The 8 Best Mulches of 2023

Keep your landscape in great shape with these top picks

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The 9 Best Mulches of 2022

The Spruce / Sabrina Jiang

Whether you want to reduce the need for weeding and watering or improve the look of your landscape, mulch can be a budget-friendly and simple solution. Available in a variety of materials, mulch can be placed around many types of plants or can be used on its own to create a surface free of weeds (especially with the help of an additional weed blocker).

We researched the best mulches available online, evaluating durability, composition type, and value so you can pick the right one for your landscape.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall

Vigoro Premium Wood Mulch

Vigoro Premium Colorized Mulch
What We Like
  • Available in three colors

  • Budget-friendly

  • Great coverage area per bag

  • Helps retain moisture and block weeds

What We Don't Like
  • Breaks down over time

One bag of the Viogoro Premium Wood Mulch contains two cubic feet of mulch, which should cover 8 square feet, three inches deep. This means that a small investment can really go a long way in large areas that need to be covered with mulch. Made of wood, this shredded mulch comes in three colors, black, brown, or red, with some colors looking more natural than others. But thanks to the brand's "12-month color guarantee," Vigoro says the color shouldn't fade in that length of time.

However, like all wood mulch, it does break down over time, and like all colorized mulch, it will fade over time. To maintain the most vibrant looks, you should plan to replace it at least once per year, or more depending on your needs and preferences. Keeping water off of the mulch for at least 24 hours after application can help with color retention. However, we think this mulch provides an affordable way to upgrade your flower beds and other outdoor landscapes, earning our top spot on this list.

Price at time of publish: $4

Material: Wood | Coverage: 8 square feet at 3 inches deep | Colors: Black, brown, and red

Best Budget

Earthgro by Scotts Black Colorized Mulch

Earthgro by Scotts Black Colorized Mulch
What We Like
  • Budget friendly

  • Available in three colors

  • Color should last a year

  • Helps retain moisture and block weeds

What We Don't Like
  • Break down over time

If you’re looking for an affordable, shredded wood mulch that will keep its vibrant shade for a full year, Earthgro by Scotts is a great product. It works just as any other mulch does by locking in moisture, blocking weeds from getting sunlight, and regulating the temperature of the soil underneath. This mulch is very similar in features to our best overall pick, the Vigoro Premium Colorized Mulch, and claims to cover the same amount of space (although the Earthgro is only 1.5 square feet versus Vigoro's 2 cubic feet), but does cost a bit more per bag. Both brands say the color should last a year, so you may want to try each brand to see which one works the best for your landscape—however, if you are looking for colorized mulch, you can't go wrong with either.

In addition to black, this mulch is also available in brown and red. For the longest-lasting color, you should make sure that the mulch is dry for at least 24 hours after applying it to your yard. Colored mulch does need to be replaced at the end of the season or more often, depending on how much sun it receives. Harsh sun or extreme weather can cause the color to fade faster.

Price at time of publish: $4

Material: Wood | Coverage: 8 square feet at 3 inches deep | Colors: Black, brown, and red

Best for Vegetables

CleanStraw Long Leaf Pine Straw

CleanStraw Long Leaf Pine Straw

Courtesy of Ace

What We Like
  • All-natural

  • Allows water to pass through

  • Budget-friendly

  • Bagged for easy, less messy transport

What We Don't Like
  • Color will fade

  • May still get weeds

Straw mulch is a great option for vegetable gardens because it's affordable, all-natural, and allows water to pass through easily to get to your vegetables. Also, you won't mind its messy appearance in your vegetable garden, as you may in a flower bed or other landscaped area. CleanStraw's Long Leaf Pine Straw is a great option because it is budget-friendly, and stored in bags that are made to be easy to transport in your car without making a mess, and according to the manufacturer, are 99 percent free of sticks.

This straw mulch is chemical-free and all-natural so keep in mind that the straw color will fade over time. Like all mulches, you will most likely still need to weed your vegetable garden occasionally (and more often than some other options on this list), but with the addition of mulch, you will have more time to pick and enjoy your fresh food. Straw mulch could also be used on lawns, around fruit trees and shrubs, and to protect your plants in the winter.

Price at time of publish: $19

Material: Pine straw | Coverage: 4.8 square feet at 2 inches deep | Colors: Varies

Best for Landscaping

NuScape Rubber Mulch Nuggets

NuScape Rubber Mulch Nuggets
What We Like
  • Long-lasting

  • Made of 100 percent recycled rubber

  • Available in three colors

  • Great under playgrounds or swing sets

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive compared to wood mulch

  • Not a natural product

For a long-lasting mulch that will not fade or deteriorate, rubber mulch is the way to go. Available in three colors, NuScape mulch has the same look as other wood-based mulches but is heavier, more durable, and made of 100 percent recycled rubber. In fact, the brand claims that the color should last for 12 years. It also provides a bit of bounce, making it a great option for playgrounds or swing sets.

