The Secret to Thriving Potted Plants: Mulching Made Easy

Mulching, similar to other gardening tasks, is often associated with outdoor gardening. It is usually done in your garden for various reasons, yet it also provides advantages for your potted plants. Potted plants are an essential method for continuing gardening in confined spaces, with several approaches available to enhance their growth.

You should mulch around potted plants and utilize leaves, wood chips, and other organic materials for mulching. Mulching can benefit your potted plants, as mulching can aid plants in suppressing weeds and retaining nutrients and moisture. Just make sure to prep the mulch accordingly.

So do not worry about anything concerning mulching. This post will highlight the benefits of mulching, what to use to mulch, and a few tips to help you get the best out of mulching.

Mulching Potted Plants

Container gardening is an activity that can add many aesthetics to any home. Still, it can also serve a practical purpose, such as reducing the space required for gardening.

Wood bark chip mulch in a potted plant.

So gardeners can produce a wide variety of vegetable crops in containers set just about anywhere, from on the balcony to a spot right outside the kitchen door.

Mulching uses organic or inorganic material applied to soil to conserve soil moisture, better absorption of soil nutrients, better soil health, and decrease the chances of weed growth.

While mulching is a must for many outdoor plants, from trees to vegetables, to grow correctly, mulch is very much needed for potted plants that are kept indoors.

I have written an article on the best mulch for the garden to understand mulch better.

While it contains mulch types, which we will discuss in the following sections, it also covers tutorials on making them and the lesser-known inorganic mulch types.

Mulch may be made from grass clippings, leaves, sawdust, and pine needles, which can decompose and release a wealth of nutrients into the soil.

Tips for Mulching Potted Plants

Placing wood chip mulch around a tree

While mulching has many benefits for houseplants, it may not be that way if not done properly. So to get the best out of mulching, these tips will be good to follow.

  • Do not pack mulch high around houseplant stems to avoid rot, particularly in the winter.
  • Keep in mind that the typical outdoor mulch may be too heavy. Make the layers of mulch relatively thin, allowing for proper air circulation and preventing plants from becoming overly moist. This helps reduce the presence of bacteria. Adding too much mulch may keep the soil too wet and cause the plant to rot; an inch or so would be fine.
  • Also, arrange the materials in such a way as to make sure the sun can reach the plants. Do not overstack and put thick piles of leaves, as this will not allow for proper sunlight intake for the plants. This may also be dangerous as big heaps of mulch may cause a fire.
  • If possible, you should shred the materials to get the best out of the mulch. It is also best to let them dry first. For instance, dried leaves as mulch break down more quickly and shred easily. Consider mowing over the leaves to slice them and distributing the shredded parts evenly over the grass.
  • If the mulch is too much over the soil, it is easy to overwater plants. To avoid moisture stress, move mulch aside, exposing the ground so you don’t overwater. Make sure plants have proper drainage too. 

Also, please be reminded that not all plant containers may need mulch, as only those with a lot of exposed topsoil to air may need it.

Materials You Can Mulch With

Mulches for houseplants can be made from both natural and artificial substances. This is unlike outdoor plants, giving you a more comprehensive set of materials to use as mulch.

Tea Tree Mulch

For this, tree mulch pieces are ground into a fibrous, rich mulch that you can use on any plant. Tea tree mulch in gardens can do almost everything other types of mulch can, including preventing weeds from crowding in.

Leaf Mulch

Placing bark mulch around conifers

This is one of the more famous mulching types as it calls for recycling the already present leaves in your backyard to improve your landscape. Applying leaf mulch helps manage soil temperature as it can keep the soil warm in the winter and cooler during the summer months. Leaf mulching also gives the benefit of boosting soil fertility, which in turn reduces the need for fertilizing.

Wood Chip Mulch

Wood chip mulch is a famous choice as it breaks down slower than most organic mulch types, meaning it can be used for over a year when placed in the garden. This process also allows for the release of nutrients into the soil.

However, wood chip mulch may cause soil pH alteration, a higher fire hazard mulch, and allelopathic potentials.

This mulch type is often looked into by gardeners side by side with leaf mulch, so much so that I needed to make an article on leaf mulch vs. wood chip mulch. This covers the benefits and considerations of both mulch types side by side for your specific gardening needs.

Lucerne Hay Mulch

Potato growing through a straw mulch.

This mulch type is excellent. However, it is more expensive than its counterparts. The hay used for this mulch is rich in many essential plants, making it a great choice.

Its benefits are the following:

  • high levels of protein, potassium, calcium, iron, and other minerals
  • it increases nitrogen content in the soil
  • stimulates healthy root growth
  • prevents root disease and also feeds worms that help keep soil healthy

However, suppose you have a tight budget. In that case, it is best to look at the cheaper mulch alternatives or consider making your own from excess organic and inorganic material in your area.

Pine bark Mulch

This mulch type comes from the shredded bark of pine trees. You can mix them with fir and spruce to further suit the soil.

Pine bark mulch can come in finely shredded or doubled processed forms or, in pine nugget form, larger.

Gardeners often prefer this mulch type as it lasts longer than most organic mulches. However, pine bark mulch is relatively light, so you should try incorporating it with something heavier so the bark won’t be easily moved by wind and rain.

Stone mulches

Stone mulches, including gravel and crushed rock, serve more use for weed suppression and water permeability. They do not help provide the soil with nutrients and the like.

Newspaper and Cardboard

Newspaper and cardboard are abundant, cheap, and very effective as mulch. To get the best results, add ample water before laying it and keep it damp, particularly in summer.

Dont use colored or shiny paper products in your potted plants or anywhere else, as they contain heavy metals that can cause plant growth problems.

Shredded newspapers perform much like grass and hay. However, shredded and folded newspapers lack stability in windy conditions and must be supported with other mulch materials. Cardboard is much more stable, and some allow for good airflow. Worms also like to eat cardboard, turning it into rich humus.

Coir Mulch

This natural mulch type comes from the husks’ exterior shell of coconuts. While coir mulch can be applied easily, softening them in water for 15 minutes before adding them to the soil is best.

Sawdust Mulch

Wood shavings.

You cannot directly add sawdust into your soil, as it needs nitrogen to decompose. When it draws nitrogen out of the soil, it causes weaker plant roots.

You can solve this problem by adding organic nitrogen into the soil when adding sawdust mulch.

Other mulch types

You can use many other mulches, from pebbles and stones to straw and sugarcane mulch. They all play similar roles but may differ only slightly occasionally.

For instance, hay, sugarcane, and straw all break down easily, feeding worms and microorganisms in the potting mix as they do.

The harder mulches help suppress weeds and are more difficult to affect by nature. All in all, you should ensure the plants are getting the best conditions with the mulch.

Conclusion on mulching with potted plants

Potted plants are already beneficial to the gardener. Asides from providing aesthetic qualities to the home, they also help create space so that your gardening can be easier. Like outdoor mulch, the benefits are the same, from improving the soil quality to suppressing weeds to regulating water flow and making the garden look better.

Make sure to follow the tips which have been highlighted in this post so that the mulch can have an even better effect on your potted plants, and be sure to keep the plants under the right conditions that the mulch will favor and not simply place mulch that may not prove beneficial to the plants.

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