Mulching Around Shrubs: Is It Necessary?

Mulching around shrubs provides valuable protection for the plant and reduces the amount of maintenance to perform. In this post, Frady Tree Care Specialists, Charlotte’s reliable shrub care experts, discuss why using organic matter as a layer of mulch is useful.

Mulch is an integral part of tree care that is often overlooked. Many trees are surrounded by turf grass or other plants, which can stifle their growth. Proper mulching can be the key to trees that not just survive but thrive.

The Benefits of Mulching Around Shrubs

When it comes to sheet mulching, it pays to put mulch from the outside of the drip line to about two inches from the trunk. It only takes a couple of inches of mulch to reap the following benefits: 

  • Better soil moisture regulation 
  • Prevents the soil surface from baking
  • Breaks down into nutrients for the soil 
  • Smothers weeds
  • Protects delicate feeder roots

Does It Matter What Mulch You Use?

Mulch is either organic, like wood chips and shells, or inorganic, like resin rocks. The difference is that the former breaks down into valuable nutrients. Inorganic mulch is more durable but may be harmful to plants. Keep this in mind when mulching around shrubs.

It’s best to choose a type of mulch that matches the soil conditions that your tree needs. While the function of mulch is to protect the roots, it will eventually break down. The nutrients and compounds it releases can, therefore, affect plant pH and the soil biome. 

It is best to use an organic, untreated mulch that does not contain dyes or chemicals. Locally-available sources are ideal. When considering the type, consider what will happen when the mulching around shrubs breaks down. For example, pine bark is acidic, and cedar bark has natural insect-repellant properties. 

Can You Mulch Grass Clippings or Wood Chips?

Grass and leaves seem like a convenient source of material, but you should compost them before using them. This process will destroy weeds and neutralize any nutrient imbalances. Furthermore, fresh grass might do more harm than good for shrubs as it begins to decay.

Wood chips are popular, particularly if you recently felled a tree. However, we recommend composting the wood chips for the same reason you do with grass. If you are unsure, speak to the arborist who felled the tree for advice. Always source your product from a reputable supplier so you can be sure it was not chemically treated. 

How Much Should You Apply?

Applying too much mulch can harm your shrub. A layer of mulch more than two inches thick may prevent the shrub from getting enough water. If you have issues with compacted soil, mulching may also prevent the roots from getting enough oxygen. Therefore, it is best to aerate the roots before you begin.

It’s also important to deal with any pest issues before laying mulch. Ants, for example, can make a nice home for themselves in wood chips. It’s also critical to deal with any signs of fungus or disease first.

While you should always position the mulch about two inches from the trunk, fungal spores in the organic matter can still easily infect your shrub. Therefore, you should always check the medium for signs of mildew and other diseases before you use it. However, you should be fine if you source the product from a reputable local supplier.

Contact Your Local Tree Care Specialists

Now that you understand how important mulching around shrubs is, learn about how to mulch around trees. Or, for a shortcut to success, call Frady Tree Care Specialists at (704) 644-2516 for professional assistance from our expert team. 


Frady Tree Care has the most reliable and professional tree services in the Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Kernersville, Clemmons & High Point, NC areas! Our team is a third-generation certified and fully-insured arboriculture firm. With more than 100 years of combined experience, we are the tree service experts you can trust.


Charlotte Office

8640 Charlotte University City Blvd.  Suite A3-241        Charlotte, NC 28213
Phone : (704) 644-2516

Lexington Office

402 W. 4th Avenue,    Lexington, NC 27292
Phone : (336) 236-1006

Salisbury Office

1460 Henderson Grove Church Rd,
Salisbury, NC 28147
Phone : (704) 644-2516

Winston-Salem Office

1035 Shalimar Drive.      Winston-Salem, NC 27107
Phone : (336) 236-1006

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