Pool Landscaping: Rocks, Boulders & Stones 101

Looking to renovate your pool area landscaping? Rocks, boulders, and stones are a great place to start for to create that natural-looking pool area many people are seeking.

Another benefit of landscaping using rocks is that they can (to an extent) minimize grass or weeds that may start growing around the perimeter of your pool over time.

Depending on your budget, aesthetic, pool layout and preferences, you have a ton of options that may work better than others depending on what you are looking to achieve.

In this post, I will break down everything you need to know about using rocks or stones around your pool, and the different types and concepts available.

River jack stone: perfect for natural pool landscaping

river jacks for pool

These small to medium-sized stones, also known as river rocks, are multi-colored and smooth, and one of the most popular rock options around pools. These are a great option to landscape the perimeter of any above-ground pool as well, and in my opinion look much more natural than white pebbles.

River rocks are (as you may have guessed) sourced from streams and rivers, thus providing smooth edges, unlike gravel.

If you do have an in-ground pool, it’s still best to keep them away from the immediate perimeter of your pool, as you don’t want them to end up inside.

Pebbles: smooth and easy for walking

Pebbles for landscaping use come in a variety of colors and ideas for areas adjacent to the perimeter of your pool. Pebbles differ from river rock in the sense that they are smooth and found near the beach typically.

These are typically oval-shaped and referred to as beach pebbles since they been smoothed by the ocean to create their round shape.

While pebbles are not as natural-looking as river rocks, they are highly sought after for pool landscaping since they are much more pleasant to walk on when barefoot.

Avoid gravel or small pebbles near your pool

It’s highly recommended not to use tiny pebbles near in-ground pools that experience a lot of traffic, especially for pools with a vinyl liner. Tiny pebbles can easily end up your pool causing big problems for your filtration system, vacuum, and even pool liner.

Small stones and pebbles are best to be used in other landscaping elements in your backyard not immediately adjacent to the pool area.


boulder for pool

These large rocks are ideal to place around in-ground pools making it appear to be a natural pool or give it a desert element.

Boulders grouped together in rock formations, you can create a variety of unique design features for your pool such as a diving rock, waterfall, or even a grotto.

Landscape supply companies should offer a variety of boulder options depending on what you are looking for.

Tip: To maintain consistency and the correct color and rock type you desire, it’s usually a good idea to purchase boulders and rocks from the same vendor.

Diving rock

dive rock

A diving rock can be a really fun element to add as an alternative to a diving board, especially if you’re using boulders as landscaping around the pool.

This is essentially a natural stone that replicates the concept of a diving board, jutting out above the deep end of the pool.

Diving rocks can be aesthetically more pleasing than a diving board, but be aware they can get slippery when wet. This could cause some concern if you have small children.

If you are considering installing a diving rock, be sure to check out my post: Diving Board vs. Diving Rock: What to Know to learn more.

Rock waterfall

If you’re designing your pool landscaping with boulders, a rock waterfall is a stunning feature to consider. It can really add to the overall natural aesthetic, as it’s a beautiful element and the sound can be very meditative, creating a peaceful oasis in your backyard.

Rock waterfalls work best with lagoon-style pools and feature a cascade of water over rocks into the pool. This is an opportunity to get creative as there are many different styles of waterfalls to create.

A masonry or pool landscape professional can help you design the waterfall of your dreams. You can either configure that waterfall to empty into your pool, or keep it separate (but adjacent) to your pool.

Pool grotto

pool grotto

A pool grotto is another unique boulder feature that will add maximum luxury to your outdoor swimming pool if you have the budget. It’s typically combined with a waterfall, creating a hidden cave to an additional space within your pool for ultimate privacy.

If you have a large pool, you can even turn the grotto into a swim-up bar. While having a grotto is a stunning feature and will elevate the aesthetics of your pool, keep in mind that it will require slightly more upkeep as it will be more difficult to clean.

Faux rocks vs. natural rocks in pool landscaping

When it comes to landscaping, you have the choice of either faux rocks or natural rocks. Faux rocks are typically made from a composite material set in the mold of real boulders. Some people may prefer faux rocks, as they are easier to maintain and waterproof.

While natural rocks will obviously become more slippery, they are usually a popular choice if you’re planning a lot of rock or waterfall landscaping.

Here are a few natural rock types to consult with your pool designer about:

  • granite
  • limestone
  • quartzite
  • millsap
  • firestone
  • flagstone
  • Oklahoma stone
  • fieldstone
  • moss rock
  • Lava stone

The choice of rock will vary depending on where you live. When it comes to installation, safety is definitely a concern since large rocks and boulders are extremely heavy and difficult to maneuver.

If you’re considering boulders around your pool, it’s best to have these installed professionally by a pool designer or landscaping company that specializes in this type of work.

They can also recommend the appropriate materials to ensure you choose the ideal stone for your design and budget.


Landscaping your pool using rocks, boulders, or stones is a great investment for achieving a more natural look. If you do have small children, slippery boulders can become a concern, so it’s an important factor to keep in mind if you decide to use these.

When ultimately deciding which type of rocks to choose for your pool landscaping, consider your budget, personal style, and always consult with a professional before installation.

7 top quality in-pool chair options on the market

Ready to relax on your tanning ledge this summer? Check out our buyer's guide to make the right choice.

Leave a Comment