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8 Helpful Tips For Landscaping Around Trees With Rocks

8 Helpful Tips For Landscaping Around Trees With Rocks

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There are many landscaping designs gardeners like to implement, such as placing a bench behind some pampas grass, building a small pond or fountain, or making a centerpiece out of trees.

Today we’ll talk about the last option and present a couple of tips and tricks for landscaping around trees with rocks.

And since this is not the only material you can use, we’ll also include a couple of ideas we currently have in mind for transforming the looks of a backyard. 

For instance, you can plant various plants below your trees and combine them with a rocky border, build a patio, or make a rock bed.

Let’s get started!

Landscaping Around Trees With Rocks

If you want a cheap desert landscape idea for decorating your yard, then adding some rocks and native plants is a great way to do it.

You can place the rocks on their own or around your trees to make a statement piece.

However, you can’t just spread the stones around your tree and call it a day. You have to be mindful of the plant’s roots, choose proper sized rock, and think of the placement before doing anything.

Below, you will find some tips that can help you with this.

1. Discover Where The Roots Are

It is essential to know where the roots of your trees are located since this will help you avoid killing your plant in the process of beautifying it.

For instance, if the tree roots are exposed, you should cover them with gravel or mulch to protect them from the weather and physical damage that may result from placing rocks over them.

And if the tree roots are all below the surface, you can decorate the tree either by digging a trench or making a rock border.

However, you do have to figure out where they are before doing this so as to avoid any potential damage.

Generally speaking, the tree roots extend as much as its canopy, but that isn’t always the case. The roots can extend more than this, so you’ll have to be careful when digging.

To make your job easier, you can mark where the largest branches of the tree finish by putting a rock below them. Do this on four sides of the tree and outline them with a string to create a border. If you want to dig a trench, do it outside of the circle.

2. Use Landscaping Fabric 

Rocks and stones look amazing as part of a landscape, but they cannot suppress weed growth on their own. If you don’t want to deal with this issue on a regular basis, you can use landscaping fabric to prevent weeds.

Find a cloth that is breathable and porous since it will ensure the exchange of gasses and won’t suffocate the roots.

Before placing the fabric, clear the weeds and debris around the tree. Then place the fabric and mark any unevenness on it with chalk. This way, you’ll know if there are any surfaced roots that you should avoid covering with rocks.

You should also leave a couple of inches around the tree trunk free from the fabric to prevent rotting.

Secure the fabric with staples or dig a trench outside the root border and bury the ends of the landscaping cloth in it.

3. Choose The Rock Size

Another important aspect of landscaping around trees with rocks is choosing the right size. This decision can greatly affect the appearance of your design, as well as prevent any damage to the roots.

For instance, if the roots of your trees are exposed, you should opt for gravel-sized material since it won’t damage the roots.

If, on the other hand, the tree roots are below the soil surface, you can use hand-sized or slightly larger (or smaller) stones, depending on your design.

Furthermore, if you want to create a rock wall around the trees, you can get larger pieces or buy blocks to make it fit into your design.

Finally, stones are an excellent way to bring your inexpensive zen garden ideas to life, or any other thought you had in mind for your landscape.

4. Plan How You Want To Lay The Rocks

This step will save you a lot of time and trouble later since you’ll know where every piece goes.

Planning where and how you want to decorate your trees with rocks is crucial, which is why you shouldn’t skip it (unless you don’t mind fixing it later).

For instance, you can place the stones in a circular design around the trees and leave the gaps empty or fill them with gravel for more texture.

You can create a square design, a path that leads to a circle around the trees, or build a wall with stones.

5. Place The Rocks

Once you’ve placed the landscaping fabric and have the materials and a plan ready, you can start arranging the stones.

You can stack the rocks on the fabric or create a wall, although the latter design requires a bit more work.

Step 1. Dig a trench that can fit your rocks, but don’t make it deeper than 2-3 inches as there’s no need for that. When digging, make sure to do it outside of the border where you marked the end of the roots, and still do it slowly and carefully so as not to damage them.

Step 2. Place the first layer of rocks equally spaced in the hole and ensure they’re level.

Step 3. Then continue layering stones on the gaps below, or rather, stack the stone on the intersection where the two rocks from the bottom create a slit.

Step 4. Keep layering the stones in this way until you’re satisfied with the height of the wall.

Step 5. Fill the insides of the rock wall with gravel or a thin layer of topsoil, and plant some bulbous flowers or another variety. Just don’t take the gravel or the topsoil all the way to the tree trunk or it might lead to root rot. 

