Mulching Potted Plants: Should It Be Done?


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Applying mulch to potted plants can add a touch of modern to the space and also have multiple benefits for the plant at the same time. 

Mulching potted plants is often done to beautify the plant by adding stones, wood chips, sand, or straw. Mulch reduces water loss and maintains the temperature of the soil beneath. In some cases, mulch can also prevent pests like gnats from inhabiting the soil. 

Many believe that mulching potted plants may harm your plant’s health and hinder its growth. However, many others believe that mulching potted plants improve the plant’s overall health, prolonging its life, and improving its appearance. 

If you’re unsure about what to do, this article will explain the benefits of mulching potted plants and the types of mulch that you can use to do so.

stone mulch in potted plant (1)

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What are The Benefits of Mulching Potted Plants?

Potted plants are much benefitted by mulching —- the process of layering the bare surface of the soil between plants with different materials. Here are some of those.

  • Mulch is considered a water conservator

    Mulch inhibits vaporization by retaining moisture on the soil’s surface. So, the soil is less likely to dry out. 

    In this way, mulch saves much of the precious time you had to spend watering your plants frequently. It reduces the possibilities of overwatering and underwatering as well.
  • Mulch promotes the healthy growth of potted plants. By preventing the germination of weed seeds, it ensures that the harmful pests and diseases are at bay. 

    Mulch also doesn’t let water splash on the foliage. Consequently, it stops the diseases from arriving at the foliage from the soil.
  • Mulch works as a nutrient supplier. According to the National Arbor Day Foundation, mulch provides and maintains the right environment and nutrients for healthy plant growth. 

    It contains organic substances that add to the nutrition of the plant by acting as plant food. It activates the soil microflora and microorganisms, which improves soil texture by increasing aeration.
  • Ornamental mulching makes your pot garden aesthetically appealing. 
  • By covering up the soil, mulch protects it from the digging of your pets, heavy wind, and extreme sunlight.
  • Mulch regulates soil temperature and protects plant roots from direct sun exposure.

What Type of Mulch Can You Use in Potted Plants?

The mulches that are generally used in potted plants can be categorized as:

  • Organic Mulch
  • Ornamental or Mineral Mulch

Let’s discuss them at length.

Organic Mulch:

Decomposable components that improve soil quality by adding humus content are taken as organic mulch. Some of the organic mulches are the following:

Dried leaves: 

Dried leaves add organic matter to the soil while repelling slugs and other pests from your plants. However, keep in mind that leaves should be dried before using them as mulch or composting them. 

Dried leaves can be used both as a top mulch as well as under the soil. Clean and dry shredded leaves are to be used as mulch.

Grass Clippings:

They work as a nitrogen booster. Grass clippings can warm up the soil. But, if piled up in an excessive amount, it will rot and emit an unpleasant odor. 

Therefore, be more mindful of the quantity you plan to use around your potted plants. 

Newspaper: 

Newspaper can be used as a weed block or mulch. No doubt, it is the best mulch for its availability and biodegradability. It gets more effective as a mulch when it is soaked in water. 

It becomes even more decomposable then. Newspapers have been tested and have been found to have a high weed block capability. In addition, newspapers are inexpensive and easy to handle.

Wood Chips: 

It Is also very popular as mulch. Wood Chips Mulch is a high-quality, long-lasting mulch that adds color and texture to your garden or landscaping. But before applying, those should be dried well. 

Wood chips are an excellent solution for areas where traditional mulch won’t work well. It will not shed, burn or float away in normal conditions. However, avoid using chips that are infected.

Wood chips are also an excellent source of organic matter when mixed into the soil when it gets old.

Compost:

Compost is the natural choice when it comes to growing healthy, beautiful plants. It is the best fit for potted plants. It helps in the growth of helpful organisms and the betterment of the texture of the soil. 

Compost enhances the development of many potted plants, including roses, tomatoes, peppers, ivy, fuchsias, and tropicals.

