What are the Different Types of Decorative Gravel?

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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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There are various types of decorative gravel, and each one has different advantages and drawbacks since they all look and feel different. One of the most common types of gravel for yards is called pea gravel, which is known for being smooth and easy to walk on. River rock is also smooth, and is most often used in river beds in the yard, or placed into decorative walls and pathways. Lava rock is lightweight, angular, and useful for drainage. Finally, shell gravel is a popular choice in coastal areas due to its unique aesthetic appeal.

Pea gravel is usually very small and rounded, having been polished by water at some point. This type of decorative gravel is often used to edge gardens or patios, and is considered easy to walk on, which makes it ideal for high-traffic areas of the yard. It can be left as loose stones, or used in concrete mixtures. It is typically shiny, with a sandy shade, and is often considered an inexpensive type of decorative gravel.


River rock is also smooth due to flowing waters, but it is typically gray in color rather than sandy. It is also often larger than pea gravel, though it does come in a range of sizes. The larger river rocks usually act as an edge for gardens, while small river rocks tend to be best for pathways. Like pea gravel, they may remain loose or may be set into patios or decorative walls within a yard. Some of the benefits of river rock are that it is usually good for drainage, and can keep weeds from growing.

Unlike river rock, lava rock typically features angular, sharp edges, and is usually only found in red or black shades. It is lightweight, porous, and comes in various sizes. This type of decorative gravel is often used for drainage, and is usually placed along the edges of gardens and pathways. It is not found in all locations since it can only be mined in specific areas of the world, though because of its light weight it is not terribly expensive to transport.

Shell gravel is a unique type of decorative gravel, as it is often made up of crushed seashells and other bits of material. This may include crushed stone and sand, and since there are usually various types of shells in the mixture, it can be quite colorful. This option is usually only available in coastal areas where seashells are common, and it may add an interesting twist to any landscape.


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