Design trends come and go, but natural stone is one outdoor living design element that has stood the test of time and never goes out of style. Natural stone landscaping not only adds beauty and sophistication but adds form, texture, and dimension to your outdoor space. Used in pathways, patios, retaining walls, fire pits, and more, natural stone is a versatile, low-maintenance material for outdoor living spaces.

Which type of rock is best for landscaping?

Available in many colors, textures, shapes, finishes, and sizes, the best stone for landscaping depends on where and how you use it. This post explores some options for using rock in landscaping.

Crushed Stone

Crushed stone is great for pathways or as a transitional element between walkways and plants surrounding a patio or pool deck. Pale-colored rocks contrast sharply against bright foliage and can brighten up a shady corner of your landscape. Lighter shades do not get as hot as darker colors, making them more comfortable to walk on or have around plants.

Crushed and decomposed granite is perfect for making pavements and pathways, blends well with nearby plants, and is available in various colors. Decomposed granite is often credited with achieving a rustic look in your landscaping, while crushed granite adds a contemporary and refined look. Rocks also help with weed control and minimize the risk of fungi growth by not retaining moisture.

Pea Gravel

Pea gravel is a much smoother alternative than the sharper angular pieces of fine rocks in crushed and decomposed granite. Pea gravel is a popular beautification element around childrens’ playgrounds or in patches of yard housing dogs, as it’s a more comfortable top layer. It’s also an ideal filler between crevices of larger rocks along stone pathways. However, pea gravel is not recommended as a walking path material for humans as it can be unstable and moves easily under feet.

River Rocks

Sourced from river beds, river rocks are smooth and round and come in various sizes. Aside from their natural beauty, river rocks encourage water runoff and can be used to address drainage issues. They are larger and heavier than pea gravel, so they are less likely to scatter. 

Varieties of river rocks, such as black polished pebbles or white marble pebbles, can create aesthetic color contrast as mulch along walkway edges, rock gardens, or in their most popular setting as accents within fountains and water features. 

Lava Rocks

Formed when lava quickly cools and crystallizes, red, black, or gray volcanic rocks are distinct, eye-grabbing options for mulch, path material, or rock garden accents.

Lava rocks are lightweight and keep bugs and weeds away from plants, but they also retain water and help it reach underlying soil and roots. With origins in volcanic regions, lava rocks are also a well-suited and natural choice for use in fire pits and around other fire features.


Among the most popular natural stone landscaping selections, flagstone includes a range of sedimentary and metamorphic rocks, including sandstone, limestone, slate, quartzite, and more. 

Flagstone comes in rectangular and irregular shapes and is available in mid-size and large flat slabs. These durable stones work well for walkways, steps, patios, pool decks, and other high-traffic areas. An anti-slip texture makes flagstone perfect for around pools or uncovered patios subject to rain. 

This natural stone can blend seamlessly across an entire backyard, from a central patio space into an outdoor kitchen, large fireplace, or other nearby design elements. Available in diverse colors, homeowners can match or complement colors found throughout the yard’s design.


Boulders are large landscaping rocks roughly one and a half feet in diameter or larger and may be round or angular shaped. Granite, limestone, marble, or quartzite are common types of boulder rock. 

Partially buried or fully exposed, a boulder can be a natural focal point of any rock garden or water feature. They can flank pathways to serve as a welcoming entryway into any outdoor living area. If flowerbeds appear sparse or conditions make it challenging to keep plants flourishing, smaller boulders can fill openings and add dimension to the space.

When positioned and anchored into place properly, a series of flat-edged boulders are strong enough to serve as stairs. Boulders can also function as retaining walls and are useful in reducing soil erosion and landscaping along a sloping terrain. 

Ready to rock?

Nature lovers appreciate the simple, elegant, and natural beauty of stone. If you’re searching for a way to add stunning beauty to your yard’s landscaping without a lot of upkeep, natural stone is a timeless and versatile solution. 

Our landscape designers and licensed landscape architects are experts at incorporating beautiful and functional stone elements into your outdoor living space. Talk to Aspen Outdoor Designs today to learn more about the possibilities for natural stone in your backyard.