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13 Landscaping Ideas With Stone and Mulch

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Stone and mulch are two prevalent landscape elements for all the right reasons! They are not just cost-effective and easy to maintain; both continuously prove to be worthy of a range of natural, gorgeous textures and patterns for landscaping ideas – both are worth every penny!

But, what are the best landscaping ideas with stone and mulch? What if you don’t have a six-figure landscaping budget or a team of masonry workers on your behalf?

Here’s what we recommend.

Stone is a preferred option for low-maintenance, long-lasting landscapes. Use stone to spruce your garden by creating stone paths, Japanese-inspired gardens, and river rock landscapes.

Mulch is budget-friendly and a perfect addition to poor-draining yards, pathways, and garden borders.

Stone and mulch each have pros and cons that we’ll briefly discuss to help you choose your perfect fit. But, more importantly, we’ll be focusing on how you can incorporate these natural elements into your landscape.

Let’s look much closer at stone vs mulch nuances.

Shall we?

Read More – Here’s How to Make a Bubbling Rock Fountain in Your Backyard!

Should I Use Stone or Mulch for Landscaping?

One of the most challenging questions regarding landscaping is whether to use stone or mulch for your garden. Although it’s clear that both elements have clear advantages, it’s essential to pick whichever meets your personal goals and needs.


garden mulch
Contrary to popular belief – straw works beautifully as a mulch! You can stack straw four to eight inches deep for a layer to help secure your plants, shrubs, and baby trees. You can also mix fallen leaves or tree clippings. Don’t make the mistake of using hay as mulch – like we’ve done! As one of our fellow gardening friends reminded us – hay can contain overflowing seeds! (We don’t want our tidy garden to get overrun!)

Mulch is the preferred choice for you if you’d like to add nutrients to your soil. I’d almost always recommend mulch as a finishing touch to your garden.

Mulch will increase water retention and protect your topsoil from washing away. It will also keep your plants cooler in the scorching summer heat and warmer in brisk winters.

Mulch is highly versatile and ranges in various colors that can effortlessly beautify your landscape. It’s a perfect fit if you’d like to create a soft surface for your yard path.

Unfortunately, mulch does not last forever- annual replacing is required.


rocks in flower garden
Mulch looks beautiful and helps to maintain the shape of your garden! However, stones don’t add nutrient value to your soil as mulch does. But, stone still has its uses!

Stone covers are fabulous additions to low-water gardens and landscapes! Stone covers are popular in blistering hot areas where the grass is tough to maintain. They are great at weed prevention, with a better success rate than mulch.

Stones are a once-off endeavor that will save you a lot of money in the long run. They are great for lining walkways and patios, around pool borders, and adding definition to hard edges. Stones also make great paths.

However, it would be best to reconsider using stones in full shade gardens because they can quickly become moldy.

Also, remember that stones hold more heat than mulch, turn your soil alkaline, and dry out your soil. So, be careful with rock covers between your trees and shrubs.

Both elements have pros and cons to consider, so let’s dig into them before skipping the fun part.

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Stone vs Mulch Pros and Cons

Below we’ve assembled two tables to help compare the advantages and disadvantages of stone vs. mulch.

Table 1 – Stone Pros and Cons

Advantages of StoneDisadvantages of Stone
Very low maintenance.Stones don’t support plant growth as much as mulch.
Stone can also help increase soil aeration if embedded in the soil.Stones create less water retention than mulch.
Stones rarely require replacing.Stones can create alkaline soil, which in turn, can hurt trees and shrubs.
Excellent for homeowners looking for a decorative approach.The soil between rocks creates spots for weeds to grow.
Cost-effective in the long run.Removing stones can be tedious and requires manual work.
Great for dry climates (inflammable).Hiring contractors to work with stone might cost more due to the heavy lifting.
Keep weeds away longer.
Prevent soil erosion in windy areas.
Excellent for homeowners looking for a decorative approach.
Greater customization thanks to a wide range of characteristics (shapes, sizes, and colors).
Above – Pros and Cons of Stone

Table 2 – Mulch Pros and Cons

Advantages of MulchDisadvantages of Mulch
More widely used among homeowners.Recurring costs and maintenance.
More affordable than stone – sometimes half as expensive than stone!Needs annual replacing or every few years depending on the type of mulch.
Mulch allows for better tree and plant growth.Not all mulch is cured. Some organic mulches may contain weed seeds – or pests!
Mulch reduces water evaporation.Not all mulch is organic. Pay attention to the ingredients!
Mulch prevents weed growth.
Mulch adds nutrients to the soil once it breaks down.
Mulch can help reduce soil erosion.
Keeps plants warm during winter and cool during summer.
Above – Pros and Cons of Mulch
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Landscaping Ideas With Stone and Mulch

I can write for days on end, considering the endless options for practical or decorative ideas on how to use stone and mulch in your landscape.

