Buying Guide

Decorative Stones: Types of Landscaping Rocks

Application and Calculating Amount Needed
A home with a curved gravel driveway.

Begin by measuring the area you intend to cover with decorative stone, then determine the type of rock you’d like to use.

Tip: Large amounts of rock to be used in driveways or walkways are generally sold by the cubic foot or half foot. Smaller bags for mulch or indoor use are sold in bags ranging from 5 to 50 pounds.

Stone Coverage Calculation
A man setting large stones into a landscape.

There may be some question as to how deep decorative stone should be layered. The suggested depth of coverage can vary according to the size of the individual stones.

If the stone size is 1/2 inch or less, the suggested depth is 2 inches, while stones that are 3/4 inch to 1 inch should have a depth of about 3 inches. Stones that are 1 inch or larger should have a depth of 4 inches.

A cubic yard of decorative stone (27 cubic feet) will actually cover more or less area depending on depth. Take this factor into consideration when measuring for and purchasing decorative stone.

Suggested Coverage:

  • 160 sq. ft. at  2-inch depth
  • 108 sq. ft at  3-inch depth
  • 80 sq. ft. at  4-inch depth
  • 54 sq. ft. at  6-inch depth
Decorative river rocks surrounding a blue garden urn on a bed of small stone gravel.
  • Smaller stones may shift more in heavy rain.
  • Rocks used as mulch tend to retain heat, which can reflect back onto the plants, causing them to dry out.
Types of Decorative Stone
A set of garden furniture on an outdoor gravel surface.

Choose from brick chips, crushed gravel, lava rock, river rock and marble to create pathways, mulch for garden beds, driveways and more. 

The region you live in may determine the kinds of stone available for purchase in your area. Decorative stone is quarried, and stone types vary greatly by location. The cost of shipping makes anything other than local stone an extremely expensive proposition.

Brick Chips
Brick chips
  • Made from crushed, angular fragments of brick 
  • Terra cotta color with deep reds and browns 
  • Sizes range from to 3/4 to 1-1/4 inches 
  • Used as mulch or as driveway stone
Crushed Gravel
Crushed gravel
  • Usually gray and composed of sharp, irregularly shaped rock fragments 
  • Rocks easily interlock and provide good packing 
  • Size ranges from 1/4 to 3/4 inches 
  • Used for roads, driveways, base rock and pathways
Lava Rock
Lava rock
  • Porous, light, irregularly shaped and available in red or black hues 
  • Generally offers good drainage and packs down well 
  • Usually ranges in size from 3/4 to 1-1/4 inches 
  • Used in driveways, gardens and along paths and walkways
River Rock
River rock
  • Round and smooth; available in shades of gray or brown 
  • Provides good drainage and erosion control
  • Sizes range from 3/8 to 2-1/2 inches 
  • Used in flower and garden beds, and on walkways for erosion control  

Tip: Pea gravel is a smaller size of river rock used in decorative concrete and other applications.

  • Made from fragments of marble 
  • Used in fountains and to cover soil in houseplants and container gardens 
  • Should not be used around plants that require high levels of acid, as it will change the pH of the soil 
  • Stone sizes range from 1/4 to 1/2 inches
  • Typically sold in 5 lb. bags
Seasonal Decorative Stone
People painting small rocks for decoration.

The varying colors of decorative stone make them ideal for creating patterns in your landscape to celebrate holidays and other seasonal events. 

Painting rocks is another recent trend in landscape decor that you can use decorative stones to enjoy. Apply acrylic or glow paint to smooth river stones and place them in your gravel beds or as accent pieces around your garden stones. Small rocks can even be painted to add a flash of color to planters.