Problems with Inorganic Mulches

Water Conservation for Lawn and Landscape September 22, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

Although inorganic mulches can be used to create attractive and low maintenance planting beds, they also can create a few problems.

Problems With Inorganic Mulch:

  • Large areas of inorganic mulch may increase soil temperature
  • Avoid black plastic - it does not allow water, nutrients or air to penetrate the soil
  • Inorganic mulches do not provide nutrients to plants
  • Rubber mulch may be harmful to plants

A Note on Weed Barrier or Landscape Fabrics:

Weed barrier fabric does not work well in areas where perennial weeds are a problem.

  • Perennial weeds will eventually grow through or over the top of the fabric
  • Reseeding perennials establish on the top of fabric making them very difficult to remove or transplant without damaging the roots
  • Organic matter (mulch) remains on top of the fabric and does not mix with the soil
  • Restricts ground nesting bee habitat

Additional Resources:


California - Landscape Mulch May Pose Fire Hazard

Washington - The Myth of Rubberized Landscapes


Missouri - Mulches (pros and cons)




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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.