But I’ll save both time and effort and only mention my favorite seven landscaping ideas with stone and mulch.

1. Stone and Mulch Garden

mulch and stone path through garden
A lot of homesteaders make the mistake of choosing either stone or mulch. Don’t forget that they work beautifully together!

Here’s proof that sometimes, combining mulch and stone gives you the best of both worlds!

I love how the massive boulder complements the mulch. The pros and cons of mulch vs. stone sometimes work wonderfully together.

Also, notice how the smooth contrast of the silvery stone goes together perfectly with the two different shades of mulch and woodchips.

Read More – 5 Ways to Cover Up Mud in Your Backyard!

2. Stone Slate and Mulch Fire Pit

fire pit in landscape with mulch and stone
The combination of stone and mulch landscaping combine marvelously and elegantly in this backyard fire pit. Don’t forget the marshmallows!

If you’re already loathing the chilly November evenings, then adding a backyard fire pit to your yard is one of the trendiest ways to stay warm!

When it comes to designing the landscape around your fire pit, you have a few options.

I love the sleek look of the smooth-cut rock slabs. It makes the scene appear inviting – and neatly organized.

I think the only thing missing – is a few rocking chairs or a hammock around the fire!

3. Rocky Garden With Mulch

stone and mulch combined in beautiful garden
Here’s another example of stone and mulch existing together in harmony. I think just about any green shrub, flower, or evergreen would be a welcome addition!

A lot of my gardening friends worry about rogue seeds invading their flower gardens if they use mulch.

Thankfully – some mulches are cured at high temperatures to help eliminate rogue seeds and pests!

If you’re worried about rogue seeds and invasive species, it may be wise to investigate whether or not you’re using cured mulch.

Food for thought!

4. Stoney Garden Creek

landscaped waterfall with rocks stone and mulch
I can imagine the soothing sounds of water whirling and splashing against the stones. The mulch remains (mostly) dry due to the stone’s barrier.

If you have a stone or a creek going through your backyard, then nothing will help funnel the raging river like a wall of stones!

Watch closely as to how the stones and mulch work together here.

The stone helps to funnel the water so that the current doesn’t wash the mulch way outright.

Another example of stone and mulch working unitedly.

Read More – 13 Trees That Grow in Rocky Soil (Fruit Trees Included!)

5. Stone Foot Path With Mulch

beautiful stone gravel walkway stepping stones with mulched garden
Sometimes, a mulch pathway doesn’t have the solid grounding that you want. Adding a thick layer of pebbles or stone slabs can make things feel more sturdy.

The combination of stone and mulch works beautifully here.

The combination isn’t only functional – it’s also artistic!

The design looks perfect. I also think a 2-3 inch layer of freshly laid mulch helps to support the plants and flowers.

It’s a win/win.

6. Flower Garden With Stone and Mulch

landscaping ideas with stone and mulch garden
A 2-3 inch layer of mulch won’t smother and kill weeds outright. But, a mulch layer can slow weeds down and make it easier to identify and spot unwanted vegetation. Perfect for your flower garden!

It’s clear as day that the mulch makes this garden look beautiful.

But – mulch adds more than just good looks!

The right mulch adds nutrients to your soil – and also helps to maintain moisture.

Perfect for your flower garden or baby trees!

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7. Shredded Mulch for a Sloped Garden

Home Gardener - Slope Planting with Cobble Swale
Here is an attractive sloped garden that utilizes both mulch and stone at an expert level. We love the evergreen shrubs and strategically-placed cobble. The mulch and rock garden look neat, tidy, and functional.

We found this excellent mulch and cobble landscape idea from @hillsidegardencenter.

We love how they make a sustainable design using mulch, cobblestones, and evergreen shrubs.

The design is straightforward and showcases an elegant (and worthy) example of how stone and mulch landscaping can also get integrated into a hilly backyard.

8. Garden Pathways

70 Walkway Ideas
Prepare to be shocked! These epic and legendary garden paths are marked in stone and laid with fine mulch. They also look extravagant – like out of medieval fantasy.

Here are 70 breath-taking stone and mulch garden pathways ideas for you to try.

You can elegantly spruce up your garden landscape with an arrangement of perfectly laid stones and mulch-lined pathways.

These images remind me of a regal estate. I must have taken the wrong turn somewhere!

However, I must note that the intricate design of these landscaping ideas is immaculate and genius.

These samples demonstrate the full potential and virtue of using mulch and cement to improve your garden landscape.

Without question!

9. Water-Wise Garden Ideas

mulch vs stone gardens
Unless you look closely, it’s easy to miss the landscaping details in this garden! Notice the perfectly edged raised garden beds. And the fire pit in the corner. Check out more work from BE Landscape Design. They are excellent!

