Which is Better Rocks Vs Mulch?

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By Ashley Hanson

Updated: May 21, 2024

8 min read

Rocks Vs Mulch
Photo: @platylobium & @vinnyslandscaping

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    Upgrading your home surroundings requires you to make various decisions, from selecting plants suitable for your climate to deciding between privacy-enhancing or fragrant blooms. Choices extend to tree types and their eventual size. Some spend so much time deliberating that choosing between rock and mulch for ground cover becomes unplanned.

    Comparing Mulch and Rock

    Whether you are considering a lawn transformation or fresh update, weighing aesthetics and cost-effectiveness is crucial. When you go into the cost and benefits of mulch and rocks, while mulch may seem initially cost-effective, exploring other options reveals potential long-term savings. Each material, be it mulch or rock, has its own merits and drawbacks, catering to personal preferences. Bark mulch, derived from various trees, offers a rich, lasting appearance, especially when dyed.

    On the other hand, Rock, sourced from river beds, comes in diverse sizes, colours, and textures, enhancing visual appeal. Whether mulch or rock, both add the final touch to your landscape, but understanding their respective advantages and disadvantages is essential for informed decision-making.


    Mulch in hands
    Photo: @lygonstnursery

    There are two primary types of mulch available for purchase, with a wide selection of varieties and colours. These types are bulk mulch and hardwood mulch. Bulk mulch is typically composed of recycled wood materials, often originating from pallets or discarded construction lumber. However, this can result in hidden bits of nails and screws in the mulch.

    Advantages of Mulch


    In terms of expense, mulch proves to be a more economical alternative compared to rock.


    Whether done by an individual or a small group, laying out a significant area of mulch requires minimal time and effort.


    Mulch offers a wide range of colour options, enabling periodic yard transformations by simply changing the mulch colour every few years.

    While mulch boasts several advantages, it does have its drawbacks as well.

    Disadvantages of Mulch

    Mulch demands regular replacement, incurring additional costs and risks of weed proliferation if applied too late. Over-mulching must also be avoided to prevent adverse effects on plant health.


    Although managing mulch is relatively straightforward, it requires regular attention. Most homeowners engage in some form of maintenance between yearly to half-yearly intervals.


    While the lightweight nature of mulch is advantageous during application, it poses a downside in regions prone to strong winds or intense storms. A significant weather event or accidental contact with a trimmer, it is common to discover mulch scattered beyond the confines of flower beds.


    As time progresses, mulch gradually compacts and breaks down. Consequently, homeowners often replenish their supply and recommence the application process. It's important to avoid excessive mulch accumulation near the house. Over several years, mulch compaction can result in soil compression around the foundation, leading to a negative slope and potential water buildup at the foundation's base.

    Also Read: Ultimate Gardening: Mulch Glue for Rock Bond & Gravel


    Garden Rocks
    Photo: @cactus.vision

    Various types of decorative stones offer a plethora of shapes, hues, and textures, enabling tailored landscaping. They enhance aesthetics and serve as an elegant backdrop for lush greenery in gardens. Let's explore the advantages and disadvantages of incorporating decorative rocks:

    Advantages of Rock

    • Low Maintenance and Longevity.
    • Decorative stones require minimal upkeep and outlast mulch.


    Despite their higher initial cost, they prove more economical over time due to their durability.


    In arid regions, rocks are preferred for their non-combustible nature. It can resist heat and in turn provides a fire- resistance to your home environment.


    With an array of sizes and colours available, stones provide ample customization options for creating distinct landscape designs.

    Disadvantages of Rock

    Excessive Heat

    Dark-coloured rocks absorb heat, elevating ground temperatures, while light-coloured rocks reflect heat onto plants, leading to increased evaporation and higher water requirements.

    Limited Nutritional Value

    Rocks do not contribute to plant growth or soil fertility.

    Variable Soil PH

    Different rock types found. can alter soil acidity or alkalinity, potentially affecting plant health.

    Weed Proliferation

    Gaps between rocks provide ideal conditions for leaves, seeds, and weeds to accumulate, requiring frequent maintenance to prevent weed growth.

    Laborious Removal

    Relocating rocks, whether for replanting or landscaping purposes, entails labour-intensive tasks.


    Gravel, being heavy and challenging to transport, poses difficulties for landscaping projects.

    Considerations for Selecting Mulch or Rocks


    If your garden has trees shedding leaves and debris, rock mulch may not be optimal due to its tendency to accumulate and embed in the rocks.

    Weed Barrier

    Rocks necessitate a fabric weed barrier underneath to prevent weeds from emerging through them.

    Edging Solutions

    To maintain the neat appearance of rock beds, steel edging or a raised concrete barrier is essential to prevent rocks from encroaching into turf areas.

    Plant Selection

    While flowers struggle in rock mulch beds, resilient, drought-resistant plants such as succulents thrive. Given that rock beds retain warmth better than mulch beds, plant selection should account for heat tolerance.


    What is Better Mulch or Rocks?

    If you are looking for pest control to your home, then go for rock landscaping, as they don't attract any pest to your home environment, whereas mulch, which is made of wood, attracts pests, which can be very harmful to your surroundings.

    How to Replace Mulch With Rocks?

    To replace mulch with rocks, Clear the area of existing mulch. Address weed control by using a barrier or weed killer. Prepare the ground by levelling it. Choose the type and size of rocks. Spread the rocks evenly over the area. Edge the perimeter for a clean look. Maintain by removing debris and controlling weed growth.

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