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26 Of The Most Amazing Rock and Mulch Landscaping Ideas For Your Backyard

Are you looking for some design inspiration for your backyard? Need a great landscaping idea with mulch and rocks as the main components? I’ve got you covered!

In this article, we’ve collected and compared some great examples of yards that feature these two materials.

What is a better way to continue a natural design than with rock and mulch landscaping?

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Rocks & Stones For Your Rock Garden

I’m all for collecting rocks and stones outside; this idea can cost almost no money. Just keep in mind it is not always allowed, according to geology.com, a leading portal to geology and Earth science news.

Follow The Diamond Path

Diamond path

This diamond design is a very simple way to design a path, yet it adds decoration, functionality, and provides a great first impression.

I have to say that, in person, it looks much more elegant, especially with a flower garden on the side. This also increases your house’s curb appeal!

ProsCons
Enhances the look of a flower gardenRequires skill and tools to create the design
Can increase your home’s curb appealRequires occasional maintenance
Easy and simple DIY projectMay attract pests and insects

Stepping Stones

Stepping Stones

Image credit: couponsforyourfamily.com

This is a more traditional way to lay stepping stones in mulch to create either a functional or decorative path through a backyard or garden.

The stones look like river rocks, but check out the design on couponsforyourfamily.com, a website focusing on coupon codes and recipes for families with a few landscaping posts, where you’ll see that they are made of polypropylene.

This idea is also excellent for covering up mud in your backyard. If you have a mud problem, I’d suggest you check out more ideas here!

ProsCons
Easier to install compared to other solutionsThe polypropylene material may not look very natural
Can be an effective solution for covering the mudRequires occasional maintenance
May not be as durable
Not eco-friendly

A Curving Pathway

Curving pathway

This is an example of how rocks can allow you to easily create a pathway that curves and leads your eyes (and feet) around the features in your landscaping design. It’s exactly how I like it; simple but very effective and perfect for my home’s curb appeal.

ProsCons
Showcases landscaping featuresRequires physical and laborious work
Can be costly
Requires occasional maintenance
Can be messy and easily spread onto other areas

White Magic

White Magic

Done correctly, using white can be a great idea for landscaping. These rock slabs are rectangular and are laid symmetrically to lead to a white feature – the gate.

I think that this color scheme works beautifully, and the scattered rocks around the slabs make it even more interesting.

ProsCons
Aesthetically pleasing and modern designCan require high maintenance as dirt and debris are more visible
Creates a visually striking contrast with greeneryMay require professional help to achieve the desired aesthetic
Durable and long-lasting

Around The Corner

Around the corner

Image credit: homespecially.com

This is another great example of how simple curvature can wrap around your landscaping features and provide an interesting path for your feet to follow. This time, shrubs sit in mulch on either side of the path, to create an interesting and more natural feel.

I’d highly suggest you check out this and many other interesting but simple front yard ideas at homespecially.com, one of the top blogs in the home improvement space.

ProsCons
Uses soft landscaping with mulch and shrubs to create a cohesive designRequires regular maintenance
May require professional assistance to achieve the desired look
Can be messy and easily spread onto other areas

Let It Flow

mulch on the side, to provide space for plants

Image credit: decorelated.com

If you’re looking for a path design with a twist, I think you should look no further than this one. It doesn’t use rocks and mulch in the traditional stepping stone way and instead has a solid path with bark mulch on the side, to provide space for plants and other features.

See more landscaping with mulch ideas at decorelated.com, a website dedicated to interior and exterior design.

ProsCons
Unique and creative path designMay require more maintenance than traditional stone paths
Provides space for plants and other landscaping featuresMay not be as durable as stone paths

Rocking Out

mulch has provided the perfect platform for shrubs, trees, and rocks

This bed of bark mulch has provided the perfect platform for shrubs, trees, and rocks to come together in a design that looks almost prehistoric. I believe that the name “Rocking Out” fits this one perfectly.

