Mulch vs. Stone: Which is the Better Landscaping Material for Commercial Properties in Austin, TX

Mulch or stone? Let’s say upfront the answer to this question isn’t set in stone. 

Which is better for your commercial property in Austin, TX: mulch or stone? It depends. 

Both stone and mulch have their place on commercial properties, whether it’s an HOA, a retail center, a hospital or office building, says Cory Essman, account manager at North by Northwest.

It’s all about the surroundings and, in many cases, your budget.

Essman shares some tips on how to choose.

First, A Look at Landscaping Stone 

In the mulch vs. stone debate, stone is more expensive than mulch, but it lasts longer. It doesn’t break down into the soil like mulch does. So, you don’t have to refresh it as often. 

commercial landscape with stone and mulch

That means you can actually save money over time, even though the initial cost is higher, Essman says. 

If you think all stone is basically the same, you'll be amazed at the choices. 

It can be small, like pea-sized gravel, or as big as baseballs. 

It comes in porous, lightweight black lava rock, or shiny quartz pebbles in pretty pink, and lots of choices in-between.

When to Use Landscaping Gravel

  • Does your property have drainage issues? Stone will help water drain quickly.
  • Do you have open areas where nothing seems to grow? Stone can fill a bed and make it look attractive, even without plants.

Where to Skip the Landscaping Stone

Don’t use stone in these areas, Essman advises:

  • Next to parking lots. Kids can pick them up and throw them at cars. 
  • Same for an HOA pool. Kids love to toss them in and watch the splash. 
  • Next to windows, especially the ground-level windows of an apartment building, unless there’s a barrier in-between. You don’t want landscaping crews’ trimmers to hurl them into windows.
  • In heavy foot traffic areas, like at a retail center, where the constant pressure will shove the rocks down into the dirt.

Mulch vs. Stone vs. Weeds

Don’t choose stone just because you think you’ll have no weed worries, Essman says. 

“Weeds will grow in anything, even without dirt, if a seed drops into a crevice,” he says.

He always recommends a layer of erosion control fabric between the soil and mulch or stonemostly to keep the dirt from mixing into the decorative stone. There’s no guarantee it will keep out weeds. 

When Bigger Stones Are Better 

If there are trees that drop debris over the area where you’ll put mulch or stone, opt for larger-sized stones, Essman says, at least one inch in diameter.

While debris easily gets stuck in smaller gravel, landscaping crews can blow debris out of larger-sized stone.

Mulling Mulch 

In the mulch vs. stone debate, many people love mulch. It’s wonderful stuff. 

  • It helps your soil retain moisture, keeping your plants happy without a lot of watering.
  • It keeps weeds from sprouting as easily as they do in bare soil, by blocking the sunlight they need to sprout. 
  •  It prevents rain from washing away your previous landscape soil.

Mulch does fade and breakdown over time, so you’ll need to replace it every spring. The good news? As it breaks down, it actually nourishes your soil, making it better and more packed with good nutrients than before. 

commercial landscape plant bed with mulch

Essman recommends you replace mulch twice a year, in spring and fall, to ensure it always looks fresh.

Movie Star Mulch 

Mulch is great for what Essman calls “Hollywood Areas,” right before a special event.

These are the high visibility spots on a commercial property that everybody sees.

Maybe your hotel is hosting a wedding reception. The HOA is having a big pool party. Potential buyers are stopping by. The building owners are visiting.

Mulch or stone? Mulch. A fresh layer of rich, brown mulch makes everything look crisp and well-tended.

Mulch, Not So Much

Mulch is great to protect the roots of trees and shrubs. But contrary to what many think, don’t use it in annual flower beds, Essman says. 

Those beds get changed out twice a season and the soil needs to be tilled and fertilizer added. 

Mulch also adds acid to the soil, as it breaks down, and annual flowers typically don’t like that.

So, mulch vs. stone? Neither.

Won’t the flower beds look unfinished?

“When the flowers spread and fill in,” Essman says, “they’ll cover the dirt if they were spaced properly.”

Matching Your Commercial Building: Mulch or Stone?

Sure, the exterior colors and textures of your office building, apartment complex or restaurant should harmonize with your landscaping material, Essman says, but mulch and stone come in such a variety of colors and textures, you can find a great match for any setting.

He loves Colorado River Rock Blend.

“It’s super cool,” he says. “It’s a mix of blues, grays, purples, and whites. It’s probably my favorite.” 

Mulch or Stone? Either Way, Trust North by Northwest 

As you ponder the mulch vs. stone question, let us help.

We’re experts in this sort of thing and can steer you to the choice that best fits your unique commercial property and budget.

North By Northwest Landscaping truck near stone

Without some type of landscaping material, your beds will sprout weeds and lack the polished, tidy look you need to attract customers, tenants, and buyers. 

We’d love to partner with you to make your commercial landscaping impressive and your job hassle-free.

Are you ready for stress-free landscaping? Schedule a time to meet with one of our commercial landscaping experts today. We’ll gather the details, create a customized plan just for you, and you can stop stressing as we improve and beautify your commercial property.

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