Tips for the Perfect River Rock Flower Bed

Updated: Aug. 11, 2023

A river rock flower bed is equal parts practical and pretty. Here are five tips to help you install one in your landscape.

You gotta like a mulch that never breaks down or needs replenishing. And, with a smooth, sometimes even polished finish, river rocks add handsome texture to a bed. No wonder river rock flower beds are so popular among homeowners. Here are some how-to tips on using river rock effectively in your yard.

Pair With the Right Plants

River rocks drain quickly, so they’re perfect for succulents, cacti and other plants that don’t like moisture around their stems. They also retain heat, so they’re a fine complement to flower beds with sun- and heat-loving plants but should not be used with more delicate plants that can’t take too much reflected heat. Here are some of our favorite flower bed ideas for full sun.

Start Your River Rock Flower Bed With Landscape Fabric

Weeds will find their way through river rock unless you line the base with landscape fabric first. It’s a simple, cost-effective step that will save you maintenance woes down the road.

This is a great tip for keeping landscape fabric in place.

Mix Up the Sizes in Your River Rock Flower Bed

Landscape river rocks are available in sizes from 3/8 inch to 5 inches. They lend texture to a landscape year-round and you can create even more contrast and visual interest by mixing up sizes. Smaller river rocks are good for mulching and paths, larger river rocks add structure to a garden and attract attention.

Here are some front yard landscaping ideas with rocks.

Break Up the Space

A mass of greenery in a planting bed looks jungle-like and your eye doesn’t know where to look. Break up thick plantings with larger rocks and leave some of the smaller river rock mulch exposed.

Here are more super-smart ways to use stones and rocks in the landscape.

Make Your River Rock Flower Bed Look Natural

With larger river rocks, dig a portion of the rock into the ground for a more natural look. Position larger rocks informally around the bed and surround with a variety of plants. Taller grasses behind and smaller succulents in front is an eye-catching arrangement. Larger river rocks can be used to help prop up plants that tend to splay as they get taller. And river rocks are right at home with a water feature.

See how to use river rocks around a backyard stream or waterfall.