ProsCons
Creates a more natural lookMay require additional maintenance to keep the shrubs looking neat
Simple and easy way to upgrade your yard

Mulch Planters

Mulch Planters

Image credit: homespecially.com

Fresh mulch can be an even, attractive, and low-maintenance way to create simple and affordable planting areas. Check out this, and others on this list of affordable walkway landscaping ideas at homespecially.com, a blog full of great interior and exterior designs. 

Also, I’d highly suggest you check out this image collection with walkway ideas for the backyard.

ProsCons
Creates a uniform lookNeeds to be replenished regularly
Low-maintenance landscapingCan attract pests and mold
Affordable

Rocky Mountains

stones, huge shrubs and plants,a forest-like atmosphere

Check out this impressive, large feature, proving rocks and cedar mulch can be an affordable way to fill big spaces when your budget can’t stretch to include more indulgent features.

The size of the stones and the huge shrubs and plants make a bold statement and create what I can only describe as a forest-like atmosphere.

ProsCons
Affordable but impressiveMay not appeal to everyone’s taste
Creates a forest-like atmosphereCan be difficult to maintain
Eco-friendly

An Impressive Welcome

mulch to completely fill the front yard

Image credit: goodsgn.com

I believe that this design is truly impressive and uses rocks and bark mulch to completely fill the front yard. Patterns and planter areas are made out of positioned rocks and stones and are complemented by gorgeous plants and shrubs. This amazing design is just one of more than 15 on this list from goodsgn.com, a blog full of great home designs.

ProsCons
Visually stunningMay require regular maintenance
Eco-friendly feelMay be time-consuming and expensive depending on the size

Compare & Contrast

rocks create a border for the mulch planting area

Image credit: decorelated.com

We love the way the rocks create a border for the mulch planting area here, creating a huge, yet affordable landscape idea that has made its way onto a list of easy and beautiful front yard landscaping ideas. See this list at decorelated.com, a blog full of interior and exterior design ideas.

Check out another post with other landscaping and fence ideas to get inspired.

ProsCons
Affordable landscaping optionRocks may be difficult to move or rearrange once they are in place
Adds texture and depth to the landscapeRocks can become hot and potentially dangerous in areas with high temperatures
Weeds can still grow between the rocks, requiring maintenance

A Taste Of The Mediterranean

Meditteranean style of rocks and mulch

The way this Greek-style piece of pottery appears to spill the rocks into the rest of the yard looks like it could be straight out of the Med. I think that this creates a beautiful look with minimum hassle, and it’s an easy way to create a planting area where there wasn’t one before. 

ProsCons
Unique and beautiful lookMay not fit in with the style of the rest of the yard
Requires minimal effort to create a new planting areaThe pottery could be fragile and easily break
Gives a Mediterranean vibe

Yin & Yang

Yin and Yang Style of rocks and mulch

Image credit: homespecially.com

The curved contrast between rock and garden mulch in this design is a simple but attractive feature. There are some colorful plants mixed in, which I think definitely makes it more interesting. 

This is one of the best front yard rock landscaping ideas from homespecially.com, a website full of DIY home improvement ideas, which doesn’t have to take long to make.

ProsCons
Visually appealingRequires skills to create the curve
Colorful plants add interest and variety to the designRequires extra maintenance

Give It A Desert Look

Desert style of mulch and rocks

I love the random look of these rocks, scattered around the wood mulch and with a smattering of attractive, drought-tolerant plants. This looks even better in person!

ProsCons
Unique and interesting visual appealMay be difficult to clean and maintain
Environmentally friendlyCan be messy and easily spread onto other areas
Low water consumption

Give It A Swirl!

swirl of rocks and mulch around a tree

What an inventive way to create some interest around a small tree in the garden! This swirl of rocks and mulch grabs your attention (it definitely caught mine) and allows for more planting space. 

