Types of gravel and how to use them in your garden 

Make sure you choose the best type of gravel for your hard-landscaping project.

Gravel stones are one of the most versatile materials you can use in a garden. As well as being an attractive addition that can transform your outside space from drab to fab, they’re affordable and low maintenance 

Whatever your style, there’s a type – and colour – of gravel for every garden. Fancy making a statement with a strong geometric design? Use white limestone gravel with black basalt gravel to create a contrast. Alternatively, make a meandering path in a cottage garden with pea gravel, or swap your concrete driveway with a smart self-binding gravel entrance to enhance your kerb appeal. 

Decorative gravel in contrasting shades creates a geometric effect in a front gardenCredit: Shutterstock/U. J. Alexander
Contrasting gravel can create a striking effect in the garden

With so many types of gravel available, all differentiated by colour, shapes and size, it can be difficult to work out what’s best for your garden project. Do you choose small or large stones, coloured or natural? If you’re struggling to select the best variety for your garden, we’ve put together a guide to the main types of gravel and where they work best. 


Manmade vs natural gravel

There are two main types of gravel – natural and manmade. According to Mainland Aggregates, “natural gravel is caused by the weathering of rocks and erosion in rivers and streams and tends to be smooth in texture”. Conversely, manmade gravel is produced by crushing limestone and basalt in quarries and has angular edges.   

Is one better than the other? It all depends on the nature of your project and how the gravel is being used. If you’re looking for a decorative finish – for example, around plants – a softer natural gravel may appear more attractive. Whereas for a pathway, manmade gravel that’s angular in form will compact more easily and create a smoother base. 

Flamingo gravel in a mix of peach, pink, white and bluish grey stonesCredit: Stone Warehouse
Flamingo gravel, in a mix of peach, pink, white and bluish grey stones, makes a pretty addition to this contemporary garden

1. Pea gravel

Good for protecting plants, infilling paving, mulches and Mediterranean gardens

The natural earthy tones of pea gravel (sometimes known as pea shingle) adds warmth to a garden and particularly suits period homes, although it looks equally as stunning in contemporary setting. Smaller sizes, such as 6mm (0.2in) can be used to infill spaces between paving and borders, while larger stones can be used for pathways and driveways.  

Using a layer of gravel as a mulch will help to retain moisture in the soil and suppress weeds. Pea gravel makes a good choice, ideally in a light tone such as Cotswold buff, which will brighten up any bed and better protect roots from heat damage. The RHS says, “dark coloured material will warm the soil in the sun, whereas light coloured mulch, such as white gravel, will reflect sunlight and keep roots cooler in strong sunlight.” 

Avoid pea gravel if you have pets

Pea gravel of 10mm (0.4in) or below resembles cat litter and is best avoided in the garden if you want to deter cats from doing their business on your blooms.  

Pea gravel can also add an attractive decorative layer if used on the top of soil in garden pots.  

I particularly like adding pea gravel to my potted geraniums as it gives the plants a lift and sets off the bright flowers. It’s also available in small bags which means you won’t have to purchase a bulk weight of the stones just enough for topping your pots.  

Create a Mediterranean-style dry garden

From small pea gravel to large cobbles, there’s a range of options if you’re creating a full gravel garden inspired by the Mediterranean. If you want to create walkway, consider a gravel that’s easier underfoot. The RHS advises that angular, medium-grade gravels are easier to walk on than smoother, smaller grades of rounded pea shingle or large cobbles. The RHS also warns against using limestone chipping if growing acid-loving plants, as the alkaline within the stone will neutralise acidity. 

2. Limestone gravel

Good for driveways, path, rockeries and ornamental features

“Limestone is a very versatile option,” says Cindy Tsui, Outdoor Leisure and Structure Buyer at B&Q.It can be used for pathways and areas in the garden as it’s durable and ideal for heavy footfall and usage, including driveways,” she says, “although it also has decorative qualities and can be used in rockeries and ornamental water features. It’s very light hue can help to lift the colour and feel of any garden corner, she adds. “This traditional aggregate also works well as a topping for beds and borders and can be a helpful aid in the war against weeds. 

Paths and driveways: Size matters

Medium-sized gravel between 10-20mm (0.4-0.8in) is ideal for pathways, but you also need to select a stone that is easy to walk on. It’s the same for driveways. Choose a gravel between 14-20mm (0.56-0.8in) that won’t move around too much – a crushed angular stone is best. 

