Use Black Mulch to Brighten Up Shady Areas

May 12th, 2008

Black Mulch
Mulch comes in many colors, people have long been using the ever present red mulch, and in fact I would venture it probably rivals plain mulch in volume. There are also golden mulches, that look like very fresh wood. Then there are more subdued brown mulches that look like slightly older wood.

The main advertised benefit of colored mulches is that they keep their color and so you don’t need to replace them as often. Personally, that doesn’t fly with me. I don’t lay down new mulch for coloring reasons, I do it to maintain a good thickness of 2-3 inches.

I do, however, use colored mulches sometimes in some places. I use them for their colors, as just another design element. You might plant a purple smokebush around some golden variegated hostas and it would look good with the foliage colors contrasting. You can achieve the same thing, and do more, by adding colored much into the area. So now you can contrast the plants against each other, and the mulch.

You can also contrast mulch with itself. My raised asparagus beds are covered in red mulch, and the ground level beds surrounding them are covered in gold mulch. It works.

This post though, this post is about black mulch, the post title I’m sure seems impossible. How could someone as dark as black brighten up a shady area? But what have I been discussing so far? Contrast. So, lets discuss contrast and shade.

Most flowering plants that do well in shady environments produce lackluster flowers, or atleast those that cannot compete with their sun loving cousins. In contrast (ahem), the foliage of plants that do well in shady areas tends to be spectacularly colorful with shades of golds and reds and blues, and of course greens.

However, foliage rarely rivals flowers for color, so make it pop, you need contrast. The most popular way to get contrast is to put clashing plants next to each other. A red-green plant looks crimson when planted next to a yellow-green plant (which itself ends up looking bright). Contrast helps to highlight the differences between the plants, making both look brighter and more vibrant.

So, since black is the ultimate contrast creator, adding black mulch to your shady areas might just brighten them up when paired with lighter colored plants.

Give it a try. I did, and as you can see in the picture (which by the way is Hosta ‘Great Expectations’ underneath my red laceleaf Japanese maple), I think it works.

12 Responses to “Use Black Mulch to Brighten Up Shady Areas”

  1. plantgirl  Says:

    An interesting article – gives me lots of ideas. Never thought of using colored mulches but it makes sense.

  2. Ben  Says:

    Great post!
    I used some new mulch around my ‘moses in the cradle’ plants. I’ve planted them in a row against the neighbors fence (dark brown painted brick) covered the ground with a light yellow / white decomposed granite mulch.

    The green & purple against the brown, then highlighted by the white makes for a really classy formal look.

  3. tk  Says:

    what acreative ideas . lt has not occured to me to do that.

  4. Eric  Says:

    I like the idea of using different colors to accent your plants. My only concern would be how they make the mulch black, or red for that matter. My presumption is that it is innocuous. But you never know.

    If you want a really great mulching medium, try shredded leaves. It does far more than your usual mulch.


  5. Kristin  Says:

    I like the contrast that it creates.

  6. daiseygirl  Says:

    I too was a huge fan of the black mulch and the rich look it gave my garden initially….However, beware these mulches are made of dyed new woods (sometimes even from old pallets that have been chopped up) vs aged woods. When using this product be aware that you will need to pay very close attention to your fertilization as they tend to “rob” to soil of it’s nutrients as the bacteria that would normally be found in the aged mulches and would work in the soils enrichment are now putting their energies into the breakdown and decomposition of this new wood… even though it is pretty, the dyed mulch can be very detrimental to your garden. I learned the hard way and almost destroyed my garden….

  7. Josie DeGrusha  Says:

    I am looking for Purple & Gold (LSU) mulch for my garden for a party in November. Do you sell it & ship it.

  8. Starrflower  Says:

    In years past i have always mulched both my raised beds and path ways with red mulch. Natural stones seperated the beds from the pathways. This year i got the bringht idea to do the pathways black mulch and the beds raised… I have 15 black bags down on the path ways and dont like it… (picture a black carpet with leafs on it )any ideas?

  9. Steve  Says:

    Can anyone tell me if it is harmful to use black (dyed) mulch in a vegetable garden? In other words can the dye be toxic to the vegetables you are growing?

  10. Administrator  Says:

    the dye used on mulch is nontoxic and biodegradable.

  11. Memory Troudt  Says:

    I was glad to find your website and that you handle black mulch. Do you sell and ship it? and how much is it?

    Memory Troudt

  12. Cynthia McIntyre  Says:

    The black mulch really makes the color of the plants pop. I use it around the house since we have black shutters. Thanks for the info

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