For drought-prone climates, a water-wise garden is an excellent solution. Replace your lawn with raised stacked-stone planter boxes for small plants and vegetables. This drought-tolerant landscape can include concrete stepping stones and a rock fire pit.

Here’s one of the most beautiful and modern landscaping plans that incorporates a dazzling array of stonework.

I saw (and I applaud) the neatly-laid stepping stones that look symmetrical and modern. I think bark mulch or natural leave mulch would also complement the garden big time!

I also love the idea of stone garden beds – perfect for shrubs, flowers, and small evergreens.

Overall, this landscape design is one of my favorites. Neat, modern, and clean.

Take a look at more BE landscape designs that take on a water-wise garden – they’re stunning!

Read More – DIY Cinder Block Fire Pit Grill – Plus Tips for Legendary BBQs and Fires!

10. A Woodland Garden

Colorful Woodland Garden, Berea, USA
It’s hard to complain when you have a secluded garden, comfy chairs, and more wildlife, trees, and fresh air than you could ever need.

Here is a lovely and inspiring woodland garden idea from Tropical Gardening.

Your woodland garden can feature fresh mulch and native shrubs, potted plants, or flowers. If you wanted to get more creative, consider a gravel sitting area with stacked stones leading to your outdoor woodland study.

Natural stones are perfect if you’re looking for a rustic landscaped garden.

I love how this landscaping idea combines the peaceful serenity of an indoor study (with comfy-looking seating) and merges it with the splendor of outdoor living.

Book lovers rejoice! (Now, I only need to wait for the next Game of Thrones novel!)

I don’t notice much mulch in some of these garden landscapes. (Perhaps a few corners of wood chips or wood nuggets – but not much compared to others.)

Overall – it seems like concrete is the dominant feature of the footpaths.

Evidence that stone (and cement) can still produce a harmonious garden environment – even in the absence of mulch.

11. A Solution to Poor-Draining Yards

landscaping diy river rock landscaping mulch
Wait until you see the landscape designs from Next Luxury. They’re garden geniuses! This hidden gem includes river rocks! Variously-sized stones that add impeccable charm to nearly any landscape or garden.

Consider adding a river rock landscape as a solution to your troublesome yard.

Look at the natural colors and deep shades of green and orange. Here’s how a garden should look.

One of the first things I recognized upon laying eyes upon this garden escape – is the deep green hues of the lawn and how the colors contrast magically against the rest of the landscape.

Together with the multiple shades of river stones and garden mulch, the scene looks tranquil, welcoming, and relaxing.

Read more about the best river rock landscaping ideas from Net Luxury.

12. Fieldstone and Pine Mulch

japanese style garden beautiful stone mulch
This elegant garden in Brookline, Massachusetts, got the royal treatment from Julie Moir Messervy – landscape design specialist extraordinaire! The results look magnificent.

This combination displays a gorgeous crossover of classic Japanese gardens with a rustic backdrop.

Check out this modern landscaping masterpiece located in Greater Boston! The garden landscape resembles a Japanese style and even includes a beautiful tea house.

You can see the gravel riverbed twist and turn and meet the tea house atop the hilly slope ever so smoothly.

But, don’t glance too quickly, or you’ll miss the details, including a graceful stone bridge halfway through the path!

I love the neatly organized layout. It feels modern, it flows flawlessly, and it’s also natural. Read more from jmmds.com. A+ design!

13. Center Fire Pit

backyard stone landscaping fire pit
I saved my favorite stone landscape design for last. A majestic fireplace, centered upon a sturdy stone foundation – and even further surrounded by rock gravel. Excellent!

A warm fire. A beautiful gazebo. And beautiful stone landscaping. This one has it all.

You could use crushed gravel as flooring and add fieldstone seating. You can also soften the rest of the area with a soft mulch to make your way to the fire pit.

Few things in this world complement a backyard landscape like a roaring fire – doubly so when the weather gets cold at night!

If I had to upgrade the design, I would also consider adding thick chunks of bark mulch to help insulate the nearby trees and bushes.

However, I have to admit, here’s a landscape design that doesn’t need much improvement. Well, save for a few comfy chairs and some company.

(And, don’t forget the backyard refreshments!)

Landscaping Ideas With Stone and Mulch FAQ

You realize by now that planning a new stone or mulch project is trickier than most garden and DIY gurus admit!

That’s why we’re brainstorming the most significant landscaping ideas with stone and mulch questions that you’re likely to encounter.

We hope these answers help – and we invite you to ask more questions!

Can You Mix Mulch and Stone?

Mulching over landscape rocks is possible; however, choose a mulch with smaller wood pieces or nuggets to ensure that the mulch fits within the spaces between the landscape rocks.

