Which colour of mulch should you use in your landscaping? This was a hot topic on my Instagram stories this week, so I decided to write about it here. Because, just like any other colours on your exterior, the colour of mulch needs to be carefully considered.
But first… we have a WINNER! Congrats to Sarah Bell – you are the lucky survey respondent who receives a free Exterior Colour Selection masterclass. And, thank you to all of YOU for sharing your input with me! I love hearing from so many of you!
It’s exterior season, time to think about a fresh paint job or starting that exciting landscaping project. And even though mulch is not something I install until after the Fall clean-up, I see so much distracting red mulch that I think we need to talk about it here.
Why is red mulch so popular?
Because I have never ever seen red mulch that looks good.
My sister inherited red lava rock on her garden beds and it looks no better.
I use black mulch for my garden beds (below) but now I’ve learned that it’s poisonous to pets. Thankfully, we don’t have any at the moment.
Maria’s Design Studio
Maria’s Backyard Garden
Earlier this week I asked my Instagram followers why red mulch even exists? I received countless comments with STRONG opinions, haha! Some said it even stains the concrete around it and kids’ clothes if they play near it.
Here were a few more comments:
“Ants do not like red cedar and the darker brown/red hemlock mulch. They are sometimes attracted to the sweet pine in brown and black mulch”
“They work in Arizona and southern Utah to go with the colours of everything but not sure why they sell it anywhere else”
When I read this comment (above) I looked up Arizona red mulch and I found this image (below) with natural brown mulch. I think it’s way better to have red/orange in the plants to match the Mediterranean roof rather than matching the colour with mulch.
‘Red mulch is made from things like recycled wooden pallets, not bark. Dyed red to make it a uniform colour. Why red? Supposedly they used cheap iron oxide blend the various colours of wood chips. It turned red. Someone thought it a feature rather than a problem.’
‘I hate red mulch. It is offensive to Mother Nature. I am in Florida and my neighbours use it because it is cheap and is often on sale at the home improvement centres. But that doesn’t make it any easier on the eyes’
I loved this comment I found online because I think this says it best:
The trouble I have with colored mulch is that it hurts my eyes when I look at it. I find myself exclaiming, “Look at that red mulch,” instead of, ” Look at that gorgeous landscaping.”
How to Add Colour to Your Landscaping
I think the biggest possible reason why red mulch is chosen is that it adds colour to your front yard when what your house really needs is landscaping. More plants.
This gardener (below) was clearly craving more colour and impact after adding way too few plants to the bed.
While we’re here, talking about red mulch, can I just mention the red/burgundy tree that everyone feels compelled to buy for their front yard as well because it’s “different” from green?
It’s like accent tile for the garden. Distracting and unnecessary.
I am here to tell you that I am no different. Years ago when I was in my late 20’s helping my uncle choose plants for the home he had just purchased, we picked out a red maple.
When we first moved into this house, it came with a big burgundy maple tree in the backyard. And later that Fall when we were raking the neverending piles of leaves, I asked MaryAnne if we should get rid of it. “Off with her head” was her reply! Ha, ha!
If you go for a drive, you will have a hard time finding a yard that DOES NOT have a red tree in the front yard.
All I have to do is look across my street and I see three of them (below):
Now of course this advice is only useful if you are planning a new garden. So, if you already have a burgundy or red tree in your front yard, the way to make it work is by adding pink and purple flowers.
To be clear. There’s NOTHING WRONG with it if it RELATES to the plant material in your garden but just to plunk it in for interest, is like choosing obligatory accent tile just BECAUSE.
But back to the problem of red mulch. The point of good landscaping is the structure and interest of the PLANTS, not the MULCH.
Red mulch screams for attention in a way that is simply not its place.
The goal of a good garden should be to have enough ground cover with your plants that the mulch isn’t a design element at all. If you do see some mulch, it should be brown or naturally weathered to grey and fall away as a backdrop.
So, my advice is to add colour to your landscaping with plants – flowers and shrubs – rather than red mulch or burgundy/red trees.
Read More: 500 White Tulips Blooming in my Yard
Which colour of mulch is best for your house?
Let’s remember, the purpose of mulch is moisture retention in the soil and weed suppression. It is NOT a design feature.
Since it always plays a supporting and functional role, you can just go ahead and pick the plain old natural wood mulch. It’s arguably healthier anyway.
Read More: My New Boxwood Garden Beds: Before and After
I hope this helps your show off your beautiful plants as we head into gardening season this year!
I’d love to hear about your adventures and misadventures with choosing mulch. Have you ever been seduced by bright orange-red mulch hoping to bring some colour to your yard?