How to Landscape With Wood Chips or River Rock


Landscape your flower beds, gardens and pathways with wood chips or river rock for mulch that's both decorative and useful. Both wood chips and river rock help retain moisture for surrounding plants. Wood chips offer a more subtle approach to your outdoor décor because they are all one muted color. The shades of river rock vary from light tan to deep brown and light gray to deep blue-gray; the combination of colors stands out wherever you place them on your landscaping.

Step 1

Remove the grass and any rocks, roots or other debris on the ground where you are creating the flower bed, pathway or rock garden.

Step 2

Cut a section of landscape fabric that fits the excavated area. Place the fabric on top of the soil. If you intend to landscape the area with ornamental trees or shrubs, plant them first and then place the landscape fabric around them. If you are placing the fabric around existing trees or shrubs, cut slits in the fabric so it will fit around the base of the plants.

Step 3

Cut holes in the landscape fabric wherever you plan to place small flowers and plants. If you are creating a rock garden or landscaping with container plants, omit this step.

Step 4

Dig holes in the soil for planting flowers or other small plants. Place the plants in the holes and then backfill with the soil you removed or with potting soil. Landscape with perennials for plants that return each year; annual plants last for only one season, but they typically bloom all season long.

Step 5

Place pavers end to end around the perimeter of the excavated area. To landscape with wood chips or river rock, you'll need to create a border to contain the wood chips or river rock inside the desired area of the landscape. You can make the border from medium sized river rocks, stacked slate stones or single pavers lined end to end. The border can rest on top of the landscape fabric.

Step 6

Cover the top of the landscape fabric with a 2-inch layer of wood chips or river rock. Be careful spreading the stones around tender plant stems.

Tips and Warnings

  • Research mulch placement for trees and shrubs; some varieties prefer that mulch remain away from the stem.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Landscape fabric
  • Scissors
  • Pavers/slate/rocks
  • River rock
  • Wood chips


  • Plant Care: Landscaping Stones

Who Can Help

  • USNA: Hardiness Zone Map
Keywords: landscaping with rock, landscaping with wood, making garden beds

About this Author

Katherine Kally is a freelance writer specializing in eco-friendly home improvement projects, practical craft ideas and cost effective decorating solutions. Kally's work has been featured on sites across the Web. She holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of South Carolina and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.