hen it comes to landscaping, your first instinct may be just to buy plants and mulch or to have a clean-cut yard. But every landscape, just like a home, needs a solid foundation. Hardscaping with rocks can add a whole new element to your landscape and bring your garden from average to spectacular. We've researched various landscaping rocks so you'll know the best options for accentuating your landscape.
Landscaping rocks have many purposes: stepping stones, path barriers, boundaries between a garden bed and the lawn, keeping rainwater away from the house, terracing yards, or just placed ornamentally in a garden. Landscaping rocks come in all shapes and sizes and many different varieties:
- Flagstone Rocks
- River Rocks or Rainbow Rocks
- Lava Rocks
- Stepping Stones
- Large Rocks
- Artificial Rocks
Stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to incorporating stones into your landscape project? Don't fret; we are here to help! Read on below to explore all of your landscaping rock options, their uses, and price estimates.
Using rocks in your landscaping is a wonderful idea. Many rocks serve different functions depending on the size and type of rock you wish to use. Rocks can add color, texture, and focal points to any landscape. Even by painting rocks, you can add your own whimsical flair to your garden. From retaining walls to rock gardens, let's explore all the ways you can use different sizes and types of rocks.
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1. Flagstone Rocks
Whether you know the term flagstone or not, most people have seen these timeless landscaping rocks before. Flagstone is a generic term used for any flat sedimentary rock made from a variety of rock types. These beautiful, flat stones come in a variety of colors and sizes but are almost always cut into a square or rectangular shape. The most popular flagstones are created from bluestone, limestone, quartzite, and sandstone.
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Flagstones are a popular choice for many landscaping projects. They are frequently used in walkways, fences, patios, retaining walls, raised garden beds, and firepits. But, the possibilities are endless. Gray, buff, brown, red, and blue are the most common colors for flagstones, although other colors are available depending on what the stones were cut from. Textures can vary between different flagstones, with quartzite being glossy and smooth to rigid and more natural-looking bluestones. The stones come in many shapes and sizes to meet any landscaping need.
Cost: Average $2-$5 per square foot or $150-$900 per ton.
2. River Rocks or Rainbow Rocks
River rocks or rainbow rocks are broad terms for stones that have been smoothed and rounded by the flowing waters. Traditionally found on the edges of beaches or the beds of rivers and creeks, many companies now sell these rocks. These beautiful rocks come in a variety of colors and sizes.
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River rocks have many uses in landscaping. These beautiful stones are often used in any landscaping water feature. They are great for edging garden beds, giving a clean border between the lawn and the garden. They are also often used to make a more stylish rainwater runoff area from gutters.
Ground covers and walking paths are also common uses for these stones. These rocks range in sizes but are typically sold anywhere from 5/8" to 5". Because these rocks are formed from various stones and come from all over the world, the rocks can be found in almost any natural color.
Cost: Prices vary depending on size, color, and quantity, ranging between $100-$800 per ton.
When it comes to gravel, also known as crushed stone, most people think of driveways as the main use for these rocks. But there are many more landscape applications for these versatile stones. Gravel is a great choice for yards in drier regions, allowing homeowners to eliminate the need for constant watering grass yards. Gravel can be used to fill around garden beds, create a patio area, fill in drainage ditches or water runoff from gutters, and easily and cheaply create walkways. Although gravel comes in natural colors like gray, these stones are so popular that colored gravel can be easily be bought at most garden centers and quarries.
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Because gravel can be made from almost any stone type, the rocks come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and textures. Screenings, known commercially as size #10, is the smallest form of gravel, slightly larger than coarse sand grains. Gravel #57 is the most common size in landscaping. Gravel #57 is generally between three quarters to one inch in diameter and are often used for walkways, patios, and driveways.
Cost: Average $28-$80 per ton, but may vary on size and color.
4. Lava Rocks
Lava rocks, as you probably might have guessed, are made from ancient lava flows. These porous rocks are a great and unique addition to garden beds. Often used as a mulch substitute, the rocks help insulate plant roots below the soil. They also help to retain the soil's moisture. Unlike mulch, lava rocks won't fade and deteriorate over time.
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These unique rocks come in red, black, or gray. Lava rocks range in size, most commonly from 3/4" to 3" in diameter but can be bought much larger for ornamental pieces. Due to their rigid texture, they don't make a great choice for walkways, driveways, and patios. However, they do add great appeal around fire pits and garden beds.
Cost: Average $25 per 10-lb bag.
