How to Spread River Rock

Lead Image
  • 1-2 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-200
What You'll Need
River rock
Landscape fabric
Boxcutter knife

River rock can be a beautiful addition to your landscaping. These pebbles can also enhance moisture retention for your plants, allowing for better growth. The reason for this is simple. The rocks are not truly on the ground. They are on a piece of landscaping fabric. The landscaping fabric helps hold the moisture in the rocks longer as not all water reaches beneath it.

The colorful pebbles known as river rock come in shades of brown and gray. This includes variations of light tan, sandstone, lavenders, and even a deep blue-gray. When placed around trees, flower beds, and even Zen gardens, they add a touch of tranquility to the scenery. However, placement of these rocks takes some thought. Here is how to ensure the results you attain are deeply satisfying.

Step 1 - Remove Debris

pulling weeds from the ground

Before placing the rocks down where you want them, you should ensure the area is free of debris. This includes grasses, weeds, roots, and other unsightly natural growth. By eliminating these problems now, you will spend less time tending to the rocks later.

Step 2 - Cut Landscape Fabric

You will need to cut a piece of landscape fabric to the shape of the area where you intend to place the river rock. This fabric lies directly on the soil and acts as a buffer to keep weeds out. If you are planting any plants of a substantial size that need to be in the same area as the rock, you should plant them first. Then, ensure that the landscape fabric can fit around the base of your plants.

Step 3 - Cut Slits in the Fabric

Cut slits in the landscape fabric. You can do this in places where you plan to plant small flowers and plants.

Step 4 - Place Your Plants

Place all plants that you wish to be surrounded by the river rock. Make sure to plant the roots deep enough to ensure proper growth. If you want to see flowers each year, it is best to use perennials. Choose annuals if you want to replant the area the following year. Perennials tend to bloom once per year, while annuals bloom several times during one season.

Step 5 - Place Your Pavers

Pavers are decorative items that border the area being planted. Many times, they are railroad ties or larger rocks that will hold the river rocks in place. Slate stone also works well for a paver. Place the pavers directly on top of the edges of the landscape fabric.

Step 6 - Add River Rock

Rock and grass with a border in between

Now, it’s time to add the pebbles to complete the look you have been working towards. You should spread a 2-inch layer around the plants and onto the landscape fabric. Much of this will be slow going as you will need to take care around your freshly planted foliage. Rock that is poured into this area can damage the work you have already done. It is better to spread the rock by handfuls, carefully spreading it out as you go.

Once your landscaping efforts are complete, you will have a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Just be careful not to water the flowers too often, as the river rock will retain moisture far better than soil alone.