Rocks and small stones are cost-effective landscaping elements you can add to your yard or garden. Most tend to place them around plants, particularly shrubs and trees, which leads to the question, will rocks around a tree kill it?
Let’s look at how to safely use rocks in your landscaping around trees.
Can I Put Large Rocks Around Trees?
The gardening world is at an impasse when it comes to the question, ‘is it ok to put rocks around trees?’, mainly because there are pros and cons to doing so.
Those who are for rocks around a tree say that the stones can serve as mulch and that there’s a decorative appeal to putting rocks or gravel around a tree. Those who are against it say that the rocks could heat up and damage the tree trunks and surface roots.
It’s generally acceptable to put small rocks around trees and shrubs as long as you don’t crowd the plant. Also, it’s best to introduce a single or thin layer so the heat won’t get trapped in and harm your tree.
Pros of Putting Rocks Around a Tree
Rocks, small stones, and gravel can serve as mulch around shrubs and trees, producing nearly the same effect as traditional materials such as compost, leaves, and shredded bark. Rocks do not decompose as quickly as other mulch materials and can last a very long time, which puts them as one of the most cost-effective landscape components.
As for the benefits, rock as mulch can help prevent the growth of weeds, regulate soil temperature and retain moisture in the ground for a longer time. Again, the key to working with rocks as mulch is to keep a respectable distance and only put in a maximum of three inches so your tree can breathe.
You Won’t Need to Water as Often
Gardeners and homeowners who don’t have a lot of time can put a layer of rock around their trees, which results in less watering. This is because rocks and small stones tend to make moisture in the soil evaporate less, and this equals the fact that your trees won’t need to be irrigated as often.
In a way, you conserve water and help mother nature with this simple act of gardening. It’s especially effective in trees and shrubs that have a heavy watering requirement and when the soil is loose and allows water to easily pass through.
Decorative and Aesthetic Appeal
Rocks are staples in the decorative front and are versatile enough to fit in nearly any garden or yard landscape. They add a certain level of cleanliness and order, particularly when placed around taller plants such as trees and shrubs.
Installing them in your garden is a piece of cake as well. You can just start adding rocks or gravel to a designated area and fill it up as you would mulch. Make the surface even and you’ll have a fast and effective decoration that goes well with plants.
Cons of Putting Rocks Around a Tree
Homeowners tend to wonder, ‘will putting gravel around a tree kill it?’
The rationale behind this is that rocks tend to collect heat from the sun and warm the ground around them, which in this case is the tree. Too much heat is never good for plants, and the tree’s surface roots may get damaged as a result.
When a tree’s roots are compromised, so is its health. Your tree might get sick or not have enough to capture moisture in the soil. This gets worse if you put plastic sheeting between the soil and the rocks, which traps heat and moisture.
Volcano Mulching Gone Bad
Piling on layers of mulch around a tree trunk is not a good thing. Experts recommend not crowding the trunk as it will get wet and suffer from rot. The process, called ‘volcano mulching’ comes from the habit of people forming a volcano around the tree or shrub while adding mulch.
The other effect of over-mulching is that the tree will form roots above the ground, which will then choke the tree. Generally speaking, organic mulch, such as shredded leaves, bark nuggets, and chopped wood are the recommended materials to put around a tree or shrub. You can still add rocks, but keep them only to a single layer and not too close to the trunk or main stem.