Pavers add a classic and clean look to any outdoor space. Made from natural stones, brick, or concrete, pavers are a versatile choice to add flair to your landscaping. Natural stone pavers are usually made from cut flagstones or fieldstones of bluestone, limestone, or travertine. Natural stones aren't suggested for high traffic areas because they can break under pressure. Natural pavers tend to be more expensive than concrete or brick pavers.
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Pavers are mainly used for patios and walkways but can be used for driveways or to create edging and clean spaces around firepits and fountains. Because pavers are made from various materials, they come in made shapes, sizes, and colors. When used for a walkway, pavers can be placed together for a clean look or have grass, moss, or stones filling the spaces between the pavers, adding a new element to your landscaping.
Cost: Prices will vary depending on the type of pavers used. The average cost is between $6-$11 per square foot.
6. Stepping Stones
As you may have guessed, stepping stones are stones placed through landscapes as an alternative to a traditional walkway. Although the only use for these stones is for pathways, the variety of stones you can choose from can really create a whole new look for your landscape. Stepping stones are flat and come in a variety of sizes, materials, colors, and shapes. Most commonly, stepping stones are square or round, although specialty concrete and mosaic stones can be made into many designs.
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Stepping stones can be placed into any landscape. Simple placements are on lawns or filled around with mulch or stones to create unique walkways through yards and gardens. Artificial stepping stones are made from glass or concrete and be bought in almost any color to complement your outdoor space.
Cost: Depending on how simple or complicated of a stepping stone you choose, prices vary greatly. Simple concrete stones can be as cheap as $1, while more intricate designer stones can cost more than $50 per stone.
They may be small, but these rocks can make a big statement in your landscaping. Pebbles are similar in size to gravel but tend to be more rounded and polished in appearance, like tiny river rocks. Created from various rock types, pebbles come in a variety of colors, adding beautiful accents to your landscape.
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Pebbles are a great choice for several landscape projects. They can be used in edging garden beds, as a ground cover, filling around stepping stones and walkways, or filling around plants in flower pots. They also work great in any water feature. Glow in the dark pebbles are a great way to add a fun and unique night feature to your landscape. These resin-made pebbles can be scattered amongst real pebbles to light up your pathways and gardens at night.
Cost: Prices vary with color and quantity. A 20-lb bag averages $25.
8. Large Rocks
Large is a pretty broad term and differs for each person. Considering other types of rocks, large is anything bigger than 3" in diameter, but is smaller than boulders and can be easily moved without machines. Large rocks have many uses in landscapes and can be any variety of rock material. These stones can be decorative or functional and often are used as a focal point.
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Large rocks are great for edging garden areas, terracing yards, building retaining walls, and adding a more natural look to waterfalls and ponds. Placed in gardens, large rocks can create a unique focal point in the landscape. Mixing large rocks in with boulders and plants is a great way to start a rock garden. Large rocks come in many natural colors, ranging from grays and browns to blues and reds. Many building sites may offer these larger rocks for free.
Cost: Prices differ greatly depending on size.
Large and in charge, boulders are huge rocks that add beauty and function to your landscape. Made from a variety of rock materials, boulders come in many natural colors. They are generally rugged and naturally shaped, although cut boulders can be produced. Boulders can be used for a wide range of landscaping projects.
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For function, these huge rocks are used to terrace yards and line properties where someone may drive through your lawn. These big and beautiful stones can create focal points in any garden and prevent different plants from growing into one another. Boulders are a creative choice around ponds and waterfalls, too, to generate a more natural look.
Cost: Average $100-$600 per ton. Prices vary depending on size and quality. Additionally, some boulders may need special equipment to move, adding installation to the overall cost.
10. Artificial Rocks
Artificial rocks or mock rocks are rocks made from synthetic materials such as plastic or resin. These rocks are a great choice when it comes to hiding unsightly yard obstacles. Artificial rocks can be used to hide water wells, septic tank covers, and pipes feeding ponds and waterfalls. Additionally, artificial rocks have been created to conceal spare keys, outdoor speakers, and outdoor lights. These fake rocks come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
Cost: Varies depending on size, material, and design, but averages between $10-$100.
No matter what your landscape project is, incorporating rocks into the design is a great idea. Not only can they add focal points and a more natural look to a design, but they can also serve with a function. From gravel to boulders to artificial rocks, there are stones to fit almost any budget. With a little effort, these hardscape materials can add a whole new element to your landscape.
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