Cotswold cream gravel on stepsCredit: B&Q
Cotswold cream decorative stones can be used for paths, patios and driveways

3. Slate gravel

Good for flower beds and edging

Slate’s contouring is quite different to other chippings used within the garden. Tsui describes it as “a flat slice of decorative stone”, and recommends it for “covering flower beds or when edging areas”. 

It can also be used to link areas: “A hard, durable stone like slate is a good option if you’ve used granite as a surface in a kitchen and want visual consistency from the inside to out,” she says. 

Blue slate decorative chippings in a garden settingCredit: B&Q
Slate adds an interesting mix to a garden and is available in a range of colours, from traditional grey to blue, green and plum

Mix it up and create a decorative patio

“A scattering of mixed-colour gravel stones creates an unfussy, simple patio layout, either covering a wide area or used as a border,” says Travis Perkins on its website. “For a sophisticated and contemporary look, dark coloured gravel (especially slate chippings) look rather striking.” 

And for a Mediterranean look, it suggests using paler gravel stones.  

4. Granite gravel

Good for driveways, path and rockeries

Granite gravel is a hard and is available in a range of colours including silver, grey, black, red and even green. Granite is ideal for drives, paths and rockeries and will keep its colour for many years. 

Red granite drivewayCredit: Stone Warehouse
Coloured granite will keep its colour for years

Choosing gravel for a driveway – things to consider

Change your concrete driveway for a permeable gravel approach that’s better for drainage and more resistant to flooding. Decorate Aggregates recommends choosing an angular gravel that won’t displace easily and to opt for a gravel that’s 20mm (0.8in). Or if you prefer a more compact surface, opt for self-binding gravel. 

If you’re after a more permanent hard-landscaping solution, choose resin-bound gravel. As the name suggests, gravel is set within a resin giving it a sleeker look than loose gravel. But it’s still permeable, allowing rain to pass through and be absorbed by soil below. 

6. Basalt gravel

Good for driveways and paths

Basalt, like granite, is another good option if you’re looking for a hardwearing stone. Darker colours, such as black and grey are particularly popular with gardeners seeking a contemporary look for their gardens and driveways. Grey basalt will also darken to black once wet.  

Stone Warehouse states basalt is the perfect chipping for gardens due to its “resistant nature to moss growth”.  

Basalt gravel
Basalt is a hardwearing gravel suitable for driveways and paths


If you have a problem with slugs, sharp gravel will help to prevent them from reaching your prized specimen plants

6. Marble gravel

Good as a decorative feature

To brighten up a garden, choose marble gravel as its light tones will reflect sunlight. For a soft look, opt for tumbled pebbles (20-40mm, 0.8-1.6in) or cobbles (40-90mm, 1.6-3.5in) with smooth edges. For something small and sparkly, try polar white dashing (3-8mm, 0.2-0.3in). 

White peddles make a garden featureCredit: Stone Warehouse
White gravels brightens up a garden and creates an interesting feature

7. Round brown decorative stones

Good for high traffic areas and water features

“If you’re looking for something that works well in high-traffic areas, round brown decorative stones may be the best choice,” says Tsui. “This decorative stone, which has been smoothed and shaped by water, is available in a range of colours and also shows colour variation within individual stones.”  

Featured product

Blooma Naturally Rounded Brown Decorative Stones, B&Q

RRP: £8

Blooma Naturally Rounded Brown Decorative Stones, B&Q

It’s also a good choice for pathways, as it’s comfortable to walk on. But Tsui warns: “do be aware that pathways and driveways will need to be edged to help the gravel stay in place.” 

To stop your gravel from straying you could try this decorative Old granite paving edging, £11.50 for a 600mm strip, B&Q which I’ve used in my own garden, or a discreet Gravel and paving edging, £39 for 10 metres, Wickes, that’s hidden from view.  

Featured product

Old Granite Paving Edging, B&Q

RRP: £11.50 for a 600mm strip

Old Granite Paving Edging, B&Q
Brown round natural stones on drivewayCredit: B&Q
Driveways are high-traffic areas and benefit from larger gravel, such as these round brown stones

Add interest to your water feature

Water features add a delightful element to any garden, bringing water, movement and reflection into a multi-sensory experience. The sound of water running over cobbles, such as these Stylish Stone premium Scottish cobbles, £8 for 9kg at Homebase, is a real treat, while you can experience a metamorphosis as the dry stones become darker and glossier as the water runs over them. 

