Whether you’re growing a vegetable garden or prize roses, adding mulch around the base of plants can be an attractive and practical touch. In addition to reducing the amount of water needed and improving the quality and structure of the soil, it frees up time from weeding to enjoy other activities in the yard.
The best black mulch can help make a gardener’s or landscaper’s life simpler. Ahead, learn about the differences in an assortment of different black mulch products and find out why the following picks are well suited for a variety of garden and landscape uses.
- BEST OVERALL: HOOPLE Garden Weed Barrier. Premium Pro Fabric, Black
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Goasis Lawn Weed Barrier Control Fabric Ground Cover
- BEST RUBBER CHIPS: Playsafer Rubber Mulch Nuggets Protective Flooring
- BEST PLASTIC: RolyPoly Plastic Sheeting Roll 6 MIL Black
- BEST ECO-FRIENDLY: ECOgardener Premium Pro Garden Weed Barrier Fabric
- BEST RUBBER STRIPS: Plow & Hearth Recycled Rubber Permanent Mulch Border
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Black Mulch
Mulch is any material placed on top of ground soil to keep weeds from growing and prevent moisture from evaporating too quickly. Black mulch is available in various types and styles, including bark, wood or rubber chips, and rolled weed barriers. Depending on the product, it can be strictly functional, or both practical and decorative in nature. Some types of black mulch are better suited to specific growing or landscaping projects than others, so consider the following before buying.
Black Mulch Types
Black mulch primarily comes in two formats: chips and rolled weed barrier. Only decorative chips offer a design element in the landscape, but both will help retain moisture and provide a measure of weed control. Take a look at the different options and formats before selecting a black mulch product for your landscaping project.
- Black mulch fabric: Available in rolls approximately 3 feet wide and up to 250 feet long, black mulch fabric is usually made from inorganic woven polypropylene or polyethylene material. This fabric is suitable for use in both flower gardens and perennial beds, and it allows air and water to filter through while keeping weeds from growing. For the best look, cover fabric mulch with a decorative mulch, such as wood chips, rubber chips, or even rocks to conceal it and hold it in place.
- Black wood chips: The dark look of dyed black wood chips adds decorative appeal to landscaped beds, creating a pleasing contrast beneath plants and shrubs. Chips are typically dyed with a carbon-based or iron-oxide formulation. Neither of these dyes are toxic, but be aware that the wood chips themselves may contain toxic chemicals if they’re sourced from chemically treated wood. Look for black landscape chips made from hardwood, which is typically sourced from oak pallets.
- Black rubber chips: A reprocessed product, black rubber chips are made from recycled tires. They are suitable for use in landscaped beds where they resist decomposition and fading, and they will not attract wood-eating insects, such as termites and carpenter ants. These can also be layered under swing sets and play equipment thanks to their soft, resilient texture.
- Black rubber strips: Similar to rubber chips, black rubber strips are made from recycled tires. The main difference is that the rubber comes in strips or sections for laying in flower borders and perennial beds. Typically made to mimic the look of shredded bark, this mulch is best suited to landscape projects where it can boost curb appeal.
- Black plastic sheeting: A strictly functional option, this mulch can be used to warm soil for early planting and weed control, or it can be used as a weed barrier beneath gravel or stone walkways. It is also used in perennial landscape beds, typically covered with small rocks or decorative chips.
- Black paper mulch: Designed to biodegrade, black paper mulch only lasts one season. Since it often features recycled paper products and contains no chemicals, it’s safe to use around food-producing plants.
- Black mulch spray: Not a mulch in the traditional sense, black mulch spray is used to color wood chips that are already in a flower bed. It comes in liquid form for use in a pump-type garden sprayer. For those having difficulty finding a source of black wood chips, spraying regular wood chips with black mulch spray is an option.
While all black mulch options will reduce weeding, the best use for each will depend on the goal of using the product in the first place. For decorative appeal, either rubber or black wood chips is the way to go. In a vegetable garden, barrier fabric and plastic sheeting are better options because they can be easily installed and removed when the growing season is over.
When planting vegetables, black plastic should be layered over the soil in early spring when it will help warm the ground beneath it. In a perennial bed, rolled black mulch is applied when the bed is established—any time of the year—and it’s designed to be permanent. The mulch is covered with another decorative type of mulch, wood chips, rubber chips, or rocks, and is left in place.
Decorative black wood chips are applied during spring when flower beds are being planted or refreshed. A previous year’s wood chips can be tilled into the soil or raked off, and then new chips applied. New decorative wood chips are usually used every year, whereas black rubber chips are made to be a permanent fixture and can remain in place for years.
Black wood chips offer a natural shredded look to flower beds and other landscaping that’s attractive and often preferable to bare soil showing around plants and shrubs. For use around play equipment, however, they may pose a risk of splinters. Rubber chips are better suited to these areas, and many are ADA approved and nonabrasive.
When using rolled black mulch barrier, look for a product, either woven fabric or plastic, that contains perforations to allow water to seep through.
Biodegradable types of mulch, like dried leaves and wood chips, can add nutrients and improve soil structure as they degrade. Rolled barrier fabrics and plastic sheeting will not add anything beneficial to the soil.
