Rubber mulch vs. rock mulch: Differences + Which one is better

The use of mulch in gardening/farming is something that has existed for years now.

The use of mulch in gardening/farming is something that has existed for years now. Although there are many types of mulch, many people prefer using either rock mulch or rubber mulch. The love for both types of mulch usually begs the question, of which one is better than the other.

For you to come to a proper conclusion, you need to weigh both of these options carefully. Doing so will also help you select the best product for your gardening or landscaping needs. In this article, we will break down each product and give you a conclusive answer to the day’s question.

Rubber mulch vs. rock mulch – Differences

Rock MulchRubber Mulch
Rocks can be sourced from anywhere at any time. The fact that it is readily available makes it quite cheap.Rubber mulch has to be recycled from used tires. This makes the rubber mulch more expensive.  
Rock mulch is more durable than rubber mulch.Rubber mulch is less durable than rock mulch.
Rock mulch does not have toxic chemicals in it that could interfere with plant growth.Rubber mulch can be a little toxic to plants.

Rubber mulch

Rubber mulch is made from tires that have been recycled. It generally contains either nugget of synthetic rubber from the ground tires or waste tire buffing.

Let us look at rubber mulch in detail by going through three key topics namely;

  • cost of rubber mulch
  • The lifespan of rubber mulch
  • Benefits of rubber mulch

Cost of rubber mulch

Rubber mulch is more expensive as compared to other types of mulch, such as rock mulch. This is because it has to be recycled and processed.

The lifespan of rubber mulch

Because of its weight, rubber mulch usually has a relatively long shelf life. According to experts, rubber mulches last for about ten years.

What are the benefits of rubber mulch?

Rubber mulch has several merits. Some of these benefits include;

  1. It requires little maintenance: When you install rubber mulch properly, it would not require you to tend to it regularly.
  2. It protects your plants from pests: This is because rubber mulch does not attract termites and carpenter ants, unlike other mulches. By doing so, the mulch ensures that your plants and flowers do not get eaten/destroyed by these pests.
  3. Rubber mulch discourages the growth of weeds: It suppresses the growth of unwanted plants by blocking the much-needed light that weeds need to grow.
  4. Rubber mulch is durable: It can withstand harsh weather conditions like strong winds. Now, this is why it can last for ten years.
  5. Rubber mulch provides good insulation from heat: When you require an inorganic mulch that can protect your plants from heat, rubber mulch is the best product to use.
  6. Does not emit a foul smell: A lot of mulches are known to rot and decompose. As this happens, these mulches produce foul smells. Now, this is why a lot of people like rubber mulch since it does not rot; neither does it produce bad odors.
  7. It stays in place: Since it is heavier than most mulches, it will not get displaced easily. And in case of a heavy downpour, it will not float.

Rock mulch

Photo by beekeepx from iStock

In the past, when a person mentioned mulch, using rocks to make one would be the last thing that would come to somebody’s mind. Now times have changed. Rock is being used to make mulch which comes with several advantages to plants.

Rock mulch is a type of mulch that consists of decorative gravel or rocks. The main source of the components of rock mulch is river beds.

Now that we are conversant with the term “rock mulch,” let us look at a few things concerning it, namely;

  • Cost
  • Benefits to the soil
  • Circumstances for using rock mulch
  • How long does rock mulch last?

Cost of rock mulch

The cost of rock mulch depends on the size and type of rock used. All in all, one thing is for sure, in the long run, using rock mulch is cheaper than using other mulches.

Benefits of rock mulch

They come in different varieties.

This is one of the best advantages of rock mulch. There are several rocks used to make different kinds of rock mulches. Some of these rocks include; river rock, granite, and quartz rock. These rocks also come in different shapes, sizes, colors, and textures.

With this, you get to have a wide variety of rock mulches to choose from. This is advantageous to the soil because the user can choose the right rock mulch that is great for it from the many that are available. This would not be the case if there was just one type since that one type could even end up ruining the soil if it is not suited for it.

You will not have fungi issues with rock mulch.

For fungi to exist and thrive in a place, moisture must be present. Now that is why fungi cannot be in soil with rock mulch because this type of mulch does not retain moisture.

Discourage weed growth.

Rock mulch is a good product to keep weeds at bay.

It acts as a warming mechanism for soil.

This will aid the plants which are sensitive to cold temperatures to be insulated.

When to use rock mulch

  1. When you have poor drainage on your property: Rock mulch would be the best type of mulch to use here since water will drain much quicker.
  2. Where you have an area that is an open bed with no plants: Rock mulch would be the best option here since it is low maintenance.
  3. If you want good aesthetics: Rocks provide a beautiful backdrop, especially when you want to install a fountain or even a statue.

How long does rock mulch last?

Rock mulch is known to last for a very long time, i.e., indefinitely.

Which one is better?

So to answer the question, of which product is better, the simple answer would be “it depends.” Because in certain scenarios, one product would be preferred over the other. You would also need to consider other factors, such as the cost, labor requirements, and even the type of plants that are in your garden. After reading this article, hopefully, you will choose the right mulch that suits your needs.