McKay Nursery Company

Stone Mulch vs. Shredded Bark Mulch

May 19, 2017 9:00:00 AM

Written by

McKay Staff

in Gardening 101 How-to Guide


There are two types of mulch material:

  • Stone (permanent mulch)
  • Shredded bark (organic mulch)



Stone - permanent mulch

What they require: Stone beds require edging installed, weed barrier installed, and a lot more work to put it in place.

Cons: They can be less friendly to plant material, especially small plants and perennials. The cost is more than shredded bark mulch.

Pros: The advantage is that once it is installed it lasts for years before it will need to be replaced. However when this time comes it is much more effort and expense to remove and replace.

Here are some examples of some homes with some stone mulch. 



Pay attention to what your exterior homes visual design and color look like to help you decide. Stone vs. bark mulch can be a night and day difference in the final look of the landscape against your home. If there is already a lot of hard surface and texture on and around the home, like a concrete driveway, and brick or stone on the facade of the house, the choice of a stone mulch might make the planting too harsh looking. On the other hand if there is no brick or stone then using it might be a good choice. 







Shredded Bark Mulch - organic mulch

What they require: It can be installed with a spaded edge or with permanent edging in the beds. Because it's lighter than stone it requires less effort to install. It does deteriorate and will need to be replenished every year or every other year. 

Cons: It does deteriorate and will need to be replenished every year or every other year. However it will only require about ½ the initial amount of bark or even less as the plants take up more room in the beds.

Pros: It's more “plant friendly” and is about half the cost of stone. As it deteriorates it provides good organic matter to the plants. It is not suggested to use a weed barrier under the bark for this reason. The cleanup of leaves and debris from pruning is easier with bark than stone because it isn’t as necessary to remove small debris because of its organic nature.

Here's some projects with shredded bark mulch









Stone & Shredded Bark Mulch - mix of permanent & organic

If you can't decide a combination of bark and stone beds is a very attractive solution, if incorporated artfully in a design. This often creates a happy median for the homeowner. Plus, it allows annuals to be added in the bark beds while having the stone beds that don’t have to be top-dressed like bark.

What they require: There will be double the work to combine the stone beds and shredded bark mulch. Stone requires edging, weed barrier installed, and a lot more work to put stones in place. 

Cons: Bottom line... more work to put both in for manually and aesthetically. 

Pros: The visual appeal and depth looks amazing! We get a lot of customers that want the combination as you can see in the pictures below!






Overall - if you are looking for less upkeep with the landscape beds the stone is the best choice. But if you are looking for a little more friendly solution for the plants and less of an initial cost easier installation, bark might be your choice.


Watch this video to learn more from our professional landscape designer about shredded bark mulch vs. stone mulch

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