What Plants Can Be Mulched?

Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:58 pm

You always hear and read that mulching is good for the garden and the plants, because organic material is recycled and the plants are supplied with nutrients.

But which plants should you mulch and with what material?

What Plants Can Be Mulched?

This article will tell you which plants in the garden – from vegetables to fruits to shrubs – can be mulched with which materials.

Welche Pflanzen mulchen und mit was

Most outdoor but also indoor plants can be mulched. Depending on the species, the appropriate mulching materials differ. Vegetables can be covered mainly with lawn clippings, straw, mulch film or other garden waste. Fruit varieties like straw, leaves, lawn or hedge clippings, but also classic bark mulch. Shrubs, ferns or perennials, on the other hand, prefer coarser mulch materials such as pine bark, hedge clippings or river gravel.

Which plants should you mulch?

Mulching has a whole range of benefits (check here if you want to know in more detail what they are). Mainly, it fertilizes the soil and provides valuable nutrients, saves water or protects the soil from drying out and evaporation in the summer or reduces weed growth.

So the benefits of mulching have a positive effect on most plants in the garden.

However, it should be remembered that the mulching material covers the soil around the plants, which does not please everyone.

In general, all plants that prefer a location in partial shade or shade can be mulched without problems. This is because these are naturally accustomed to having a slightly cooler, wetter or overall balanced soil temperature or moisture which is often also covered with foliage.

Most plants that prefer a sunny location can also be mulched. You can find out exactly what these are and what materials you should mulch them with in the following sections.

If you want to know at what time of year or at what time fruits, vegetables and co. should best be mulched, then take a look at the article linked here on the right.

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Organic, i.e. biodegradable mulch materials are decomposed over time by small living organisms and microorganisms in the soil. These organisms need nitrogen for this, which is also used by plants for their growth.

To prevent a lack of nitrogen in the soil when mulching, you should fertilize the beds and areas before mulching.

Horn shavings are best suited for this purpose, as they are pH-neutral and therefore tolerated by all plants. Approximately two handfuls of horn shavings per square meter form a good basis before mulching.

Mulching vegetables: what should be mulched and with what materials.
Most vegetables can be mulched, but not all materials are suitable for this purpose.

Most often mulched are probably tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini or squash, and for good reason.

Tomatoes and cucumbers prefer a comfortably warm soil, which increases yield. Increasing soil temperature is best achieved by using mulch paper* or mulch film*. Other mulch materials are less recommended here.

Mulch paper or film can be left on the bed for the entire season and then the leftovers can be easily composted.

Zucchini or squash are best mulched with straw, which should be applied after flowering.

The straw keeps the flowers and shoots as dry as possible, deters slugs and, most importantly, ensures that the zucchini and squash plants grow on a clean surface that is as dry as possible.

When mulching vegetables, you should always make sure that there is enough space around the plantlets. So it’s best to leave a radius of about 5-10 cm free of mulch.

In addition, the rule applies that it is better to mulch a little less and more often than a lot at once and infrequently. A thinner layer of mulch decomposes more quickly and provides less surface for possible mold or for mice to build a nest in it.

What other commonly grown vegetables can be mulched and what materials should be used for this I have summarized in the following table:

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What vegetables mulch?Suitable mulch materials
TomatoesLawn clippings
Mulch film
Dried/wilted nettles and comfrey leaves
Cabbage leaves or potato leaves
CucumbersMulch film
Dried/wilted nettles and comfrey leaves
Cabbage leaves or potato leaves
ZucchiniMulch film
Cabbage leaves or potato leaves
PumpkinMulch film
Cabbage leaves or potato leaves
PotatoesCabbage leaves or potato leaves
EggplantMulching film
Cabbage leaves or potato leaves
PaprikaMulching film
Sweet cornStraw
Hedge trimming
BeansDried/wilted nettles and comfrey leaves
Hedge trimming

Mulching fruit: what should be mulched and with what materials.
The different types of fruit can all be mulched as well. Strawberries and raspberries are probably the most commonly mulched to keep the soil as warm and moist as possible.

When strawberries are mulched with straw after blooming, the straw also keeps the fruit dry, clean, and protects against mold.

In addition to strawberries and raspberries, other types of fruit can also be mulched with no problem, such as with lawn clippings, leaves or bark mulch*.

If you want to know what the exact effect, application and the advantages and disadvantages of the various mulch materials is, then read the article I have linked here on the right.

In the following table I have summarized the most common types of fruit and the appropriate mulch material for each.

What fruit mulch?Suitable mulch materials
Leaves (but not from oak, chestnut and walnut)
Mulch film
Leaves (but not from oak, chestnut and walnut)
Lawn clippings
hedge trimmings
Fruit treesLeaves (but not from oak, chestnut and walnut)
bark mulch
pine bark
hedge trimmings
Berry bushesLeaves (but not from oak, chestnut and walnut)
Lawn clippings

Mulching shrubs, ferns or perennials
Shrubs, ferns, perennials or grasses can also be mulched.

It doesn’t make much difference what species they are, because they all do equally well with the different mulching materials.

The following mulch materials are suitable for shrubs, ferns or perennials:

Bark mulch*
Pine bark*
Hedge clippings
river gravel or chippings
However, if you have a rock garden with shrubs or ferns, it should go without saying that you should not mulch these plants with bark mulch or other brown or green mulch materials.

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Mulching lawns

Lawns can, of course, be mulched. If you have a lawn mower without a collection basket and the grass clippings fall directly onto the lawn, you will be mulching your lawn every time you mow, so to speak.

If you have a collection basket, you can still mulch your lawn.

There is no harm in simply spreading the grass clippings on the mowed lawn from time to time. On the contrary, the lawn mulch can lead to increased nutrients and therefore better growth.

You should just make sure that there are no weeds in the lawn clippings and that the lawn does not become matted. Then you should scarify your lawn. What you should consider when scarifying, you can read in detail in this article.

Which plants do not tolerate bark mulch?

Bark mulch is probably the best known mulch material. However, it is rather acidic and therefore not suitable for all plants.

In general, you should not use bark mulch* for lavender, Mediterranean herbs (such as oregano, basil), and prairie plants. Bark mulch should also not be spread in rock gardens.

In addition, strawberries, raspberries and all vegetables do not tolerate bark mulch.

Freshly planted perennials should also not be mulched with bark mulch, as the rotting process binds a great deal of nitrogen in the soil, which in turn is lacking for the young plants.

What plants should not be mulched?

Although you can mulch most plants, there are some plants that do not like mulch.

The following, few plants do not like mulch or you should be careful when mulching:

Roses and peonies (this is a precautionary measure, as often fungal foliage sinks into the mulch and can cause the roses to become fungal again the next year. Without mulch, it is easier to remove infected foliage).

  • Bedding perennials
  • Tulips
  • Rock garden plants
  • Bulb flowers


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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