How to Pick the Best Mulch for Your Landscape

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How to Pick the Best Mulch for Your Landscape

While mulching may seem like a simple part of gardening, there are a few must-knows about the different mulches you can use and the benefits of each. Though shredded bark might immediately come to mind, you should consider other types for the best mulch for your garden. Knowing when to add mulch to your planting beds and how much to use is essential for keeping all your plants healthy. Remember these tips as you plant your spring garden throughout the year, especially if you add new beds or landscaping.

gloved hands planting cranesbill with surrounding mulch

Benefits of Mulch

There are some advantages to adding mulch to your garden. In the summer, mulch helps the soil hold moisture, so you don’t have to water as often. Soil also tends to dry out faster and harden in the hot sun. Mulch will help protect the ground from baking in direct sunlight and keep your plants happy.

Mulch also prevents weeds. Adding it to your planting bed will block light from reaching the soil, keeping many weed seeds from sprouting. Adding a thick layer of mulch will ensure the weeds never see the light of day.

While an even layer of mulch is ideal, don’t overdo it. The best depth for a mulch layer is 2-4 inches. Any deeper, and it can be difficult for oxygen to reach the soil, which can cause your plants to suffer.

Over time, some types of mulch, made from organic materials (produced by or part of a living thing), break down and increase your soil’s structure and fertility. This is especially true with compost used as a mulch because its nutrients will promote soil organisms and fuel plant growth. Plus, a layer of mulch can help fight climate change because covered soil holds onto carbon instead of releasing this greenhouse gas into the air.

When to Add Mulch

Every spring, check on the mulched areas of your garden and add more if the layer is starting to get thin. If you’re mulching a large space for the first time and not just touching up a few garden beds, you should schedule a delivery from a bulk supplier. It’ll be less expensive than buying a ton of bagged mulch from your local garden center, and you won’t have to haul all those bags in your vehicle to your yard either.

Check on your mulch again when late fall rolls around, and reapply if needed. In the winter, a good layer of mulch acts as insulation, helping to regulate the soil temperature. This reduces stress on plant roots and prevents frost heaving (where smaller plants are pushed out of the ground) as it repeatedly freezes and thaws. Make sure the ground has frozen a few times before adding mulch as a protective layer for the winter.

Best Mulch for Your Garden

Depending on your landscape design and what you’re planting, these choices are the best mulch.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Which mulch lasts the longest?

    Stone is the longest-lasting mulch, followed by landscape fabric. Black plastic and rubber mulch last a long time, and help with both heat and water retention in the soil, though they’re also more expensive than stone or landscape fabric.

  • Which mulch repels insects best?

    Cedar or cypress chip or bark mulch contain natural chemicals that helps repel bugs. Plastic mulch covered in aluminum works well also since the bright shine of the aluminum temporarily blinds and confuses invasive pests.

  • Which mulch won’t wash away with rain?

    The heavier the mulch, the less likely it is to be washed away by rain, so stones are the sturdiest mulch. If you want to use wood mulch, use heavier wood. It will hold itself down and after the first rain, will stay put. However, it needs to be replaced more frequently than stones.

Sources

Better Homes & Gardens is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources—including peer-reviewed studies—to support the facts in our articles. Read about our editorial policies and standards to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy.

  1. “Reflective Mulches.” University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Most Popular Flowers & Plants in the USA

RegionPopular FlowersPopular Plants
Northeast (e.g., New York, Massachusetts)Rose, Purple Lilac, Mountain LaurelSugar Maple, American Elm, White Pine
Southeast (e.g., Florida, Georgia)Orange Blossom, Cherokee Rose, Southern MagnoliaLive Oak, Spanish Moss, Saw Palmetto
Midwest (e.g., Ohio, Illinois)Carnation, Violet, Purple ConeflowerBur Oak, Prairie Grasses, Wild Bergamot
Southwest (e.g., Texas, Arizona)Bluebonnet, Saguaro Cactus Flower, Indian PaintbrushJoshua Tree, Agave, Mesquite
West (e.g., California, Washington)California Poppy, Coast Rhododendron, BitterrootGiant Sequoia, Redwood, Manzanita
Rocky Mountain (e.g., Colorado, Montana)Rocky Mountain Columbine, Bitterroot, Indian PaintbrushBlue Spruce, Aspen, Sagebrush
Great Plains (e.g., Kansas, Nebraska)Sunflower, Goldenrod, Purple ConeflowerCottonwood, Bluestem Grasses, Buffalo Grass
Pacific Northwest (e.g., Oregon, Alaska)Oregon Grape, Forget-me-not, Pacific RhododendronDouglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Ferns

This table includes the most popular flowers and plants in the USA by region, which considers a range of botanical species, including native and widely cultivated varieties.

Most Popular Flowers & Plants in Australia

RegionPopular FlowersPopular Plants
New South WalesWaratah, Bottlebrush, Flannel FlowerEucalyptus, Acacia, Banksia
VictoriaCommon Heath, Waxflower, Pink HeathMountain Ash, Silver Wattle, Victorian Blue Gum
QueenslandCooktown Orchid, Golden Penda, Umbrella Tree FlowerMoreton Bay Fig, Macadamia Nut, Queensland Bottle Tree
South AustraliaSturt's Desert Pea, Kangaroo Paw, Eucalyptus BlossomAdelaide Blue Gum, South Australian Blue Gum, Saltbush
Western AustraliaRed and Green Kangaroo Paw, Mangles Kangaroo Paw, Swan River DaisyJarrah, Marri, Karri
TasmaniaTasmanian Blue Gum, Leatherwood Flower, Tasmanian WaratahHuon Pine, Tasmanian Oak, Myrtle Beech
Northern TerritorySturt's Desert Rose, Frangipani, Desert RoseBoab, Gidgee, Spinifex
Australian Capital TerritoryRoyal Bluebell, Australian Daisy, CorreaSnow Gum, River Red Gum, Black Mountain

This table offers a basic overview of popular flowers and plants in each Australian region, focusing on a combination of state flowers, native species, and other characteristic plants. It's important to note that specific species' popularity and prevalence can vary. This table is a simplified representation. Consulting local botanical gardens or regional horticultural societies in Australia would be ideal for more detailed and accurate information.

Charlotte Gammon

By Charlotte Gammon

Meet Charlotte Gammon, our expert and author. She's our true treasure, as she has got 20+ years of experience in gardening, winery and house design. In early 2000s, she worked for today.com magazine and was in charge of the gaardening section. Later on, Charlotte opened her own designer agency and worked as a designer and decorator. We are happy to have Charlotte with us, as she is our good friend. We value her experience and we're sure you will love the articles she created for our blog.