rubber mulch vs. rock

Rubber Mulch vs. Rock: What is Better Rubber Mulch or Rock?

One of the most challenging decisions to make when landscaping is whether it’s better to use rock or rubber mulch around your garden or home. While there may be clear benefits to the two options, it’s critical to pick one that meets your needs and goals. 

All in all, choosing between rubber mulch and rock isn’t an easy task when considering the pros and cons of both. 

Between rubber mulch and rock, which is the better option?

For starters, it’s safe to say homeowners widely use rubber mulch because it’s more pocket-friendly. Rubber mulch costs up to 75% less than the cost of stone. Additionally, rubber mulch allows better growth of plants and trees because it minimizes evaporation and prevents the growth of weeds.

Let’s explore the different aspects of rubber mulch and rock:

What is Better Rubber Mulch or Rock?

Rocks are better than rubber mulch because they’re more durable. In addition, rocks don’t contain toxic chemicals that can interfere with plant growth. Rubber mulch is likely to be a little harmful to plants.

Compared to rubber mulch, rocks are low maintenance and rarely need replacement. Therefore, due to their longevity, rocks are more cost-effective. Rock cover is your perfect option for landscapes and low-water gardens. 

Rubber Mulch vs. Rock: Which One is More Eco-Friendly?

Rock is more environmentally-friendly and eco-friendly. And since it doesn’t decompose, it serves as a better garden option. Consequently, rubber mulch and rock are valuable materials for preventing soil erosion and landscaping. 

Rubber mulch is lightweight and biodegradable, though it takes time to disintegrate. Also, it loses its color with prolonged exposure to sunlight. Rubber mulch is also not suitable in areas prone to wildfires because it’s highly flammable

Rubber Mulch vs. Rocks: Which is Better Around Trees and In Flower Beds?

Advantages of Rubber Mulch

  • Reduce erosion and compaction (when soil is compressed): Rubber mulch reduces soil erosion by up to 85%. Additionally, people are less likely to wander off on the mulch, hence less soil compaction.
  • Right temperature: Rubber mulch keeps plants cool during summer and warm during winter.
  • Fewer weeds: It keeps weeds from sprouting, so there’s 50% less growth of weeds.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Rubber Mulch?

  • Too late means weed growth: Rubber Mulch stops weeds from growing. But if you take too long before installing the mulch, you might not contain the weed growth.
  • Mulching too early translates to late blooms: On the other hand, mulching too early may slow the ground from warming, slowing blooming.
  • Having too much mulch: Adding more than two or three layers of mulch stresses the plants.
  • Annual replacement: You may need to replace the mulch every one to four years, which means you’ll have to deal with the recurring cost.

Advantages of Rocks

  • Low maintenance: You may never need to replace them.
  • Perfect for gardens: Rocks are ideal for garden spaces.
  • Wind-resistant: Rocks help prevent soil erosion because they’re wind resistant.
  • Keep weeds at bay: Rocks keep weeds away for longer.
  • Fire-proof: If you’re in an area prone to wildfires, rocks offer a better gardening solution since they’re non-flammable.
  • Lower cost: Because they stay intact for a longer time, rocks are generally cheaper to maintain compared to rubber mulch.

Disadvantages of Rocks

  • Removal by hand: If you wish to remove the rocks, you’ve to do so by hand, which is tedious. 
  • Hinder pruning: Rocks may stop you from rejuvenation pruning, which may create shrubs.
  • Return of weeds: In due time, the wind blows the soil between rocks, creating room for weeds to grow. 
  • Mess with the pH: Most trees prefer an acidic environment, yet stones create an alkaline environment which hurts the trees. 
  • Non-beneficial to plants: Rocks don’t aid soil health and plant growth. 
  • Too hot: Rocks raise soil temperatures leading to thirsty, stressed plants. 

Preparation for Use

Unlike rocks, rubber mulch needs minimal prep work. You need to simply install it on top of landscape fabric and use a weed killer. 

On the other hand, you’d need to spread 2-3 inches of rock mulch to keep away weeds. Also, you can place rubber mulch atop wood mulch to prevent weeds from penetrating the soil. 

Still, both options work wonders for the environment.

Therefore, the key to selecting the best rocks for your garden is to find what suits your needs and budget.

Should You Remove Rubber Mulch Before Installing Rocks?

Yes, you need to remove the rubber mulch because if you don’t, the rubber mulch continues to break down over time. It leads to weeds starting to grow between the rocks. Furthermore, experts recommend the installation of a weed barrier beneath the rocks. 

As we’ve said before, top dressing using rocks helps minimize evaporation. Also, it helps prevent the soil from washing away when watering plants. In addition, the rocks help keep the topsoil from blowing off. 

Are Rocks Better than Rubber Mulch in Landscaping?

Rocks add texture, color, and zen to your garden, but they’re not appropriate for all the areas in your yard. Still, they offer a more permanent solution to your landscaping than organic mulch like wood chips and pine straw that breaks down over time.

How Do You Stop Weeds From Growing in Rocks?

Adding underlayments between soil and rocks creates a weed barrier that helps prevent weed seeds from getting to the ground. If you’ve already laid the rocks, rake them away temporarily to give room to install the underlayments. Choose black plastic or landscape fabric as underlayment.


Is it Better to Put Mulch or Rocks Around Trees?

Generally, it is better to put rocks around trees because they keep weeds away. Rocks are also long-lasting and less expensive than rubber mulch. If you live in an area prone to wildfires, rocks are a better option because they’re non-flammable. 

Is Rubber Mulch Cheaper Than Rock?

Rubber mulch is more expensive than rock because you can source rocks anywhere, any time, and they cost less. Both rocks and rubber mulch stay in place for longer and don’t need heavy spreading across landscaping areas, so they’re both low maintenance compared to organic mulching options.

Is Rubber Mulch the Best?

Yes, choosing rubber mulch for landscaping is healthy for plants because it allows nutrients and water to reach the plant roots. Also, rubber mulch helps prevent weeds leading to less chemical use and doesn’t attract pests that damage plants. 

The Bottom Line

Our recommendation on using either rock or rubber mulch for landscaping is to look at your landscape. Highlight the areas that can benefit from rubber mulch and those that benefit from rocks.

Afterward, create a plan that best meets the needs of your home. Take time to visit your landscape supply dealer or the local hardware to discover more options.

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