More Pro Tips

I’m sure you must still have a lot of questions about these landscaping techniques, such as how much space to leave around the trunk, if you always have to dig a trench, etc., so we’ll discuss these issues in the following sections.

1. Leave a couple of inches uncovered around the trunk

Leaving a couple of inches (no more or less than 2-3 inches) uncovered around the trunk can make a huge difference for the health of your tree.

Sometimes, placing the gravel or soil all the way up can lead to rotting as there’s no proper airflow, which is why many gardeners avoid doing it.

Of course, that gap can be visible when using gravel, but you can always plant a couple of shade-tolerant flowers or a groundcover to make it less noticeable.

2. Dig a trench border if the tree is on uneven ground

If your ground is not leveled, it is crucial to dig an even trench or your landscaping design won’t look as good.

You can achieve this by putting an extra layer of stones on one side (or more sides, depending on the unevenness) to elevate it and create a semblance of level ground.

The good news is that you won’t require any real masonry or construction since the stones are heavy enough and can remain in the same position.

3. Include plants 

The last thing that can help you with landscaping around trees with rocks is incorporating some flowers that can tolerate partial shade, such as trailing begonias, lilies, hostas, creeping red sedum, etc.

These will definitely make the rock wall and your tree stand out without much fuss.

Ideas For Landscaping Around Trees With Rocks

There are many landscaping ideas with trees and rocks, from placing the rocks all the way around the trees to using different materials, creating trenches, patios, etc.

Below, we’ll discuss some of the most popular and beautiful ones that you can incorporate into your design.

Add Different Materials

One of the most common ways to elevate your landscape design is by adding different materials to it.

For instance, if you want to decorate the ground around your trees, you can use stones of various shapes and sizes, including river rocks, boulders, flagstones, etc.

And if you don’t want to create such a statement piece in your yard just yet, you can always use some gravel and bark to make the area more pleasant and cover any roots protruding from the ground.

Also, adding ornamental grasses, ground cover, and shade tolerant plants can quickly transform the look of your garden.

If you don’t want to spend much time digging the trench and filling it with rocks, you can place a short layer of stone bricks in a circle around your tree and add some gravel or plants, such as the adorable blue daze Florida.

Make A Rock Bed

Creating a rock bed is the simplest way to improve the appearance of your landscape.

Simply create a rock wall with any type of stones you’d like (just make sure it’s level), and fill it with gravel or larger pieces arranged in a unique pattern.

Here are some tips for making an amazing decoration like this:

Build A Patio

Building a deck and incorporating your trees in it is an excellent way to create a resting area in your garden and make that tree really stand out.

There are many materials you can use, though you should always research the benefits and drawbacks of a pea gravel patio, for instance, if you wish to use this material.

Many landscapers opt for a wooden deck since it is a natural material and goes nicely with most designs.

You can build a floating deck, decorate it with potted flowers and statement rock pieces, and really make your backyard stand out and speak for itself!


What are the benefits of landscaping around trees with rocks? 

Placing rocks around your trees can keep their roots safe, maintain the soil texture, and improve the overall appearance.

For instance, if the tree roots are exposed, you can accidentally damage them, which puts the entire tree in harm’s way. But if you create a wall around it, it’ll prevent you from digging, walking, and moving in the vicinity of the roots.

And if we don’t walk on the soil near the tree, it won’t compact as much and the roots will be able to grow more freely.

Finally, making a rock bed, floating deck, or simply planting some ornamental grasses and shade-tolerant plants around the trees can cover that unsightly patch of bare soil.

Is it better to put mulch or rocks around trees?

Both organic mulch and rocks are suitable for landscaping around trees, so it really depends on your needs and preferences.

For instance, if you just want to improve the appearance of your tree, then you should go with rocks and gravel.

But if you want to add some organic material to the soil, then mulching with compost, wood chips, or bark is your best option. However, these materials break down over time, so you will have to top them up, unlike topping the soil with rocks.

Final Thoughts

Landscaping around trees with rocks is a great way to hide unattractive roots and soil, and really create a unique design in your backyard.

There are a couple of steps you need to take, such as measuring where the roots are, covering the soil with landscaping fabric to prevent weed growth, and building a trench (if that’s what you want).

You also need to choose the size of the stones you use and plan where to place them in order to progress more quickly and avoid any repairs later on.

You can also add flowers inside the rock wall to improve the appearance of the tree itself.

Finally, we included a couple of landscaping designs with rocks you can try out.

Good luck, and until next time!