers. Alternatively, you can also plant some grass in there to soften the look.

7. Stone Steps

If you don’t know how to integrate stones into your garden, there are plenty of landscaping ideas with mulch and rocks to inspire you. For example, you can create some stone steps. Even if you don’t have a higher area to create the steps, you can make it yourself. A creative idea would be to combine different types of rocks so that the final aspect would resemble a mosaic. Go for more colors in the rocky area and tone it down in the rest of the space with some mulch.

landscaping ideas with mulch and rocks round mulch design

8. Low-Growing Hedges

Boxwoods or holly make great companions for any of the landscaping ideas with mulch and rocks you want to use. Shear them into any shape you want, and they’ll be perfect. You can even play around with some asymmetry to make your back or front yard look more interesting. If you’re looking to obtain a more varied texture, you can also lightly prune some junipers or forsythia to have a more natural look. Also, choose some curved walkways if you want to keep a geometrical feel to it.

9. Japanese Water Garden

The typical Japanese water garden contains some clear elements, such as a pond, a bridge, rich trees or bushes, etc. If you have enough space and the financial resources to create such a marvelous design, it’s a great idea to include mulch and rocks as well. Use the rocks to create the bridge across the pond, for example. Complete the look by adding mulch around the body of water. A small waterfall can also make for an impressive garden, and it’s a great opportunity to add some more rocks.

10. Patio Cover

Many people use landscaping ideas with mulch and rocks to change their patio’s aspect. You can use some small stones to make a ground cover for a patio for example. They may seem uncomfortable, but have a more interesting look and they’ll preserve a clean aspect of your space. Here, it’s recommended for you to use rich and dark mulches that will contrast naturally with the greens and floral elements found in your planting beds.

landscaping ideas with mulch and rocks design

11. Square Design

Geometrical patterns are an all-time favorite when it comes to landscaping ideas with mulch and rocks. A good suggestion is to split the entire space you have outdoors into equal squares. Make sure they are symmetrical and that you delimit them well. Next, fill them alternatively with mulch and rocks. For a coherent look, use rocks that have the same size all over the place. If you want to break the monotony a little, you can place big rocks in some squares and small ones in the others. Leave some squares free and fill them with mulch. The contrast will make for an original garden design.

12. Pot Design

Another idea that will surely delight you is to use potted plants as parts of the décor. After you set down the rocks, regardless of the pattern or the design you choose, add some potted plants. The more colorful the pots, the better. It’s a great idea because it allows you the freedom to play around with colors and textures. For example, some people prefer to combine the harsh aspect of the rocks with the evergreens on their quest to achieve some balance.

landscaping ideas with mulch and rocks stone pathway

13. Mediterranean Décor

A Mediterranean décor can be easily achieved if you have the weather conditions to allow it to thrive. You just need to plant some olive trees, lavender, and New Zealand flax. Then, fill up space with sand and gravel. You can omit mulch from this combination, but remember what we were talking about in the beginning. If you need to use mulch for your plants, go for an inorganic type. Placing big rocks here and there can help underline the desert-like look, so it depends on your personal preference.

14. Vertical Green Walls

Since it seems that landscaping with mulch and rocks is always an attempt to balance arid and luxuriant elements, why not incorporate vertical green walls? This is a perfect idea for people who don’t have too much space in their garden, but still, want to obtain an impressive décor. Set up some sturdy vertical walls and hang pots on them. There are some options available in specialty stores if you’re not feeling too creative. Alternatively, you can just take all the plant pots you have around your home and combine them vertically. Cover the ground with gravel and place some concrete stepping stones on it.


Luckily, there are plenty of creative landscaping ideas with mulch and rocks, which you can use for your backyard, front yard, or patio. From adding inorganic mulch to using river rocks, concrete, or creating a Japanese water garden, you can mix rocks and mulch however you want. The best thing about it is that even if you decide to use this popular combination, you can have your own unique design, and there will be no two gardens alike.

Image source: depositphotos.com

1 comment
  1. Wow, thank you for informing me that there are actually a lot of pebble types and sizes, such as river stone, depending on your needs. About a week ago, I started spending more time in my yard because the weather is finally nice! I want to do something that will spruce up my yard. It sounds like pebbles might be perfect for my landscaping; I will have to look into my options.

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