Expect to replace rolled barrier fabric annually when using it for growing vegetables and other crops. If using it beneath another decorative mulch in a landscaped bed, it should last 3 to 5 years, depending on its quality and thickness. Wood chips should be freshly applied each spring for the best look in perennial beds, while rubber chips can last up to 14 years while retaining their color and springy texture.
Our Top Picks
Depending on the desired format, the best black mulch should either offer a decorative touch to the landscape without fading or serve to extend the growing season by warming the soil. In all cases, the best black mulch products should reduce weed growth. The following black mulch products are meant for different purposes, and each offers its own benefits.
For its durability and the ability to allow water to drain through, the HOOPLE Premium Pro black mulch weed barrier takes top honors in the lineup. The ultra-thick fabric can be used in garden borders and raised beds, and it is even tough enough for use under stone walkways to keep weeds from growing. It features a chemical-free woven fabric, making it suitable for covering the soil in vegetable or herb gardens.
The HOOPLE weed barrier is available in a variety of measurements, including 4 feet by 50 feet, 4 feet by 100 feet, 4 feet by 180 feet, and 32 inches by 180 feet. This polyethylene fabric rolls out quickly and will withstand degradation from direct sunlight. Cut it with scissors or a sharp utility knife.
Made from durable woven polyethylene, Goasis Weed Barrier reduces weeds while letting light, water, and nutrients pass through, and it does it all at an affordable price per square foot. This environmentally safe black mulch is well suited for raising soil temperatures in early spring. It’s also beneficial for planting seasonal crops or for positioning beneath rocks or decorative chips in a landscaped bed.
The Goasis weed barrier comes with green stripes that make placement easy, and it’s UV- and corrosion-resistant. The fabric cuts easily with household scissors and comes in roll widths of 3 feet, 4 feet, or 5 feet in various lengths.
Add an attractive and long-lasting look to landscaping or fill beneath play areas with Playsafer Black Rubber Mulch Nuggets. Made from recycled tires, these chips will not decompose like some other types of mulch and offer a nonabrasive, resilient surface that can last for years. After rainfall, the chips dry out quickly rather than absorbing water and harboring mold or mildew.
For the best results in a landscaped bed, layer the chunks over another weed barrier fabric or heavy plastic sheeting to keep weeds from growing through. The rubber chips come in a 40-pound bag that equals 1.55 cubic feet of material.
Keep weeds at bay in rock gardens or other landscaped areas with these plastic mulch sheets from RolyPoly. Available in 10-foot-by-100-foot sheets, this mulch is well suited for covering large areas. Durable enough to be used beneath rocks or other decorative mulch in a permanent landscape border, the plastic is UV resistant and designed to withstand extreme temperatures without degrading. However, because it’s not perforated, it’s not suitable for long-term use in gardens and flower beds because water and air cannot filter through. For the best results in perennial borders, cut away a few inches of plastic around the base of a shrub or tree to allow water to drain into the soil at those points.
Keep weeds at bay without the need for harsh chemicals with the ECOgardener Premium Weed Barrier. Made from chemical-free fabric, the specially designed weave on this black mulch fabric lets air and water pass through while stopping weeds from ever poking through. In addition to being safe for use in vegetable, herb, and flower gardens, it can also be used in landscaping as a green alternative to solid plastic sheeting beneath decorative mulch, such as wood chips or rocks.
The lightweight, durable fabric comes with lines to make matching stripes easier when installing in large areas. It’s available in 3-foot and 4-foot widths and in lengths ranging from 50 feet to 250 feet to suit any size project.
It looks a lot like shredded bark, but this black mulch from Plow & Hearth is actually made from recycled rubber. While organic mulch made from wood chips needs to be replaced every year, this premium rubber mulch is a low-maintenance, long-term alternative that brings the look of finely shredded hardwood to a landscape or a garden bed.
The mulch strips can be cut with a sharp utility knife for fitting around the bases of plants and shrubs, and water and air filter through for healthy soil and plant growth. It can be used to dress up a perennial bed or border, giving the area beneath plants an appealing, refined look.
Plow & Hearth Rubber Mulch comes in narrow rolls, measuring 4.5 inches wide, 120 inches long, and 0.63 inches thick.
FAQs About Black Mulch
Still not sure about which black mulch product is right for your landscaping project? Take a look at some of the most commonly asked questions about mulch.
Q. Does mulching grass make it grow faster?
Mulching grass is achieved by using the mulching adjustment on a mower rather than collecting grass clippings in a bag. By allowing the clippings to biodegrade on the lawn, the soil may be healthier, but there’s no guarantee the grass will grow faster.
Q. When and in what quantity should mulch be used?
Weed-barrier fabric should be used in a single layer and added in early spring to warm the soil or at any other time of year for landscaping projects. Wood mulch chips and rubber nuggets can be used at any time of year and should typically be 2 to 3 inches thick.
Q. How often should old mulch be removed?
Old wood chip mulch often doesn’t have to be removed because it biodegrades, but if it seems too thick, rake it off before applying fresh mulch chips. Fabric mulch used for crops should be removed at the end of the growing season, while fabric mulch used in landscaping beds can last up to 5 years or more. Rubber mulch chips will last up to 14 years before it needs to be replaced.
Q. How is mulch maintained?
Mulch is virtually maintenance-free. It’s a set-it-and-forget-it product for the most part. If dyed mulch fades, it can be refreshed with mulch spray to give it a new look.