17 Cedar Mulch Pros and Cons

Cedar mulch is a product which naturally adds some charm to your landscape. It is a natural product made from the waste materials of the cedar tree, allowing you to decorate while helping your plants to grow strong and healthy thanks to all of the benefits that mulching provides.

Using the cedar tree to create mulch is advantageous to the environment because they grow quickly and easily. They can also grow in a variety of environmental zones, which means commercial processing can occur almost anywhere in the country. They handle the heat of the south just as well as the cold of the north.

A fully-grown tree can reach a mature height of about 60 feet and a width of 25 feet, offering plenty of natural resources for mulching. When there are leftover items from fencing and similar construction projects, untreated cedar is an excellent gardening resource to use.

List of the Pros of Cedar Mulch

1. It provides a long-lasting result for your beds without requiring much maintenance.
As with most other wood and bark mulches that are available today, cedar mulch can last for quite some time with a simple installation process. All you need to do is lay down a landscaping fabric over the areas where you wish to add this product. Cut some holes in various spots where you have plants or flowers growing to give them a head start against any weeds that might try to form.

You can even add cedar mulch to beds without any weed control fabrics if you want a quick improvement to an area. You’ll typically see a reduction in unwanted plant growth for about a season with each new addition.

2. It adds more nutrients to the soil.
Because cedar mulch is an organic product, its presence on top of the soil will help to provide it with more nutrients over the course of each growing season. It provides this benefit in two ways – by keeping moisture and temperature levels more consistent at ground level while providing nutrient additions as the wood matter starts to decompose around your beds and gardens.

3. It provides a layer of protection against insect pests.
Cedar mulch naturally repels many of the insects that would become bothersome in your garden or around your flower beds. You don’t need to apply an insecticide or any other additive to gain this benefit because the wood does it naturally thanks to the natural oils and chemicals it contains, such as thujone.

The number of insect pests that you can reduce or eliminate from your property with the inclusion of cedar mulch is extensive. Cockroaches, termites, carpet beetles, certain ant species, and cloth-eating moths all avoid this product when you have it in your garden or around you landscape plants.

4. It offers a pleasant aroma to the air for your gardens and landscaping plants.
The aroma of cedar is so profound that the essential oils that come from this tree are useful in aromatherapy. “Inhaling the aroma of cedar essential oil is thought to transmit messages to a brain region involved in controlling emotions,” reports Verywell Health. “Known as the limbic system, this region also influences the nervous system… and it may affect a number of biological factors, including heart rate, stress levels, breathing, blood pressure, and immune function.”

When you spread out cedar mulch on your property, then the odor of the natural oils will come out for you to enjoy. You might notice the scent can be particularly strong when the wood and bark becomes wet from watering activities or the rain. It is a highly pleasant experience that artificial mulches or compost cannot replicate.

5. It helps the soil in your garden and landscaping beds to retain more moisture.
One of the problems that outdoor flowers and plants must control is moisture retention. On a day that is dusty and stuffy, much of the surface water in the soil can vanish, leaving nothing left to absorb. When you add a cedar mulching product to your yard and gardens, then less of it disappears from the ground. That means you can usually water your plants less often, especially if you take the opportunity to fluff and rake the product monthly.

6. It improves the temperature of the soil throughout each season.
When you have a layer of cedar mulch resting above your soil at the exact depth recommended, then you are forming an insulative cover that can reduce the trauma of winter on your shrubs and perennials. This product maintains the warmth near the surface with consistency so that you have stronger plants when spring comes. You will experience less frost damage with it in place as well without diminishing the amount of moisture that can reach the roots of your plants whenever the white stuff decides to arrive on your property.

7. It provides a polished, formal look to your property.
Cedar mulch is an affordable accessory to any landscaping design. Even if you do not obtain your mulch in bulk, the cost of a container at your local repository is usually between $4 to $7 per bag. That makes it a budget-friendly property improvement project that can offer an instant boost to the curb appeal of your landscaping.

Since cedar mulch is simple to care for and won’t clash with your plants for attention, it is a low-maintenance choice to consider as well. You will want to ensure that there are borders around your gardens or landscaping to prevent big chips from entering your lawn or walkways as they could cause damage or an injury during yard work.

8. It encourages a healthier soil by attracting more earthworms.
When you use organic cedar mulch with your flowerbeds and gardens, then you will encourage more earthworms to occupy your soil. The same temperature and moisture benefit your plants receive with this product support their presence all year long. Excellent soil health requires their existence because they can provide structural support and nutrient cycling in every season. Even if the quality of your soil is inferior, you can add a layer of commercialized topsoil, and then a layer of cedar mulch on top of that, to encourage a fast improvement in the quality of your beds.