Like most rubber mulches, this mulch is much more expensive than its all-natural competitors but lasts for much longer, so it can be worth the cost, especially if you don't plan on planting in that area. In fact, the NuScape claims that the color should last for 12 years. Also, unlike wood mulch, this product can be used closer to your house, since it won't attract bugs like wood mulches tend to do. You also don't need to spread it as deeply to suppress weeds, so the same amount does go further.

Price at time of publish: $34

Material: Recycled plastic | Coverage: 4.8 square feet at 2 inches deep | Colors: Black, brown, and red

Best Weed Blocking

ECOgardener Premium 5oz Pro Garden Weed Barrier

ECOgardener Premium 5oz Pro Garden Weed Barrier


What We Like
  • Effective at blocking weeds

  • Comes in multiple sizes

  • Allows nutrients to reach plants

  • Easy to install

What We Don't Like
  • Need to cover with dirt or mulch to prevent damage

If your main goal is to reduce weeds in your garden beds or landscape, weed-blocking fabric is an excellent solution. ECOgardener Premium Pro Garden Weed Barrier is our favorite option because it is effective at blocking weeds yet still allows water and air to pass through to the soil. We also love that it is available in several lengths and widths to match your needs and whichever size you choose, it can be cut with scissors to match the space or to fit around your plants.

Lightweight and easy to install, this weed blocker is made of untreated polypropylene fabric and the manufacturer claims that it doesn't release chemicals into the soil. However, since it doesn't provide any UV protection (and doesn't look all that attractive in your landscape), you should cover it with mulch or soil to prevent sun damage from breaking it down over time.

Price at time of publish: $36

Material: Polypropylene | Coverage: 3 x 50 feet | Colors: Black

Best for Flower Beds

Soil Blend Super Compost 8 lbs. Concentrated Bag

Soil Blend Super Compost 8 lbs. Concentrated Bag
What We Like
  • Provides nutrients to plants

  • Concentrated formula

  • Organic

What We Don't Like
  • Will need to mix with top soil

Compost is a great way to mulch flower beds since it provides nutrients to the soil and looks neat and attractive as well. This organic option is made with cow manure, alfalfa meal, and pure earthworm castings. Like any mulch, compost helps soil retain moisture and regulate temperature. It also has the added benefit of nutrients for the plants, often resulting in larger, more colorful, more plentiful, and longer-lasting flowers.

The manufacturer claims that this concentrated 8-pound bag can make 40 pounds of mulch. However, you will need to add your own bag of topsoil to this mix, adding to the cost. While you can make your own compost to add to your soil, this product saves you time and space from maintaining your own compost bin or pile.

Price at time of publish: $53

Material: Compost | Coverage: Not listed | Colors: Not applicable

Best for Lawn

Scotts Topsoil Lawn & Garden Soil Conditioner

Scotts Topsoil Lawn & Garden Soil Conditioner
What We Like
  • Mixture of organic soil and peat moss

  • Can be used to fix holes and patches

  • Improves soil

What We Don't Like
  • Not a good weed blocker

  • Can't be used in containers or raised beds

One of the most important factors when adding anything directly to your lawn is to choose a product that will improve the soil as well as protect it. This is especially true if you are applying it to an area where grass struggles to grow. Scotts Topsoil is a mixture of organic soil and peat moss, which helps build strong roots to your existing grass.

This is a great option to fill in holes or improve bare patches in your lawn. For those beginning a new garden, Scotts Topsoil is the perfect addition to spruce up the area before and during planting. Keep in mind that this topsoil is designed to be used in-ground rather than in containers or raised beds. It does not prohibit the growth of weeds in garden beds.

Price at time of publish: $3

Material: Sphagnum peat moss and organic matter | Coverage: Not listed | Colors: Not applicable

Best Biodegradable

GreenView Fairway Formula Seed Success Mulch

GreenView Fairway Formula Seed Success Mulch
What We Like
  • Contains fertilizer

  • Regulates temperature

  • Can be used on bare spots

  • Breaks down over time

What We Don't Like
  • Need to purchase grass seed separately

After applying grass seed, following up with the GreenView Fairway Formula Seed Success Biodegradable Mulch will help protect the grass as it grows. This paper mulch/fertilizer combo keeps water in, regulates temperature, and stays put thanks to the included tackifier. The fertilizer encourages grass growth in the areas where you apply it. This can be used as an alternative to straw.