Consider removing the landscape rocks for your plants to reap the full benefits of mulch. Then, once your mulch has been spread, replace your landscape rocks with their original position.

How Do You Keep Mulch Separate From Stone In Landscaping?

Fortunately, separating mulch from your stone landscaping isn’t that difficult. Edging is the most common way to separate mulch from rocks. Consider turf edging or concrete edging to separate mulch and stone.

Here’s a short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4Bif5sbczs

Is Mulch or Stone Better for Landscaping?

Mulch allows for better growth of your plants and trees, reduces water evaporation, and adds nutrients to your soil. Mulch is also more affordable than stone but needs annual replacing.

Stone is an excellent option if you’re a homeowner seeking a long-term and decorative approach. Stone is also low maintenance and great for dryer climates. However, plants do not benefit as much from stones- the stones increase soil temperature and create alkaline soil.

So which is better? Mulch or stone? It depends on your yard, style, and needs! First, look at your landscape and highlight the areas that could benefit from stone or mulch. From there, design a landscaping plan that would best fit your budget.

How Do You Transition From Rocks to Mulch?

To transition from rocks to mulch, you can put wood mulch straight over your rocks without removing rocks. Use a rake to flatten the landscape rock as best you can. Then apply one to two inches of mulch to cover your rocks to fill the gaps between any remaining garden rocks.

Is it Okay to Mix Mulch With Soil?

Yes, it’s a great move to mix mulch with soil! Mixing fresh mulch with soil can have benefits for your soil. Mulch will increase the organic matter, add beneficial nutrients, and increase your soil’s drainage.

Is Cedar Mulch Better Than Regular Mulch?

Cedar mulch has more benefits than regular mulch, including the following.

1. Cedar mulch is insect repellent.
2. Cedar mulch does not harm other plants.
3. Cedar mulch does not need as frequent replacing as it lasts longer than other mulches.

Cedar also has a pleasant aroma that you’ll love.

Landscaping Ideas With Stone and Mulch Made Easy!

We thank you so much for reading our best tips for landscaping with stone and mulch!

We realize that there are so many variables to consider, and sometimes, there’s no clear-cut answer as to which is best for your homestead!

Maybe instead of choosing one or the other – it’s possible to implement both into your backyard, patio, or garden area?

Get the best of both worlds!

Put in some extra time this spring to spruce up your garden with a stone and mulch landscape.

Mulch is the preferred option to cover most landscapes, but adding stone will quickly flair your garden! Take a look at your landscape to see where mulch or stone will be most beneficial.

I hope you find inspiration from at least one of these ideas.

Have fun, and I guarantee you; your landscape is sure to turn heads!

Also – let us know if you have more stone vs. mulch landscaping questions.

We think about this stuff nonstop and love to help!

Thanks again for reading.

Have a great day!

Read More – 15 Sloped Backyard Ideas – Landscaping on a Budget!

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04/06/2024 01:54 pm GMT

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  1. Nice article, but I disagree with a couple of the suggestions.

    Straw is a good mulch, but not hay! Hay is what farmers feed their livestock. It has seeds in it and you can end up with weeds.

    I wouldn’t use stones as a mulch, or pebbles as a walkway. They’ll look good for a while – maybe for a long while if they’re used in a sterile environment. But in a garden or home landscape, they’ll eventually end up with soil, fallen leaves, and other debris on and amongst them. And pebbles don’t stay put.

    1. Hey GardenCat!

      Thanks for your kind words!

      They mean the world to us.


      We agree with you about all points – straw vs. hay, stone, and pebble mulch.

      Also – the leaves keep falling like wild this time of year. I can relate to the messy, fallen leaves!

      (Maybe a *tiny* stone footpath could work best. That way – it won’t take too long to tidy all of the tree litter. Lol.)

      Thanks again for reading.

      Have an excellent day!


      Mike D

    2. Hi there, and thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      On our farm, we adopt a pretty flexible approach to mulching. We use a variety of materials – leaves, straw, sugar cane trash, hay, and even weeds. Our main goal is to ensure the soil is never left bare. This approach helps in retaining moisture, improving soil health, and reducing erosion.

      Regarding hay, while it’s true that it can introduce weeds due to the seeds it contains, we’ve found it to be a useful resource. It breaks down quickly, enriching the soil with nutrients. In a way, the weeds it might bring are a part of the cycle – we cut them, use them as mulch, and if they grow back, we cut them again. It’s all about turning what’s available into something beneficial for the garden.

      I believe in using what’s available, especially if it’s free or inexpensive, and adapting to the challenges it might bring. Gardening is all about experimenting and finding what works best for your space and resources.

      Thanks again for your comment – it’s discussions like these that enrich our gardening community!

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