Deb’s Garden suggests using a specific application for your organic mulch. “When applying mulch around a plant, be sure to leave a doughnut hole around the trunk. Never pile mulch in a volcano next to it. Then do not apply more than a two- to three-inch deep layer of mulch around a plant. Wider is better than thicker.”

9. It works to prevent soil erosion on your property.
You are forming a protective layer for your flowerbeds and gardens with cedar mulch that acts as a preventative agent against erosion. The larger pieces will secure themselves when they experience moisture because the natural textures start to swell. This process creates a rigid surface that contributes enough strength to bolster almost any region on your property.

This protective layer can operate against you during the growing season sometimes if it becomes too dense. Try to fluff and rake the cedar mulch enough to let moisture come through it without overdoing it if you’re trying to protect the stability of the soil.

10. It does not contribute to a lowering of soil pH levels.
Christ Starbuck from the University of Missouri at Columbia extensively tests the effects of cedar mulch on the natural pH levels of the soil that lies underneath it. His work tracks the acidity of the product, finding that it doesn’t create lower numbers despite its long-term presence in some situations. Because the cedar tree tends to prefer acidic soil for growth, there may be a public assumption that it causes a problem with local soils, but it rarely does.

List of the Cons of Cedar Mulch

1. It will lose its color right away.
Cedar mulch is notoriously bad for losing its color. When you look at cedar fences that are installed around your area (or even at your home), you will see that the material turns a gray color within a season or two. This hue can be extremely unpleasant to see for some people. You can restore the color with a pressure washer to your fencing, but that is not usually possible with mulch since the pieces are much smaller. That means you’ll need to constantly replenish this material if you want the brighter earth tones that are available when this product is brand new.

2. It will lose its repellant qualities over time as well.
Cedar mulch does an excellent job of repelling insects over the course of a season, but the natural oils will eventually go into your soil. Once that substance is gone, then the insects will start to come back once again. If you live in a high moisture environment, you might not even make it through a full growing season before the bugs begin to return. You might try mixing some cypress mulch with the cedar to reduce the issues with disadvantage, especially if you’re not a big fan of the gray color that cedar mulch turns as it ages.

3. It can encourage the growth of fungi in your flowerbeds and gardens.
When you manage your landscaping or plant a garden, then your flowers, shrubs, and trees prefer to have soil that has a lot of bacteria. These plants consume the natural elements as a nutrient, providing for germination and ongoing results throughout each season.

If you add cedar mulch as a way to preserve your planted areas, then you can see several years of improvement with this product in most climates. Then the fungi will start to establish dominance on your property, leading to a deterioration in overall production. If you live in a hot and humid geographic location, difficulties can be observed in as little as 24 months in some circumstances because you’re using organic materials for this process.

4. It only works well when you use it with perennials, trees, and shrubs.
You should only use a cedar mulch when your perennials, trees, or shrubs need a little help to get through the winder. It will help to maintain warmer temperatures in the winter, cooler temps in the summer, and promote better aeration. If you use it in a bed that needs replanting every year, then this product is not recommended because it can cause problems with plant germination.

5. It creates a potential fire hazard if you place the mulch near a structure.
When you install cedar mulch around your house or an outdoor structure like a shed, then you’re creating a potential fire risk. This problem manifests itself in environments that are arid and hot most often, but it is a risk for everyone to examine. You’ll want to keep any cookery, torches, lighters, lanterns, and flames away from this product at all times to bypass this issue.

Wind becomes a crucial determinant with this disadvantage too. The chips from the cedar mulch are lighter than most artificial products that produce similar results, so you could have it blow away during a massive storm. If the product catches fire and then begins to float about, you could discover a terrible situation developing without much time to respond to it.

6. It does not always blend into the soil as intended.
One of the benefits that happen when you choose most wood chip or bark mulch products is that the organic materials start to blend into the soil after a season or two. When you choose cedar for this need with your gardens or beds, the opposite result can occur. The composition of this material is different than other tree-based mulch, which means it won’t blend or rot to offer nutrient benefits right away. That leaves you with a product that looks bad and might require removal before you can start the next season.

7. It is more expensive than other wood mulch options.
If you’re trying to restrict the number of insects and pests that are on your property, then cedar mulch is an excellent choice to consider. You’ll reduce the cost of pest control while beautifying your space. When this isn’t a need for your property, then the price of cedar is significantly higher than hardwood mulches that are available right now. If you search at the retail level for this material, then you will discover that the price can be 2-3 times higher for cedar compared to pine and some other options.

The pros and cons of cedar mulch can assist you in the choice of this landscaping option over competitive products. There are numerous benefits that you can see on your property immediately upon installation. There are also circumstances where this may not be the best product you could use. If you’re not sure which mulch work maximize the health of your soil, then speak with a local landscaper, nursery specialist, or master gardener in your area to see what they would recommend. That way, you can discover the best possible solution to beautify your property.

About the Author
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.