Ornamental or Mineral Mulch:

On the other hand, Mineral or Ornamental mulch contains yard debris, hummus, and minerals with a neutral Ph. It is non-biodegradable and not blown away by the wind being heavier. 

This mulch list includes gravel, clay pellets, peat moss, slate, crushed stone, sand, colorful pebbles, etc. All of this stuff bejewels the pot attractively.

If you are interested in beautiful soil cover rocks that will make your plants stand out and add a touch of modern to your living space. You can find it by clicking here.

Sand as Mulch:

Using Sand as Mulch

Sand, when used as a mulch, increases the aesthetics of the garden by contrasting the greenery of the plant with a white background. It also prevents weed growth and protects the topsoil from water loss and pests like gnats and fungus. Additionally, it can be used as an amendment that helps increase soil drainage and aeration.

There are very different types of sand with different characteristics ranging from color to components. 

  1. Coral sand, 
  2. Glass sand, 
  3. Immature sand, 
  4. Gypsum sand, 
  5. Ooid sand

Sand can also be characterized according to its size that includes very coarse sand, coarse, medium, and fine-grained.

See our detailed guide on how to use sand mulch on potted plants.

How To Apply Mulch To Potted Plants?

Mulch is to be applied on top of the potting soil. Sometimes, it is combined with the soil.

While following the former method, a few things are to be taken note of.

  1. If Mineral mulch is used, a 2- inch( 3 to 5 cm) layer is considerable. Whereas, Organic mulch can be stacked up to a foot (30cm).
  1. A minimum of 3 inches distance from the plant should be kept up while laying mulch. Or else, diseases will spread rapidly if the layer gets in touch with any part of the plants, especially leaves.
  1. Dried and chopped mulch should be used.
  1. Mulch should not be applied over seeds. Seeds might have to undergo much struggle to sprout through the hard layer of mulch that doesn’t allow sunlight and oxygen.

The end of spring and early summer are the best times for mulching as the plants can grow strong in ample sunlight now.

While watering plants, the layer of mulch should be separated as it doesn’t allow water to reach the roots. 

Absorbing a lot of water mulch causes plant roots to rot in no time. 

Can You Place Mulch at the Bottom of Plant Pots?

Often when you use a large pot that calls for a lot of soil, mulch may seem lucrative as it saves a lot of your money. But, let me tell you, mulch is not a super saver for plants. Know the reasons below.

Mulch holds on to a lot of water. So, it remains humid for a long time. It can cause damage to the roots of the plant resulting in root rot. In addition, mulch creates an anaerobic environment. 

All of these things together can make the plants dry out quicker than usual.

If mulch is used at the bottom of the pot, it occupies a lot of space. Thanks to that, the roots of the plants don’t get enough accommodation in the pot to grow. 

The roots of some plants tend to grow too long and often go out the holes in the plot to develop further. In such cases, mulch might debar them as it has a hard surface.

Can Mulch Affect The Soil in Potted Plants?

Mulch affects soil only when too much of it is used. 

Too much retained moisture in your soil can create an ideal environment for disease and root rot. Mulching a poorly drained soil will result in the plant sitting in the water, allowing fungus and bacteria to invade. 

An excessive amount of mulch causes root rot by keeping the soil wet. Therefore, be more mindful of the quantity you use. 

Furthermore, mulch may change the pH of the soil. Some mulch makes the soil acidic, while others give it an alkali texture. Such changes may harm the plant drastically.

The Bottom Line:

Why potted mulch plants? Mulching adds nutrients to soil, improves soil aeration, prevents weeds from growing, retains moisture in the soil for better irrigation, prevents stems from direct sunlight, and looks nice.

But, remember that not all plants require mulching. Bushy, arrow-head plants are not at all benefited by mulch. 

All in all, mulching potted plants is a great thing, but it’s not a requirement for plants’ proper health and development.

JayLea

JayLea has a passion for plants and has been gardening since 2015. He has valuable knowledge about gardening and houseplant care and can answer everyday practical questions that every plant owner has.

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