All mulch types are not created equal. Landscape mulch can affect the pH of your soil, making it harder or easier for certain plants to thrive. And of course, they all have visual qualities that can add to or detract from your design
We’ve broken down some common mulch types and colors to help you decide what is best for your landscape project.
Choosing the right color
When considering mulch varieties, decide on a few colors that would complement the exterior of your home first. Rather than choosing a bright accent color in a landscape design, use it to create consistency and coherence with the brick, stone or siding already present.
For example, if you have dark brick, a dark roof, and a light/white siding, choose a dark brown mulch to highlight lighter colored flowers, mimicking the home itself.
Once you’ve decided on a couple of colors, consider the type of plants the mulch will surround. This will determine if the color and mulch type combination is possible. Though aesthetics are important, the health of the plants should ultimately drive the decision between mulch varieties.
Cedar and Cypress Mulch
Some homeowners assume that all wood chips are safe for their plants. Cedar and cypress mulches are highly regarded among wood mulches. Both are natural insect repellants but can discourage “good bugs” like worms and ladybugs from improving your soil.
Cedar and Cypress are just two of many wood chip mulches available. Though they are both great aesthetic choices, researching specific plant types is advised.
Cedar mulch is naturally reddish but can be safely dyed to a brighter red, black or brown. It doesn’t compost very quickly so it only adds small amounts of necessary minerals back to the soil compared to other mulch varieties.
Cypress mulch is known for its attractive blonde color but can be more expensive than other mulches. Some homeowners don’t like the fact that the process of harvesting cypress trees has profound environmental effects.
Sawdust is one of the most economical mulch choices and can help achieve a manicured look. Because sawdust needs nitrogen to decompose, however, homeowners will need to add actual nitrogen into the sawdust mixture to deter it from stealing it from their plants.
Sawdust helps control weeds and prevents moisture loss well. Because it adds acidity to the soil it is best for acid-loving plants like evergreens and blueberry bushes.
Straw mulch is ideal for vegetable gardens and other winter mulching projects because of its insulating power. It can be tilled into the soil and is cheap enough to replace often as it starts to decompose. It’s not the prettiest mulch but when placed correctly it can add interest and flair.
Homeowners love bark mulch for it’s rich and natural colors and textures. It lets water and air travel more freely into the soil while trapping moisture. It does well insulating plants all year, cooling in the summer and warming in the winter.
The greater the size of the bark chips, the slower it will decompose. Smaller chips need to be replaced more frequently. Taken from trees of all kinds, bark mulch has various colors and shapes and their unique properties help certain plants survive. Hemlock bark mulch, for example, adds rich Vitamin C to soil making it ideal for fruits and vegetables.
Pro Tip: If you have your heart set on a certain species of plant or love the ones you already have, choose a mulch that will add the nutrients and protection they deserve. If you aren’t sure what plants you want but are set on a certain mulch type, research plants that thrive well in the variety you choose.