Types of Gravel for Landscaping: A Comprehensive Guide for North County Mulch Customers

The Ultimate Guide to Landscape Gravel: Choosing the Perfect Type for Your Project

From accentuating foliage to creating functional pathways, the right types of gravel for landscaping can make or break a project. 

Functionally, gravel is a star performer in water management, especially when you need solid drainage solutions. However, using gravel in landscaping requires a delicate balance between personal taste, the specificity of the area, and the practical demands of the location.

When it comes to selecting the perfect gravel type for a landscape project, you should consider the existing design elements, how much foot or vehicle traffic the area will receive, and the climate in which the gravel will be laid. 

Types of Landscape Gravel

There are a few different types of gravel to choose from for landscaping, each with its own distinct advantages and disadvantages:

Pea Gravel

Starting with the cool, casual cousin of the gravel family, pea gravel is a versatile choice for many projects. Consisting of small, round stones, this type of gravel is named for its size, roughly that of a pea. Its smooth texture and range of tans and browns make it a top choice for pathways and play areas.

Pea gravel is ideal when a softer ground covering is needed, but it’s not the best under high traffic, where its propensity to shift can be a drawback. However, it does have the ability to adapt to uneven terrains. Plus, the comfort it presents underfoot makes it a wise choice for outdoor sitting areas or places where kids play.

River Rock

River rock, as the name suggests, is native to the beds of rivers and streams. These stones are larger and more irregular in shape than pea gravel. There are all kinds of sizes available, from egg-sized pebbles to tennis-ball-sized rocks. It’s a great option for both utility and aesthetics.

The rocks’ natural smoothness not only looks appealing, but also provides a comfortable surface for walking. 

One of river rock’s primary attributes is its exceptional drainage properties, thanks to the ample space between larger stones. That’s why it’s a mainstay in garden borders, dry creek beds, and other water management features.

Crushed Granite Gravel

Crushed granite offers a middle-ground option for those who want a natural look without the randomness of river rock or pea gravel’s roundness. These granules are angular in form due to the crushing process, providing a stable surface for pathways and driveways.

It allows for good compaction, which is excellent for footpaths or driveways that see regular traffic. The predominantly gray color of crushed granite can also be a blank canvas for more colorful landscaping features, providing a good balance to the overall design.

Decomposed Granite

If you’re looking for finer granularity, decomposed granite (DG) is the answer. DG is crushed granite that has weathered to the point that it readily fractures into smaller pieces of weak rock. This eventual decomposition allows for excellent water penetration, making DG a great choice for areas where you want neither silt build-up nor erosion.

In its golden amber color, decomposed granite can convey a rustic, Old World charm, often used in Spanish-style gardens. It packs down well for pathways, creating a surface that’s not only stable but is wheelchair-accessible too.

Marble Chips

Stepping away from the earth tones that define many gravel options, marble chips offer a more polished and colorful alternative. 

With shades such as white, tan, red, and gray, these stones can add a touch of the exotic to your landscaping scheme. Their polished surface also reflects light. This can brighten up shaded areas and enhance the vibrancy of surrounding plants.

Marble chips are fantastic for walkways and decorative accents but should be avoided in areas where high impact or heavy traffic is anticipated. They can be more high maintenance, as they are prone to staining and chipping, especially in areas where salt is used for de-icing.

Choosing the Right Landscape Gravel

By now, you’ve learned about the textural and functional properties of various landscape gravels, but how do you select the right one? Here are a few things to consider: 

Purpose of the Gravel

The intended use of the gravel is a key factor in selection. Is it primarily for aesthetics, drainage, or a walking surface? Each type of gravel is specialized for particular roles, so define your gravel’s main function before making a choice.

Aesthetic Appeal

Gravel comes in a range of colors and textures. Consider the overall look you’re aiming for in your landscape. Do you want to create a naturalistic scene that blends into the surroundings, or are you after a bold and colorful statement? The aesthetic appeal should complement the plants and structures around it.

Size Matters

Choose the size of your gravel based on the scale of your project. Pea gravel is great for smaller areas or where you need a fine texture, while larger river rocks could be overpowering. For a balance of good drainage and a stable walking surface, go for a size that’s manageable yet hefty enough to resist erosion.


Think about how the gravel type will hold up to the local climate and any special circumstances. Will it need to withstand snow and ice or extreme heat? Will it be exposed to de-icing chemicals or regularly cleaned with water?

Foot Traffic and Maintenance

Consider the amount of foot traffic the area will experience. Higher foot traffic areas require a more durable and stable surface, which might influence the size or angularity of the gravel you choose. Maintenance needs can vary greatly, with some gravels, like marble chips, requiring more attention than others.

Get Great Gravel With North County Mulch

Choosing the right landscape gravel isn’t just about adding a filler to your outdoor space – it’s a decision that can significantly impact the beauty and functionality of your landscape. 

Your best bet? Consult with professionals like North County Mulch to make sure that your gravel choice fits seamlessly into your landscaping masterpiece. 

With our expertise and high-quality products, you’re one step closer to a landscape that’s both beautiful and enduring. 

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