Avoid using natural lime in ponds as this can leach into the water and harm fish. Many brands will mark any such products as non-fish friendly, but if it’s not clear, always check. 

8. Self-binding gravel

Good for driveways and paths

Self-binding gravel a mixture of dust, sand and clay gives the natural effect of loose gravel but with a firmer finish. It’s a good choice when you want a more compact surface, making it perfect for high-traffic areas such as driveways and pathways, and for sloping gardens where standard gravel will shift

Self-binding gravel used as a garden pathwayCredit: Stone Warehouse
Self-binding gravels creates a compact surface that is easy to walk on

Wet and dry 

All decorative aggregates will take on different tones when wet,” says Tsui, “so it can be helpful to see samples both wet and dry when considering what type might suit your garden best.” 

Weighing up how much gravel you need

If you’re stuck working out how much gravel you need for your project, Decorative Aggregates has a handy gravel calculator. 

Why should I choose gravel for my garden?

It’s attractive and practical

You’ll be pleased to know that apart from adding an attractive feature to your garden, gravel can reduce garden maintenance, leaving you more time to enjoy your outside space. It also has a few other practical benefits, including suppressing weeds and aiding drainage.  

The practical benefits of gravel

When gravel is used to replace a lawn, it doesn’t require mowing, feeding or watering. Just give it a quick tidy up with a bow rake to keep it looking neat.  

Shop Roughneck Sharp-Edge Soil Rake, £29.98, Toolstation

Although gravel won’t get rid of weeds completely, if you lay a weed membrane down before topping with gravel, it will help keep them at bay. Make sure to buy a membrane that’s both permeable, to allow water to flow through, and one that’s tough enough to deal with sharp stones.   

Shop Apollo Heavy Duty Weed Control Fabric, £17.99 for 14m x 1m, Screwfix

Gravel’s permeable nature makes it the top choice for using on driveways – an increasingly important consideration as climate change brings with it increased rainfall.

Rainwater soaks through gravel to the soil below, whereas with impermeable materials, such as paving stones, concrete and tarmac, the rainwater is diverted into street drains that can’t cope. Gravelling driveways is one way to ease the burden on the drainage system and prevent flooding (see above). 

Using gravel in your garden is an affordable way to make a big difference. Apart from the gravel being inexpensive to buy in comparison to fixed surfaces such as paving slabs, it’s also possible to save on the groundwork.

Unless you’re creating a gravel drivewayparticularly one using self-binding or resin gravel, which will require expert installation most gravel projects are possible to complete yourself.

Black and grey gravelCredit: Stone Warehouse
Grey and black gravel is a popular choice for driveways

Sue Jackson, sales manager at Stone Warehouse tells us that gravel trends tend to be colour-based: “Recently, a lot of gardens have been grey and black or based on the colour of paving.” This colour trend fits in with the company’s most popular gravel, which is Black Ice in 14-20mm, a popular choice for both driveways and gardens.  

Another favourite is Cotswold 10-20mm. “It’s cheap and cheerful gravel,” says Jackson, “but as it’s a limestone, it’s not the hardest of gravels and will crush down over time.” But if you’re looking for a hardwearing gravel she recommends opting for granite or basalt.  

Flamingo 14-20mm is another great seller, with its blend of peach, pink, white and bluish grey stones: “It’s bright and cheerful and gives gardens an instant lift,” says Jackson. White gravel, cobbles and pebbles are a popular choice for a Mediterranean feel or modern garden. 

If you’re planning a water feature, pond or even a swimming pond, “Scottish pebbles, cobbles and boulders are a must,” she adds. 

Camilla Sharman

Written by Camilla Sharman she/her


With her 30 years of experience, Camilla Sharman has covered a wide range of sectors within the business and consumer industries both as a feature, content, and freelance writer.  As a business journalist, Camilla has researched articles for many different sectors from the jewellery industry to finance and tech, charities, and the arts. Whatever she’s covered, she enjoys delving deep and learning the ins and out of different topics, then conveying her research within engaging content that informs the reader.