Types of Landscape Rock - Landscaping Uses for Rock

by Brandon Cornett

Landscaping rock can be used in many ways to improve the overall function and appearance of your yard. There really is no limit to the number of ways you can use landscape rock within your design plan. But before you start sketching out your ideas and purchasing your landscape materials, you need to know what types of landscaping rock are available to you.

That's where this article comes in. On this page, I've listed some of the most common types of landscaping rock and stone materials used by professional landscapers. How you use these materials is limited only by your imagination. But knowing what is available is the first step to success, so let's talk about your options.

Pea Gravel

The small type of rock goes by several different names. Some people refer to them as beach couples, while others refer to them as Pete gravel or river pebbles.

Regardless of the terminology, we are talking about small rocks that are worn smooth over time by wind and water. It's almost as if these stones were polished by Mother Nature. They have an attractive finish and can be used in many landscaping applications.

Pea gravel comes in a wide variety of colors, which only adds to their visual appeal. Due to the small size of this landscaping rock material, it is generally used as a ground covering. You can also use it to make a dry riverbed survey by creating a border and then filling it in doubles.

Tips for using this type of landscaping rock:

  • Use borders to keep pea gravel in its place. Otherwise, it will be washed away by the elements (wind and rain).
  • You can use store-bought edging materials to create a border, or you can use some of the larger other landscaping rocks mentioned below.
  • Pea gravel is great for small areas. It adds a decorative touch to those spots that are too small for larger rocks.
  • Pea gravel can be used as a mulch or base for your landscaping project. It's light enough to be used right around your plants.

River Rock

This is similar to the polls/gravel we discussed above, but it's a bit larger. These stones usually have a smooth, polished finish -- the result of water currents.

River rock also has many landscaping uses. In fact, it's so versatile that we have created a seperate article all about this particular item:

River Rock Landscaping Uses

Rainbow rock

As we continue up the size scale, we come to rainbow rock. As with most other types of landscaping rock and stone, this item goes by many different names. It's larger than the types of stone we've discussed above, but smaller than boulders.

Rainbow rock can be used to form a border around a garden or other landscape features, or it could be used as a ground cover. It's called rainbow rock because it comes in such a wide variety of color. Technically, this product is generally comprised of many different types of landscape rock, which is what accounts for the color variation. But it is commonly sold as a single product and labeled as rainbow rock for landscape purposes.

Tips for using this type of landscaping rock:

  • Use them to fill in a dry creek bed, or to form the border for such a bed.
  • Use them to as a ground covering for certain areas of your yard.
  • Also good for holding down weeds, in areas where they're a problem.

Lava rock

No, it's not just a clever name. Lava rock is actually mined from volcanic lava domes, mostly in the American southwest. It is generally reddish in color but can also be almost completely black.

This is a versatile type of landscaping rock and can be used for many purposes. It also comes in a variety of sizes, which increases the versatility of this rock. For example, you can use law for rock boulders has an accent piece within your overall landscaping design, or you can use crushed lava rock as a ground cover for your yard or walkways.

Lava rock is extremely popular in the dry climates of the Southwest, in places such as Phoenix, Arizona. Having a lawn full of grass is impractical in such an arid environment; so many homeowners fill their entire yard and would love a rock, plants and other landscaping features. When done properly, this can create attractive yard while minimizing the need for watering.


This is a type of landscape rock that you are probably most familiar with. It is widely used in a variety of landscaping and building projects.

Flagstone is a term used to describe flat pieces of stone that can be used for decorative and/or functional purposes. You can use flags going to create a patio or a walkway. You can put flagstone directly into the ground, but it's better to use some kind of base material such as crushed granite or paving sand. This gives you a nice flat surface to put the flagstone pieces on, and they can then be filled in to prevent sliding or shifting.


Boulders can be used as visual "anchor points" in your overall landscape design. In our backyard, we have a boulder surrounded by ornamental grasses, and it sits in a place where the pool deck intersects with the back porch. This gives a more natural feel to what was previously a boring, 90-degree concrete area. This is just one of many uses for this type of landscaping rock -- there are plenty of other applications.