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Landscaping With Sand (Types & Design Gallery)

In this landscaping with sand gallery you’ll find different types of sand, landscape ideas, why sand is a good material, and how to use it as a ground cover.
Outdoor garden with sand landscape features, hedge plants, and flowersSand is a versatile landscaping medium with tons of potential. Of course, everything great about sand is how you picture going to the beach: it lightens up the place, offers a soft and inviting texture, and even manages to make it home with you somehow.

Nevertheless, why leave sand at the beach when you can use it in your own backyard? It serves a huge variety of purposes, looks fantastic, and is fairly easy to maintain if you own a rake. It’s also used in conjunction with other landscaping elements. 

If you never thought sand could be so handy, you’ve been missing out. The possibilities are nearly endless; from serving as a foundation to being the icing on the cake (or zen garden), there’s a spot in every project for it.

Here, we’ll talk about some of the most practical and creative uses for sand, from filler to backyard oases. The information here can help you to decide what type of project is best for you and what type of sand to use for the job.

Types Of Sand For Landscaping

Backyard garden with sand landscaping, grassy areas, plants, rocks, and small treesDespite what every movie ever has taught you, not all sand is the perfectly clean, off-white dream it’s made out to be. There are lots of different types of sand for different projects. However, using the right sand for a job is important, especially if it’s used for building or beautifying.

To help sort out which is which, we’ll cover the common types of sand found at your local home and garden store:

Utility sand: This type of sand lives up to its name. It can be used for creating solid, level foundations for pavers and concrete, for filling between bricks, and even as a filler for unlevel ground, potholes, and flowerbeds.

Utility sand is a far cry from the soft, light colored sand you’re used to seeing in sandboxes, but the coarse nature of utility sand makes it convenient for heavy-duty applications.

• Masonry sand: Typically used in concrete applications, masonry sand gets its name from where it’s used. This sand has a cleaner, more aesthetic appearance than utility sand.

It’s most commonly used where it looks nice, such as outdoor types of patios, driveways, and even garden paths. Masonry sand usually looks a little on the lighter side, with colors ranging from beige to light gray. 

• Beach sand: This is the stuff of Hollywood; beach sand is usually pure, fine-grained and very lightly colored. Its bright appearance makes it perfect for creating sandboxes, outdoor play areas, and even zen gardens.

Easy to manage and clean, beach sand is tons of fun to use in all sorts of projects. It can even be used in fountains and swimming pools! Beach sand also looks fantastic as a top dressing for potted plants, both indoor and out, and can help with pest control. 

Backyard garden with sand, plants, and small trees• Polymeric sand: Polymeric sand is more of a sand compound rather than one type of granule in bulk. Composed of granules of sand, along with other additives like adhesives, polymeric sand is used primarily for masonry work, such as paver patios and retaining wall structures.

It is typically mixed with water to activate the adhesive additives, then applied much like concrete to form a solid filler. This sand is essentially the grout of the sand market.

• Play sand: Designed specifically for use in sandboxes, play sand undergoes much processing to be deemed safe for children to play in and have continuous exposure to.

The sand is filtered for dust and potentially harmful contaminants, then goes in for more processing to reduce the granule size of the sand.

The difference between play sand and other types of sand is that it’s much finer, making it softer and easier to clean up.

Another advantage to play sand is that in extreme heat, it stays cool due to the granules’ small size; they’re packed so tightly that that sand simply reflects the sun’s rays without retaining any of the heat that comes with them. 

Landscape Ideas With Sand

Outdoor area with sand landscapes filled with plants, and small treesWhen most people think of landscaping, they think of bark, mulch, grass, and even plain soil. What really strikes those kinds of people as surprising is that sand can look much better than these other options, even in places where it might seem a little out of place.

Mailbox posts, trees, and even fences can look great with a sand ring. Flowerbeds look completely renewed with sand, and even tossing a little onto a patio can bring about that fun, beachy vibe. But what kinds of applications are sand best for?

Here’s a list of some of the best uses for sand:

Outdoor garden with landscaped sand features, wood deck, plants, and flowers• Japanese garden: Cherry blossoms and vine maples somehow always look stunning paired with sand, and Japanese-style gardens are no exception. In fact, this low-maintenance approach to feng shui gardening means little work and lots of fun.

In a typical Japanese garden, sand is used to make the zen garden; a compilation of sand, sculptures, rock formations, or other objects are put together to create an aesthetically pleasing look, not to mention that raking the sand into formed lines is super relaxing.

The best type of sand to use for a zen garden is beach sand, but masonry sand would do in a pinch for smaller areas. 

• Backyard beach: Break out the blender and get ready for beachside margaritas, because it’s entirely possible to bring the topics right to your backyard. This landscape style generally includes features such as a sand pool, a beach with lounge chairs, or even bungalows over the water, depending on how much space you have.

Pair these elements with some types of palm trees, and you’ve got the perfect setup for a beach party without ever leaving the house. Masonry sand is generally used alongside concrete to build sand pools, and can be pretty tricky; it’s best to hire a professional with a large portfolio to help you decide how you want your oasis to look and feel.

