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The Best Mulch for Flower Beds and Gardens

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Mulch is an essential part of any flower bed. It helps to protect the soil from erosion, keeps moisture in the soil, and prevents weeds from growing. There are many different types of mulch available, and this can vary based on where you live.

pine straw mulching

With so many options, it can be difficult to decide which one is best for your garden and flower beds. So let’s discover the benefits of different types of mulch and help you choose the best one for your needs!

Why use mulch in flower beds and gardens

Before considering what type of mulch to use, you should probably know why mulch is recommended at all. Can’t you just leave flower beds and gardens without mulch? Sure, you could, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Mulch provides many benefits to flower beds and gardens, such as:

  • Helps to control weeds
  • Keeps moisture in the soil (so important, especially in dry areas)
  • Regulates soil temperature
  • Reduces erosion
  • Adds nutrients to the soil

As you can see, there are many reasons why mulch is an important part of any garden or flower bed. Now let’s talk about the best mulch for flower beds and gardens, starting with my personal pick.

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The best mulch for flower beds and gardens

Though there will clearly be debate among gardening enthusiasts and home gardeners alike, this list will focus mostly on what may be best for your soil and the overall ecosystem of your yard and garden. Local availability may also play into whether each choice is right for you.

Pine Straw– This may be a regional choice, but it is by far my favorite and possibly one of the safest mulch choices for flower beds. It is also one of the most attractive options.

Pine straw is excellent for keeping moisture in the soil and does a great job at preventing weeds. It also breaks down slowly, so it will last longer than other mulch types, and isn’t dyed or mixed with other chemicals. The only downside to pine straw is that it can be more expensive than some of the other choices. But if you happen to have pine trees in your yard, you may luck out there.

While I did consider pine straw to be only popular in the southeast, it was in fact also recommended by Mike McGraw on the You Bet Your Garden show, and he’s in Pennsylvania, I believe. So, the top mulch pick is in fact, pine straw.

pine straw mulch

Cedar or Cypress Mulch– This is another great choice, especially if you’re looking for a more natural mulch. Cedar and cypress trees are both evergreens, so the mulch from these trees will last longer than other types of mulch.

Cedar and cypress mulches also do a great job at preventing weeds and keeping moisture in the soil. The natural oils present in cedar wood has also been claimed to repel pests, much like a cedar-lined closet, which could be a huge boon in the garden.

The reason I lump both cedar and cypress mulch together is because they are both hardwoods excellent for use outside, see my instructions for building a cedar raised bed. However, cypress or cedar may not be both available in all areas of the country, so I tend to use cypress since it’s more abundant where I live.

Shredded leaves– While this may not be the most polished-looking option, this is a great choice if you have a lot of trees on your property and are looking for a way to recycle those fallen leaves. Shredding the leaves first will help them break down faster and provide nutrients to your soil more quickly.

You can also use shredded fall leaves as mulch around delicate plants that will be hard pruned for winter. I also like to use shredded leaves to mulch over any raised beds that I have winterized. This is a great way to protect garden soil without huge cost, and there’s the added benefit of the leaves breaking down in the winter months. (Learn how to winterize your garden in 3 easy steps!)

Pine Bark– This is another good mulch for flower beds and gardens, especially if you’re looking for something that will last a long time. Pine bark tends to break down slowly, so it’s excellent for areas where you don’t want to have to replant or reseed often.

Pine bark also does a great job of preventing weeds and keeping weed seeds from sprouting. There are multiple options including regular pine bark mulch or “nuggets” which are smaller in size. They all have the lovely rich tones of pine bark though. Most pine bark mulch is free from dye, so it’s a good choice if you’re trying to keep your garden space as “natural” as possible.

Pine bark is also more acidic, as is pine straw, but probably not enough to say, change the color of hydrangeas. Do be aware that because pine bark is lightweight, it may float away if you put it in an area that gets washed out by heavy rains.

pine bark mulch

Saving Money on Mulch

I can’t tell you about mulch without giving you a few tips for saving money on keeping your yard healthy and beautiful.

  • Buy in Bulk- Need a lot of mulch? It’s usually cheaper to buy it in bulk than in the individual bags. Some gardening centers may even deliver for a fee if you don’t have a truck to use.
  • Out with the Old– Check with local nurseries or landscaping companies to see if they have any deals on mulch that they’re trying to get rid of.
  • Make Your Own– If you have a you have a lot of ground to cover, one way to save money on mulch is to get it for free. If you have a lot of trees on your property, you can simply rake up the leaves and use them as mulch.
  • Local Tree Companies- Check with local tree companies or even your city to see if they have any mulch that they’re looking to get rid of. You may be able to get it for free or at a greatly reduced price.
  • Compost- While I didn’t mention it in my list above, another great way to get free mulch is by using compost you’ve created in your backyard. You may also be able to check with your city or county about municipal compost. This usually isn’t recommended for vegetable gardens, but many cities use it in their own flower beds and roadsides. (Learn how to start composting!)

Mulch is an excellent way to protect your flower beds and gardens. It helps to prevent weeds, keeps moisture in the soil, and can add nutrients as it breaks down. The best mulch for flower beds is pine straw, but there are other great choices as well, depending on your needs. Be sure to choose the best mulch for your particular flower beds and gardens.


Saturday 26th of August 2023

You neglected to mention that using bark or pine needle mulch will rob nitrogen from the soil!


Saturday 26th of August 2023

Hi Jennifer, from what I've researched, it's not enough to significantly impact the levels in the soil. Pine needles are the most commonly used mulch where I live. Thank you for stopping by!

Patrick Gryskiewicz

Wednesday 4th of May 2022

Hey Courtney, I love your valuable site and insights! I have been trying to figure out how to change my email from pabegry@hughes.net to pabegry@outlook.com. Thanks Patrick


Wednesday 4th of May 2022

Hey Patrick! I'll see if I can switch it on my end. Thanks for reaching out!

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