River Rocks: What You Need to Know About This Hardscaping Mainstay

When you’re planning out your new landscaping project, where do rocks fit in? Obviously, no one wants rocks in the grass (mowing would be a pain!) but incorporating rocks into your landscaping can elevate its overall look and feel. River rocks don’t just belong in the river and are a fantastic element to add to any landscaping project. In fact, the name is misleading as these versatile stones can set your new project up for success, emphasizing new designs or serving as a great grass alternative for filling space.

River rocks are a type of hardscaping (using non-living components in your landscaping) that can do so much for a new yard or garden project. Depending on what your goals are, river rocks can be a great alternative to other more maintenance-heavy options. Is your goal to draw your eye to a specific area? Choose river rocks in a color that’s not common to your area. Dark browns or bright whites can act as an accent and provide a splash of color against flora and fauna. Or if you’re looking for a filler or backdrop for other exciting elements like your collection of garden gnomes, pigeon river rocks or Delaware Jax rocks provide a more earthy tone.

These rocks are also commonly featured in and around water fixtures, hence the name. They are used for riverbeds as an accent color and to help direct the water away from vulnerable property and prevent erosion, serving both a practical and aesthetic purpose. You’ll also find river rocks around fountains or waterfalls, creating a more natural look for the water fixtures.

Looking to maintain a garden but don’t want to go to the trouble of applying mulch every year? River rocks can serve as a replacement material as long as the proper steps are taken ahead of time. Weeds are already the enemy of gardeners everywhere, but trying to dig out a weed that’s found its way through your rock bed is a pain no one should have to suffer through. Laying down a weed barrier before putting your river rocks in place makes your life easier and goes a long way towards maintaining a weed-free garden.

Additionally, combining a layer of stones with potted plants creates an elegant container garden. Brightly colored flowers will seem all the brighter surrounded by stones, and your maintenance levels drop significantly. Plus, you can rearrange your plants on a whim, allowing you to play with your layout and preventing any planter’s remorse.

Of course, if you don’t want to add containers, there are several plants that thrive with a rock base. Stones help the soil drain quicker, creating a perfect environment for cacti and succulents. Desert-style gardens are growing in popularity and require less maintenance than other styles.

On the more creative side, designing a personalized outdoor space can be challenging, but river rocks provide the perfect avenue to let your inner artist out. Combining different colors together can create a stunning visual pattern. These mosaic gardens are works of art, and require more rigorous planning ahead of time. Transform a basic stone pathway with geometric shapes and contrasting colors for a beautiful backyard accent piece. Or if you aren’t keen on walking on a series of stones to get around, combine your river rock pathway with larger pieces of flagstone for path that won’t hurt your bare feet.

River rocks are also historically a key element of Japanese rock gardens, or zen gardens. These traditionally smaller accent gardens are carefully laid out using a combination of rocks and gravel that’s been raked so it appears like water. The act of raking out the stones into a smooth pattern is actually somewhat difficult, requiring time and concentration, but also provides a relaxing, meditative activity.

Adding hardscaping elements to your new landscaping project may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Many people focus on the new greenery that they’ll add and think about ways to remove any rocks in the area. But river rocks can be an incredibly versatile element that all landscapers should consider. Not only are there a variety of color options available to fit any home design, but they require less maintenance than alternatives like mulch or grass. Even just using these stones for something as simple as a barrier between a new in-ground plant bed can add a natural element that would be lost with other pavers or walls. These stones can help differentiate a good project from a great one, and shouldn’t be written off so quickly.