ProsCons
Adds visual interestMay require some manual labor to create
Eco-friendlyMight not fit certain garden styles
Inexpensive DIY project

Rocking At The Border

backyard border made of rocks, with mulch

Rocks can be an often overlooked but very useful way to cover big areas. Check out this backyard border made of rocks I found, with mulch planting areas around it.

ProsCons
Low-maintenanceRocks can be heavy and difficult to move
Add visual interest and textureWeeds can still grow between the rocks, requiring maintenance
Can help with erosion control and water conservationRocks can become hot and potentially dangerous in areas with high temperatures

Red, White, & Green

red plants, white rocks, and mulch

Flashes of color can be a very exciting way to spruce up the yard and they don’t have to be overly ambitious. This clever combination of red plants, white rocks, and bark mulch is another drought-tolerant design. And I think it’s even better than the one I mentioned above!

ProsCons
Add excitement and visual interest to the yardMay require some initial investment for purchasing plants
Low maintenance and require less waterColor choices may not be to everyone’s taste
Some types of plants may require more maintenance or may not thrive in certain climates

Dividers

Landscaping ideas with mulch and rocks: wooded, tree-filled areas, green grass, and planting zones with mulch

This is a great backyard design that can divide large sections, such as wooded, tree-filled areas, green grass, and planting zones with mulch. It’s a great way to accomplish a big change on a budget.

Here are a few more landscaping ideas on a budget that I found.

ProsCons
Defines and organizes outdoor spacesMay require extensive planning and execution
Enhances the overall aesthetic appealCan be time-consuming to implement
Can increase property valueMay require permits or consultations with professionals
DIY-friendly and budget-friendly optionRequires regular maintenance to preserve the design
Weeds can still grow between the rocks, requiring maintenance

Mulch At The Border

 Landscaping ideas with mulch and rocks: Mulch at the borders allows for planting areas

Mulch at the borders allows for planting areas, whereas the rocky, gravel spot could be used for extra parking, a play area, or even some seating as long. Depending on the destination of the area, you need to chose proper stone as our expert Chris DeFeo explains in his post.

ProsCons
Helps retain moisture in the soilRequires regular maintenance
Suppresses weed growthNeeds to be replaced every year or two
Adds nutrients to the soilNot be suitable for areas with high foot traffic or pets that dig

Autumn Paradise

Landscaping ideas with mulch and rocks: deep reds and greens around a mulch border, combined with a further rocky area

Check out these gorgeous autumn colors! I have to say that this looks incredible, as it features deep reds and greens around a mulch border, combined with a further rocky area, to create a lovely autumnal look.

ProsCons
Adds additional texture and interest to the sceneMaintainance may be time-consuming and/or costly
Rocks can become hot and potentially dangerous in areas with high temperatures

Step To It!

Landscaping ideas with mulch and rocks: rocky beds on either side of the steps

An impressive and ambitious project, creating these beautiful layers of planting beds is sure to be worth the effort. The rocky beds on either side of the steps are spectacular, in my opinion.

ProsCons
Beautiful and impressive displayRequires significant time and effort to plan and execute
Adds value and appeal to the propertyMay require a large financial investment
Requires ongoing maintenance

Brightening The Pond

 Landscaping ideas with mulch and rocks: pond, rocks and mulch

After digging a pond, I think that rocks and mulch are a wonderful way to recreate a landscape and the flashes of red that surround this pond are great.

ProsCons
Adds natural elements to the areaCan be expensive to implement
Can help prevent erosion around the pondRequires maintenance
Mulch can attract mold and pests

Faux Natural!

Landscaping ideas with mulch and rocks: rock-surrounded pond with mulch planting areas

This looks like a beautiful, natural setting, carved out by Mother Nature herself! But I have to admit that this rock-surrounded pond with mulch planting areas took way too much work.

ProsCons
Beautiful and natural-looking settingRequires a lot of maintenance and upkeep
Can attract wildlife, such as birds and frogsCan be expensive to create and maintain
May attract unwanted pests, such as mosquitoes or snakes

The Waterfall

Landscaping ideas with mulch and rocks: Rocks, mulch in a waterfall style landscaping

This is another great example of how ponds, rocks, and bark mulch are your best friends. There’s just something so soothing about this, in my opinion.

