Rubber Mulch vs. Rock

June 19, 2015

Gardeners, Zen practitioners, artists, writers, and many people appreciate the calming look and feel of a rock garden. It has a meditative quality that simply attracts those seeking a serene frame of mind.

When it comes to effective gardening however, the practical question of whether rocks offer more benefits than rubber mulch constantly comes up. Both products have very similar advantages and limitations to consider. Weighing these carefully is key to choosing the best mulching option for your own outdoor garden and landscaping needs.

Let’s take a closer look at what they have to offer.

Nutritional benefits to soil

Because rubber mulch doesn’t move as much and absorb like organic, more lightweight mulching materials, all the fertilizer and water the soil needs goes right into it. However, because it is synthetic, it means it offers no nutritional benefits to soil and plants in a garden.

the same can be said about rocks, as well. While they are organic, they also do not offer nutrients that enrich soil and plants. The best that they can do is insulate cold-sensitive plants with warmth and help them thrive even in harsh conditions.  


Because rocks are sufficiently weighty compared to other organic mulches like wood chips, they have a longer shelf life as gardening mulch. They also do not decompose, so you can expect to have them around for quite a while. Rubber mulch is also a good option as far as longevity is concerned. They can be used for mulching and landscaping purposes for over a decade without degrading.


Rubber mulch is the result of recycling tires while rock mulch typically comes from volcanic deposits. Both are durable materials. Both can withstand high winds and harsh weather conditions, so they have the qualities needed for low maintenance mulching purposes.


Initially, rubber mulch can have a bigger price tag per sq.ft.  Rocks can be sourced anywhere at any time, and they typically cost less than rubber mulch. Both stay in place and neither product needs to be spread heavily across garden soil or landscaping areas to do their jobs, so either option tends to be a low maintenance and low cost alternative to organic mulching materials.

Since natural rock and rubber mulch share many of the same beneficial attributes as well as limitations, the decision comes down to personal taste and aesthetic requirements.  While some prefer the look of natural rock, other projects lend themselves better to more vibrant color schemes.

Either way, rocks and rubber mulch can be two great options for your gardening and landscaping needs.

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