Landscaping With Washed Stones


Landscaping with washed stones (also called river rocks) is particularly inviting when you are placing stones into your garden or landscape in such a way that they will be walked upon at times. Because the stones are smooth, they feel nice underfoot and they create a naturally soothing appearance. These stones are quite nice when used to form part of a dry stream bed lined with attractive plants and shrubs.

Step 1

Use a hose to design a meandering path through your landscape that resembles a small stream. This is particularly effective if your yard has a swale area for water run off. Use the swale as if it were a part-time stream.

Step 2

Dig out your existing sod and plants in the area where you wish to install your stream bed. Keep in mind that you can leave many plants and simply place the washed stones around them. This will allow your landscape to have both mature and newer plants.

Step 3

Lay porous landscape fabric along your new stream bed. Hold it in position with a few stones as you work.

Step 4

Order larger washed boulders when you order your smaller stones. These should be installed at the highest elevation of your stream bed and sprinkled irregularly along the path of the bed. Seat the stones so that any moss on them is facing upward as this will add a timely quality to your garden.

Step 5

Install your washed stones in order of size with the largest being used first. Avoid creating lines or borders. Nature doesn't create borders that look positioned. Fill in all your remaining stream bed with smaller stones. Your stones should cover all of your landscape fabric.

Step 6

Arrange your plants to encounter your stream bed in a natural way. Move a few stones, cut through the fabric and dig your planting holes. Keep in mind that rocks will hold heat so your plants near or in rock beds may need more water or should be more tolerant of heat.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Porous landscape fabric
  • Washed stones
  • Larger boulders
  • Plants


  • Helpful Gardener: Japanese Rock Gardens
  • Fine Gardening: Dry Stream Does Double Duty
Keywords: washed stones, landscaping stones, river rock

About this Author

F.R.R. Mallory is a senior at UC Berkeley completing degrees in both Neuropsychology and English. She has been published since 1996 in both nonfiction and fiction, books, short stories, articles and essays. Her fiction short story "Black Ice" recently won a National Space Society contest.