ProsCons
Creates a natural and calming environmentCan be costly
Requires extra maintenance

Bordering The Fishpond

Landscaping ideas with mulch and rocks:rocks and mulch around the fish pond

Image credit: hometalk.com

This fishpond installation looks more natural than it is! The rocks create a great border around the water and make the pond appear less manmade and the wood mulch is a good way to provide some planting space after installation.

I highly suggest you see more fishpond designs using mulch and rocks like this by visiting hometalk.com, a community full of DIY websites and brands.

ProsCons
Natural lookRequires maintenance to keep its natural appearance
Can prevent water erosion around the pondCostly installation

Pros & Cons Of Rocks & Mulch: How To Choose Between The Two?

A border between rock and mulch side of the backyard

Both rocks and mulch have advantages and disadvantages, so choosing which one to use can be a bit daunting, especially if you like them both like I do. It comes down to your gardening goals, landscape design, and the conditions in your yard, but, to help you out, I have made a list of pros and cons for each of the two.

Mulch

Mulch filled in a black plastic bag

As I found out from Linda Chalker-Scott, a Ph.D.Master Gardener, WSU editor,

Extension Urban Horticulturist and Associate Professor at Washington State University, using mulch has a few direct benefits. I’ve listed them all here and added a few cons.

ProsCons
Aesthetically pleasing; comes in various colors for every tasteNeeds to be replaced more often than rocks because it decomposes
Enhances water infiltration and retention so you can water your yard less frequentlyMight be cheaper initially, but the cost adds up every time you need to replace or replenish mulch
Helps control weed growth and suppresses pathogens and some pestsMust be used early in the season before the weeds start growing
Protects plant roots from the heat in the summer and frost in the winter by maintaining moderate temperatures throughout the yearToo much mulch can be harmful (As advised by the Village of Bloomingdale website, the mulching depth should be 2 to 4 inches)
Neutralizes pollutants (you can read more about that in a dissertation written by Hanieh Soleimanifar from Montclair State University)Can deplete nitrogen content from soil (Luckily, according to an article published by the University of Saskatchewan, this happens only in upper layers and does not affect your plants)
Prevents soil erosion and compactionIt blocks the sun and keeps the weeds from germinating
Easy to add to your garden and flower beds Attracts some bugs, such as slugs, earwigs, and cutworms, since they adore the cool, dark, and moist environment
It is an organic matter that slowly breaks down and feeds your soil with nutrientsNot the best option for particularly rainy areas since the soil can be soggy too often

To enjoy all these benefits, you must use mulch properly. Check out a great video I have found showing you how to do it:

Rocks

A close up of small and smooth rocks

Rocks look great in contrast to green plants and blooming flowers. However, be careful where and how you use them.

As I read in a study conducted by Anja Schmithals and Norbert Kühn, Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, Technische Universität Berlin, the soil temperature below gravel mulch is much higher, and that means this type of coverage might not be the best choice in areas with hot and dry climate. Here are all the pros and cons I know about: 

ProsCons
Come in various colors, shapes, and textures; highly customizable tooMore expensive than mulch (but remember what I’ve told you: there is no need to replace it as often. If you are lucky, they can last you a lifetime!)
Last longer than mulch and require almost no maintenanceHarder to install (I had to put up a raised edge to prevent rocks from shifting)
Better at preventing erosion and runoffSuitable only for plants that can withstand higher temperatures
Non-flammable (as I read in the Boulder County Land Use Department Publication, using rocks for landscaping around your home can save it from fire)According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, rocks are not recommended for mulching around trees. The reflected heat might kill thin-barked trees.
Reduce the growth of weeds (I recommend using a fabric weed barrier underneath for best results)Debris that gets stuck between stones and rocks is hard to clean and often must be removed manually
Ideal for heavy-traffic areas. Do not retain water, so the soil won’t be soggy (However, in my experience, rocks compact the soil)Do not contribute to the plant’s well-being or the soil health. As I read in the Masterclass article, calcium carbonate-rich rocks can, over time, create alkaline soil, which is bad for the plants

To protect your home from fire, consider placing rocks around it too. I found a great DIY video to help you:

FAQs

Can you mix rock and mulch in landscaping?

