Mulch is a wonderful material for most landscaping because it helps your soil retain moisture, keeps weeds away, and prevents rain from washing away your soil. That being said, sometimes rock is best to use in your planting beds and the following explains why…

The Difference Between Mulch and Rock

Bark mulch is mainly from cypress, cedar, pine, hemlock, and oak trees. Rock mulch is good looking gravel or rocks, usually from river beds, that ranges in size from a pea to a golf ball. Rock mulch comes in a variety of sizes, colors, textures, and shapes. It can be porous or not. It can be red or black lava rock. It can be smooth gravel that is purple, pink, grey, white, or other colors. 

When Rock is a Good Choice

  • When you have drainage issues, rock mulch is a good choice because it allows water to drain very quickly.
  • When you are going to have mulch beds without any plants. Rock much can be a very low maintenance option.
  • When you have high traffic areas where mulch will be a mess and the grass will never grow.
  • When you are trying to make an impression for an entrance or for a statue, etc.
  • When you want as little maintenance as possible.

When Rock is a Bad Choice

  • If your trees will drop a bunch of leaves and debris in the rock mulch, it will become a maintenance problem.

Curb Appeal / Maintenance

  • Bark mulch will need to be replaced at least every year. Most customers want it replaced in the spring and fall to keep it looking fresh.
  • Rock mulch will require much less maintenance
  • Rocks mulch will need a fabric weed barrier put underneath to discourage weeds from poking up through the rocks
  • Rocks need steel edging or a raised concrete barrier to keep stray rocks from moving into grassed or bark mulched areas.


Rock is 2-3 times as expensive as bark mulch but last much, much longer.

Your Soil Will Love Bark Mulch

Bark mulch decays over time and feeds your soil. Rock much won’t add anything to your soil’s health. If you have plants in rock mulch, you’ll need extra fertilization to keep them healthy.

Only Certain Types of Plants Can Thrive in Rock Mulch Beds

Rock beds can get much warmer then bark mulch beds so the plants will need to be able to handle that extra heat. Drought-tolerant plants like succulents can do well in rock mulch.

Davis Landscape can help you achieve the landscaping you dream about! We also help our clients with hardscapes such as patios, walkways, driveways, outdoor kitchens, fire pits, & more!

Contact Us (859-781-0677) for More Information!

About Davis Landscaping

Davis Landscape Design & Installation has been providing landscaping services to customers in Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati since 1965! We know that the landscape design process can be overwhelming, so we work with you tirelessly to better understand your vision. At Davis Landscape Design & Installation, we’re on your team and we know how to listen and deliver.