• Using sand between pavers: The best type of sand to use for filling between pavers is polymeric sand. Although this type of sand is much finer grained than a more general use sand, the particles maintain a jagged appearance, which helps the sand to stay put for longer.

To apply sand between pavers, make sure you have a solid foundation underneath your pavers first, then use a broom to sweep piles of sand over the top of pavers until no additional sand can fit into the spaces.

A border can help to keep sand where it belongs, which also helps a paver patio look better for longer. Be sure to mix this sand with water to activate the added adhesives according to the package directions.

• Children’s play area: What’s better than a swingset? A swingset and a sandbox. Children’s play areas can be made with sand to be much more fun than classic bark or rubber play areas.

One of the major perks of having sand play areas is that they make for a soft landing for children at play, especially when playground toys are present. It’s also easy to clean and maintain a sand play area with nothing but a rake, and any escaped sand can be easily replaced.

The best sand to use for these types of applications is play sand, but any type of white or tan sand will look great in a sandbox or a volleyball court.

Is Sand Good For Landscaping?

Beautiful outdoor area with sand landscaping and plantsSand makes a great landscaping material, and there are several reasons for that. First up is replacing mulch with sand, which is among the great desert landscape ideas you can consider.

Some landscaping applications where mulch would normally be used could actually have a much more elevated look with lighter-colored sand, rather than a dark mulch.

Flowering shrubs look particularly flattering paired with sand, along with some perennials. Anything that has pops of color will look great with sand, but it can be used in the garden, as well.

One of the everlasting struggles of having a garden is soil compaction. This leads to poor drainage, and thus, unhealthy vegetables. Adding sand to garden soil not only gives it a nicer, cleaner look, but also helps to break up larger chunks of soil.

The use of sand will provide increased drainage and room for new root growth. This application has also been said to reduce soil pests such as slugs, and helps to prevent systemic root rot that can affect an entire garden!

Can You Use Sand As A Ground Cover?

Beautiful landscaped garden with sand, rocks, plants, and flowersSand makes a great ground cover, but there are stipulations. Wet climates don’t do well with sand as a ground cover, primarily because the constant rain washes away sand quickly and leaves it looking dull and dirty.

Drier and warmer climates, however, can better accommodate sand in landscaping. With a little routine maintenance and cleaning, sand can look much better than grass or concrete options. So, as long as the weather permits, sand makes a fantastic ground cover.

There are also benefits to using sand for ground cover. The first is that sand helps to prevent tunneling pests; think rodents like gophers, moles, and mice. The fact of the matter is that nobody likes a face full of sand, and that includes these little guys, even if they are resilient in your local golf course.

You’re also likely to see fewer worms, slugs, and snails with sand, so your shrubs are safe from slimy creepy-crawlies. While sand won’t keep weeds away, it’s easier to spot- treat them without the concern of killing the surrounding grass or other plants.

What Type of Sand Is Best For Landscaping?

Outdoor garden and pathway filled with sand, hedge plants, and flowersWhile different types of sand are best suited for different applications, white sand or beach sand is the most widely available and reasonably priced option for almost all landscaping projects using sand.

While this type of sand is best for replacing mulch, installing play areas, or making a backyard beach, other types of sand are best for other types of projects. For example, if you need to build a paver patio, you’re likely going to end up using more than one type of sand to get the project from start to finish. 

Additionally, it’s up to you to decide what type of sand to use for the look you want to achieve. If what you’re after is a grainier look, then utility sand is great. Most stores that sell sand offer a variety of options for colors, applications, and ratings.

If what you need isn’t sold in large quantities at these stores, try searching for a landscaping company that sells and delivers materials for landscaping, such as mulch and gravel. These options may offer less variety, but the varieties they do have will be available for larger projects. See more gravel garden ideas here.

How Do You Get Rid Of Weeds In Sand?

Outdoor area filled with sand landscaping, and grassOne bummer about using sand in landscaping is that while it looks great, it doesn’t do much in the way of preventing weeds. To remedy this, you can take several steps to remove and prevent weeds in sand.

The first big step is prevention: by preventing weeds from growing, you’re making less work for yourself in the future. You can use chemical weed preventers in sand used for landscaping, but not for playing.

Simply sprinkle and mix in any type of weed sold in stores. This will often keep weeds at bay for around six months, but you should still expect a couple to pop up once in a while in less-treated spots that get washed away.

In areas where children would play, or on backyard beaches, weed prevention starts with landscaping fabric. This layer of protection underneath your layers of sand will help prevent weeds from taking root underneath the sand and soil, keeping your sand flawless for much longer.

However, once weeds do make their way through, the best method is always to dig them out, making sure that any roots come with them. Then, you can simply cover the spot with additional sand to make it look as if a weed never existed there. Use your best judgment to decide what types of weeding and weed prevention methods work best for your space and what it’s used for.

See more related content in our article about the best gravel backyard ideas on this page.