Mulch vs Decorative Rock

When it comes to landscaping design, you have a lot of options. If you are considering some changes to the landscape design on your property, you might be thinking about whether you want to use mulch or decorative rock. Both of these materials can be great for preventing soil erosion and they can both be used to improve the appearance of various landscaping features.

If you are trying to figure out which option is better, the answer depends on the landscape design on your property, and the types of plants that you may have. Both decorative rock and mulch have their own advantages, so you will need to consider a few points before you make a decision.


Comparing the cost between the two options is a little tricky. First, you have to consider that there are many different types of mulch and you also have a wide variety of options for decorative stone. The different options in both categories will have different purchase and installation costs, but the stone will generally cost at least three times as much as mulch, and it could be more if you go for a particularly expensive type of stone.

But upfront costs are not everything that you need to consider. Depending on the conditions, mulch could need to be replaced every one to three years. With decorative rock, you have a solution that is as close to permanent as you could get. If you consider the fact that you might need to replace the mulch every other year, then you have to think that spending the extra money on rock could pay for itself in ten years or less.

Soil Quality

If you are thinking about the quality of the soil and how well it will nourish your plants, then mulch is the way to go. As the mulch decomposes, it will provide a source of nutrients for the plants. Since rock does not decompose, it does not have this benefit. If you use stone instead of mulch, it might require some form of supplemental feeding to provide the plants with the nutrients that they need.

Weed Control

Decorative rock tends to perform better for reducing problems with weeds. With a weed barrier beneath the stone, you’ll find that you have fewer weeds in the area. It isn’t to say that weeds will never grow, but stone is much better for weed prevention.

Water Retention

Both mulch and decorative stone will perform better than bare soil when it comes to water retention, but mulch does much better than stone. You’ll get different results depending on the type of mulch or rock, but even the lowest performing mulch will help the soil to retain more moisture than any type of stone.

Potential Uses

In some cases, mulch might perform better and in others, you might find that decorative rock is the better option. When it comes to plants, stone can work well for large trees and shrubs that have a long life. Mulch tends to be the better option for gardens that are home to annual plants. Stone can also be ideal for bordering hardscaping like driveways or around the foundation of a home.

Deciding between rock and mulch can be difficult. If you are not sure which option is right for your landscaping project, it is recommended that you consult with a landscape designer. An experienced landscape designer will understand factors that relate to different types of soil, pant life and the environment that can help to inform these decisions.