Mulch plays a major role in landscaping. From providing essential moisture and nutrients to fighting off weeds and pests, mulch is an inexpensive yet efficient way to spruce up your flower beds, walkways and gardens.

Angie’s List asked highly rated landscaping companies about the benefits of mulch and which types are available.

Mulch is commonly applied to flower beds, around the base of trees and to line walking paths, but it does a lot more than liven up landscaping - it provides added benefits to your plants.

Benefits of mulch:

  • Helps retain moisture around the base of plants.
  • Keeps plant roots warm.• Allows water to seep slowing into the ground.
  • Provides additional nutrients for the soil.
  • Mulch is a natural weed suppressor. It won’t completely rid your yard of weeds, but it’s a great option if you prefer not to use pesticides.

Types of mulch: You can choose between coarse, shredded and fine consistencies – the consistency will determine how fast the mulch decomposes – generally, the finer the faster.

  • Brown is one of the most popular colors of dyed mulch thanks to its natural look and ability to blend in with most landscapes. It's great for mulching flower beds and around water features and patios. Average price: $33.50 per yard
  • Black is another popular choice for dyed mulch, and it's often used to add contrast to flower beds and to make colorful flowers stand out. Average price: $33.50 per yard
  • Red mulch is the color to use if you want your landscaping to really stand out. Average price: $33.50 per yard
  • Gold is another popular choice for dyed mulch. Gold-tinted mulch is often referred to as "mock cypress," due to its similar appearance and consistency. Average price: $33.50 per yard
  • Hardwood mulch is screened to create smaller particles called "fines." It has the consistency of coffee grounds and it composts quickly making it a good soil additive. Average price: $29.50 per yard
  • Cypress mulch is shipped from Florida and comes in a blond or gold tint. It's durable mulch that is known to hold its color longer than other varieties. Average price: $46 per yard
  • Rubber tire mulch is great for landscaping and playgrounds. It’s made out of recycled tires that have been stripped of all wires and cut to ¼- or ½-inch pieces. Rubber tire mulch is low maintenance and absorbent to impact. Average price: $8.50 per bag

Picking out color:  Some dyed mulches like red or black can be used to add contrast, or make flowers and plants stand out in a landscape, but there is no real benefit to choosing one color over another.

Should I buy mulch in bulk or by the bag?  Mulch can be purchased bagged or bulk. Customers can save a considerable amount of money by purchasing mulch by the yard, but a delivery fee might apply. One benefit to having it delivered is you can have the mulch dumped in a convenient location to minimize trips with the wheelbarrow. If you own a truck or trailer, you can buy mulch in bulk and pick it up yourself – cutting out the delivery fee.

How much mulch?  Mulch is usually sold by the cubic yard. A quick way to estimate how much mulch you’ll need: take the length times the width to find the area and then divide by 100. One yard will cover 100 square feet at 3 inches deep.

What is the cost?  Prices vary depending on the company and geographic location. Expect to pay anywhere from $20-$50 per yard, depending on the quality of the mulch. Buying mulch in bulk may be cheaper if you need large volumes. Bagged mulch is often easier to handle, especially for smaller projects.

Avoid the mulch volcano:  The biggest mistake you can make when spreading mulch is piling it high around the base of a tree. Even if you think it looks nice, be warned that it can cause serious damage. Excessive mulch can saturate the tree roots with water which can cause rot and fungus problems, and block oxygen from reaching the roots. Keep mulch piles to 3 inches or less.

Consider this when purchasing Mulch:

  1. Think about how much work you actually want to do. You may only want to hire someone to deliver the mulch, or you may want to hire someone to spread the mulch.
  2. Does the company offer to help you get the right amount? It’s a good idea to bring in measurements of the areas where you’ll be using the mulch to get an accurate amount.
  3. Do they deliver the mulch or are you responsible for pick-up? How is the delivery charge calculated? Is it by material, weight, or location distance? Request a delivery quote.
  4. If you want it delivered, it’s a good idea to be present during delivery of the materials. If you can’t be there, be clear and detailed on the place in your yard where you would like the mulch dumped.
  5. Is the mulch good quality? Is it free of pests? Good mulch smells like freshly cut wood or has the earthy smell of a good garden soil.
  6. Compare prices. Call around to three other mulch companies to compare rates.
  7. Save some money by splitting mulch and delivery with your neighbors.