Types of Ground Covering Stones for the Garden

Updated July 20, 2017

A garden landscape design often includes lawns, planted areas, water attractions and alternative surfacing. A common alternative surface involves the use of ground covering stones; placing these in planted areas, paths or driveways can provide a few advantages, which include an attractive look and easy maintenance. Gardeners, landscape designers and homeowners typically use a variety of stone types for garden ground cover.

River Bed Pebbles

River bed pebbles are found in the beds of rivers and streams. The action of the constant flowing water gives them their distinctive smooth, rounded shape, and they come in a variety of colours, including grey, pink, white and brown. The smooth shape of river bed pebbles produces a comfortable walking surface, making them a good choice for paths. Other uses include decoration for the base of water features, ornamental borders and cover for garden beds.


Using slate produces a distinctive look because its colours typically include blue, black, red and green. This type of stone forms in layers and naturally has a flat, angular shape, with chips available in a variety of sizes. However, crushing the flat chips also produces a finer gravel. You can use slate in both crushed and chipped formats for walkways and also as a decorative covering for flower beds or landscape planted areas.

Marble Chips

Breaking down a larger piece of marble produces chips, and these can vary in colour from bright white to deep black, depending on the parent rock. The chips come in a variety of sizes and typically have a smooth surface and an angular shape. The shimmering appearance of marble fragments makes them a suitable choice around water features, and other uses include ground covering for planted areas and container gardens. However, marble chips can lower the acidity of the soil that they cover, so using them around plants that prefer acid soil is not recommended.

Lava Rock

Volcanic action causes the formation of lava rock, and this type of stone has a rough surface texture. It also has a lightweight and porous nature, which helps provide good drainage properties when used as a garden cover. Lava rock packs down well when laid, although adding material from time to time can help in maintaining the thickness of cover. It most commonly comes in hues of red and black, and some of its landscape uses include garden paths, driveways and soil coverage in flower beds.

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About the Author

Ian Farquharson has worked as a freelance writer since 2008. He has written for individual clients, as well as various online publications, and brings sports and travel expertise to eHow. He has a Bachelor of Engineering in civil engineering from Dundee College of Technology.