You will need to purchase grass seed separately, which allows you to customize the application to match your existing lawn. All you need to do is water occasionally to keep the mulch in place. As your grass grows, the pellets break down naturally, leaving you with nothing but a lush lawn.

Price at time of publish: $12

Material: Nitrogen, Phosphate, Potash, Paper Mulch (active ingredients) | Coverage: 200 square feet | Colors: Not applicable

Final Verdict

Our best overall mulch is the Vigoro Premium Wood Mulch, because it is an affordable and easy way to improve the look of your landscape, and comes in three different colors. If you are looking to reduce the need for watering or weeding your vegetable garden, we recommend the CleanStraw Long Leaf Pine Straw, because it allows water to still reach your plants while being all-natural, and budget-friendly.

What to Look for in a Mulch


There are two main types of mulch: organic and inorganic. Organic mulch includes anything that is made from a natural material, such as wood, paper, straw, grass clippings, or compost, that will decompose over time. It does not necessarily mean that the material is free of pesticides or chemicals, although some compost may be. Inorganic mulch includes anything made from synthetic materials, such as rubber mulch or plastic weed cloth.


Mulch is used to create a barrier between the soil underneath and the environment. This can help regulate the temperature of the soil and retain moisture, both beneficial to the roots of plants growing in the mulch. It can also prevent weeds from sprouting, as they do not get sufficient sunlight to germinate and grow.

Pet Safety

Not all mulch products are safe for pets. Cocoa shells as mulch, also known as cocoa bean mulch, is harmful to dogs because it contains caffeine and theobromine, two compounds that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, a very fast heart rate, tremors, and seizures in dogs. If you are a pet owner, it’s best to steer clear of these types of mulch completely. Instead, look for a natural alternative that is pet-safe. If you are worried about your dog eating mulch (as many do), you may want to avoid it altogether in areas they frequent.

  • What is mulch?

    Mulch is any material that is used to cover the soil, either with a particular purpose or just to beautify the space. Mulch benefits a garden by retaining moisture, regulating temperature, and suppressing weeds. Depending on the material, it can also decompose and add essential nutrients to the soil.

    Mulch can be made from natural materials, such as wood, straw, clippings, compost, or even paper. Called organic mulch, this type of mulch can help the soil quality as well as look great in your garden. You should make sure that your organic mulch does not include seeds that will sprout and work against your hard work.

    Inorganic mulch includes types that are made of synthetic materials, such as rubber pellets or plastic weed sheets. This type of mulch is often more expensive to set up but can last for a long time and look great. It also does not break down over time. This can be a pro or a con, depending on your reason for laying mulch.

  • When is the best time to mulch?

    The top mulch time is mid Spring after the soil has started to warm and before the weeds start rearing their little buds. If you mulch too early, it will prevent the soil from warming and make it harder for your garden to grow in late Spring and Summer. Waiting too long to mulch will mean that you have extra work to do to clear out any weeds that have already started to grow.

    Fall is another great time to mulch your garden, especially if you are using organic mulch to improve your soil quality. Mulching in the fall insulates your soil during the colder winter months. Some plants need the cold weather to go dormant, so waiting until the first frost can be a great way to both support your plants and have time to get the mulch down before the cold days and nights of winter.

  • Can you use old mulch?

    Organic mulch is made to break down and provide additional nutrients to the soil as it decomposes. This means that as your mulch ages, it may not function very well as a mulch. If you scoop up a handful of mulch and it looks and feels more like soil, it is time to replace the mulch. Simply work it into the soil to add nutrients and replace it with a new layer.

    If the mulch still provides cover, you can reuse it for another season. Rake it to one side as you tend to the soil underneath. This is especially important in vegetable, herb, and fruit gardens where you plan to grow plants to eat. Test your soil, add any nutrients it needs, then rake the mulch back over to cover.

    The one exception to this is when your plants or garden experienced disease that you think is tied to the mulch. In this case, you should remove and dispose of the mulch safely. You will need to add a new layer of mulch to cover your soil before the growing season begins.

Why Trust The Spruce?

This article was researched and written by Katie Begley, who has used mulch to spruce up her yard and benefit her garden in California, Hawaii, Virginia, and North Carolina. Texas Native is her go-to choice after testing out multiple options as she moved around the United States. She is always looking for the best value and performance to enhance her outdoor space.

Jenica Currie, Associate Commerce Editor for The Spruce updated this article with additional reporting and insights. Not a big fan of pulling weeds, Currie has used the Viogoro Premium Mulch to keep her flower garden looking its best.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Making and Using Compost. University of Missouri Extension.

  2. "Cocoa Bean Mulch Can Poison Dogs". Poison.Org, 2021,