You can mix rock and mulch in landscaping. I recommend using organic mulch around your plants and trees to secure the much-needed nutrients and using rocks in heavy traffic areas.

Is it better to put rocks or mulch next to your house?

It is better to put rocks next to your house as they are non-flammable and can make a significant difference in case of a fire threatening your home. Rocks and crushed gravel also allow for better drainage allowing water to drain quickly. They last longer too.

What color of rock is best for landscape?

The best color of rock for landscape depends on personal preference. However, Kafka Granite, one of the largest US manufacturers of specialty aggregates and building stones, suggests considering complementary colors (the opposite ones on the color wheel) for your landscape design.

Do rocks or mulch attract bugs?

Rocks do not attract bugs, but mulch can. According to Inside & Out Property Inspectors, which are members of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, as mulch decomposes it creates food that can attract some pests. I read that some mulch can even attract termites.

Do you need fabric under rock mulch?

You don’t need fabric under rock mulch, but I think it is better to have it. A fabric weed barrier will prevent the weeds from finding their way through the rocks and secure the best results.

Landscaping Ideas With Mulch & Rocks: Conclusion

Have you enjoyed our list of landscaping ideas?

I wanted to share what I’ve found and, hopefully, spark some inspiration in those of you who are planning on carrying out some landscaping of your own. Feel free to share this list with the people you think could find it useful!

Expert tip: If you want to get the maximum value for your landscaping efforts, check out our post about the best time for mulching and how you can make mulch from the leaves in your backyard. Also, beware of pests that might be hiding in mulch! Meanwhile, when it comes to rocks, you can use the ones you dug out from your yard.

We also have more dry landscape front yard ideas! Check them out, and let me know what you think!

About The Author

  • Nadya Jones

    Nadya's the creative mind behind this blog, sharing her passion for landscaping, gardening and making spaces that nourish the soul. An entrepreneur and writer based in Raleigh, NC, Nadya turns imaginative ideas into inspiration, fueling home and garden dreams. Though Nadya crafts gorgeous posts and photos showcasing lush yards or blooming gardens, the real magic happens behind the scenes where Nadya's partner Brett provides endless support, implementing each vision with care and dedication. Brett's the one ensuring her creative concepts come to life. At heart, Nadya remains an imaginative soul, forever dreaming of whimsical details, vibrant hues and lush landscapes. Each manicured edge or blossoming bloom fuels inspiration, expanding her vision of what's possible in design and life. She shares her love for landscaping, gardening, and outdoor design in her blog, the one you are visiting right now. If you are interested in the same things, be sure to check it out! Also, follow Nadya on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Flickr!

Photo of author

About The Author

Nadya Jones

Nadya's the creative mind behind this blog, sharing her passion for landscaping, gardening and making spaces that nourish the soul. An entrepreneur and writer based in Raleigh, NC, Nadya turns imaginative ideas into inspiration, fueling home and garden dreams. Though Nadya crafts gorgeous posts and photos showcasing lush yards or blooming gardens, the real magic happens behind the scenes where Nadya's partner Brett provides endless support, implementing each vision with care and dedication. Brett's the one ensuring her creative concepts come to life. At heart, Nadya remains an imaginative soul, forever dreaming of whimsical details, vibrant hues and lush landscapes. Each manicured edge or blossoming bloom fuels inspiration, expanding her vision of what's possible in design and life. She shares her love for landscaping, gardening, and outdoor design in her blog, the one you are visiting right now. If you are interested in the same things, be sure to check it out! Also, follow Nadya on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Flickr!

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