In recent years we have been seeing more and more mixed-media landscapes. Whereas mulch used to be the go-to landscape material, now homeowners and contractors alike are switching completely to rocks or using a combination of both.

Mulch is extremely versatile and comes in a wide variety of colors to enhance, complement and beautify landscaping. Additionally, plants, flowers, and other types of vegetation thrive under the protective barrier that mulch offers. It’s also a great choice for those looking for a soft surface for yard paths.

Used as an accent, mulch can enhance healthy lawns while adding an aesthetic value when you choose mulch that complements the colors in the brick, stone, stucco and siding of your home.

But mulch isn’t the only choice for accenting landscaping. Many homeowners are choosing decorative stone in addition to or instead of mulch. Stone is a great low-maintenance alternative ground cover material for those who don’t want to spend a ton of time weeding around bushes and flower beds. Additionally, rocks and stones work better around the borders of pools and hot tubs as they stay in place better than other lighter weight materials.

Both mulch and rocks are available in multiple colors and types:

Mulch can come in more options than just black or red, and there’s an array of textures such as pine straw and shredded hardwood bark as well as cocoa bean shells, nut hulls, salvaged palettes that are ground up and even seaweed.

Here are some pros and cons to both:

Mulch

Pros

  • Reduces soil erosion by up to 85 percent.
  • Reduces water evaporation
  • Can doubles rate of growth for trees and plants.
  • Adds nutrients to soil as it breaks down.
  • Keeps plants warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
  • Stops weed seeds from sprouting

Cons

  • Requires replacing every one to four years.
  • Some organic mulches, like pine bark and hay, may contain weed

Stones

Pros

  • Prevent soil erosion in windy areas.
  • Almost never needs to be replaced.
  • Less expensive in the long run
  • Keep weeds away longer.
  • Rocks are inflammable and are ideal for an area prone to wildfires

Cons

  1. Can raise the soil temperature and lead to stressed, thirsty plants.
  2. Don’t aid plant growth or soil health.
  3. Create alkaline soil, which can hurt trees.
  4. Soil between rocks creates spots for weeds to grow.
  5. Rocks can prohibit rejuvenation pruning, creating unwieldy shrubs.
  6. If you want to remove stones, you must do it manually, which can be tedious

 

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