When you look around at home landscapes in Greater Chicago, you’ll see lovely plant materials, gorgeous trees, functional hardscapes, and tidy landscape beds.

In those beds, you’ll also see a variety of material surrounding the plants – shredded hardwood mulch or stones. In fact, looking at these two aesthetics might make you question which one is better for your landscape. Should you use stones or mulch for your landscaping?

Well, let’s just say the answer to this question isn’t set in stone (no pun intended). You have to look at the pros and cons of mulch or stones and determine which approach is right for your aesthetic.

Stones vs. Mulch in Landscaping

Both stones and mulch have their place in Greater Chicago home landscapes.

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Your landscape beds should smoothly align with your home architecture, style, and budget. And mulch or stones can create different looks, in addition to providing other benefits.

water feature with plantings in landscape bed near patio

Let’s learn more about these two choices for your landscape beds to help you figure out your favorite.

Landscaping With Mulch

When it comes to mulch or stones, mulch is used more often in Greater Chicago landscapes, and it has some advantages.

Shredded hardwood mulch helps retain moisture in the soil, in addition to keeping plant roots at an even temperature. Mulch is also good for the soil by incorporating nutrients as it breaks down.

landscape maintenance team install mulch around daylilly plantings

Brown is a typical mulch color, but black is also possible as well. And mulch tends to be less expensive to install per yard.

As far as disadvantages of mulch, the product does break down over time, so it needs to be reapplied annually to continue to do its job of keeping weeds at bay, the soil moist and at an even temperature, and improving soil structure.

mulch in landscape bed with plantings steppers and tree

Also, since mulch is lighter than stone, weeds can occasionally push through, especially if your mulch layer is getting thin. If wind blows it around, mulch can also be harder to clean up than stone. And if it’s super dry out, it can catch fire more easily than rock.

Landscaping With Stone

Many Greater Chicago home landscapes also find advantages to using stone in their beds. Typically, stones consist of river rock that comes in a mix of beiges, tans, and bits of gray and light blue.

As far as the perks of rocks instead of mulch, first, you don’t have to replace stones every year. Stones also happen to be fire and wind resistant, as well as great weed suppressors.

If you have a high-traffic area, stone is a great choice because it can take a beating. If you have areas where your kids or dogs like to cut through, stone can be a great option.

river rock

When it comes to mulch or stones for home landscapes, stone is better for helping drainage. If you have areas that tend to hold water, rocks can help reduce sogginess, draining excess water slowly.

River rock keeps its look for quite some time, as well, but it does cost more per yard than mulch to install. You also have to consider that when you apply mulch, you apply a 2- to 3-inch layer. But when you apply stone, 1 yard won’t have the same coverage, so you double your price. But this is only a larger initial investment since you don’t have to replace stone annually.

Stone also doesn’t break down and provide nutrients to the soil like mulch. Additionally, only certain plants like ornamental grasses, sedum, yarrow, and Russian sage, grow well in a rock bed. Usually they are hardier and can survive in more basic soil.

Mulch or Stones? Either Way, Trust KD Landscape in Chicagoland

In the battle of mulch or stones, there is no clear winner. Personal preference and your landscape specifications, as well as taste, style, use, and budget, can dictate your final decision.

Remember, without some kind of landscaping material in your beds, they will likely sprout more weeds and lack that polished, clean look you’re after.

As you ponder the mulch or stone question, let KD Landscape help. We’re experts in these materials and can steer you toward the choice that best fits your unique property.

Ready to see how KD Landscape can transform your suburban Chicago area landscape? We’d love to share our design and installation expertise with you and deliver a space that best fits your needs. Get started today with a free consultation. Together, we can create a solution that you’ll love.

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Image Source: River rock