Perennial plants are the backbone of every permaculture garden, and the more established these perennial plants are the easier time they will have pushing through the mulch. Mulching has a lot of benefits, from protecting the soil to retaining water, but some perennials will have an extremely hard time growing through the mulch. Not all mulches are equal, some are so dense that they do not let light get to the soil, while others have such a large volume that pushing through them will be impossible.
During the spring season, it is common to observe perennials emerging through the layer of mulch. While most established plants can effortlessly push through the mulch on their own, it may be necessary to clear some of the mulch in spring for younger, smaller, or recently planted perennials. By selectively removing a portion of the mulch, you ensure that these plants can emerge unimpeded from their winter protective covering. This simple practice allows the plants to receive adequate sunlight, air circulation, and space to grow, promoting their healthy development and ensuring a vibrant garden.
If you tend to get a lot of leggy perennials then one of the reasons for this is that the plants have to use a lot of energy to grow through the mulch. The thicker the mulch is the slower they will be able to break the surface, and once they do they will focus most of their energy on growing tall. This tends to happen especially if you have a lot of different plants growing in a small area, some are growing way too fast which puts a lot of pressure on the perennials.
The more competition a plant has for sunlight the leggier it will become, so make sure to cover your perennial plants only with a thin layer of mulch. My personal recommendation is to use mulches that tend to break down relatively fast, like hay, grass, and straw. This way the mulch will not only protect the perennial plants but also feed them as they are decomposing. If you want more information about what kind of plants grow through the mulch then check out my recent article Will Plants Grow Through Mulch? ( Organic And Inorganic Mulches ).
Can Perennials Grow Through Mulch?
Mulch serves as a protective layer over the soil, helping to conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature. While it may initially cover the surface around the base of perennial plants, I have noticed that as perennials continue to grow and establish themselves, their stems and foliage emerge through the mulch layer. This natural process allows the plants to access sunlight and air, ensuring their continued growth and development. However, it is important to apply mulch with care, avoiding excessive thickness around the base of the plants, as it can hinder their emergence and potentially lead to rot or disease.
Perennial seedlings will not be able to grow through the mulch, mostly because mulches are excellent at suppressing weeds and their seeds from germinating. Mulches not only stop weed seeds from germinating but they will stop the germination of any kind of seeds. This is why it is so important to plant the perennial seeds into the soil directly, and most importantly do not cover these seeds up with any kind of mulch. In case you want to attract Monarch butterflies to your garden then check out my recent article Plants That Attract Monarch Butterflies ( Top 13 Plants ).
Established Perennial Plants
If you have established perennials that are at least 2-3 years old then most of these will be able to grow through the mulch. Although some perennials will be able to grow through the mulch I still do not recommend you mulch the area for several reasons. A lot of perennials tend to grow relatively slowly, and pushing through the mulch will slow them down even more. What tends to happen is until the perennial plant pushes through the mulch the weeds have already taken over and will basically choke out the perennial plant.
Perennial bulbs will grow through the mulch, provided that they will survive the winter. Bulbs tend to contain a lot of energy which they use to push through the soil and mulch. The bigger the bulb is the easier time it will have pushed through the mulch. Smaller bulbs on the other hand should be covered only by a thin layer of mulch, especially if you are using wood chips. Just keep in mind that a lot of bulbs will rot away if they do not have enough energy to push through the mulch, so mulch them thinly. If you want to know which mulch is the best for vegetable gardens then check out my recent article Best Mulch For Vegetable Garden ( Top 10 Mulches ).
Perennial shrubs will have no problem growing through the mulch although some tend to be extremely sensitive to the type of mulch you are actually using. Established perennial shrubs that are at least 2-3 years old will push through even a thick layer of wood chips mulch. If you have shrubs that you cut back to the ground every year then make sure to cover their crown only with a thin layer of mulch, just enough to protect them through the winter.
- Established perennials will grow through the mulch, but if the perennials are grown from seed then you have to remove the mulch and plant them directly into the soil. Plant bulbs will have no problem growing through the mulch even if the mulch is rather thick, they can do this because they have a lot of stored energy in the bulb. Perennial shrubs will also be able to grow through the mulch just make sure to cover their crown lightly.
- Perennial plants have the ability to send up new growth each year, even when covered with a layer of mulch. Their stems and foliage are designed to push through the mulch layer as they emerge in the growing season.
- When applying mulch around perennials, it is important to maintain the proper depth. Mulch should be spread evenly around the base of the plants, leaving some space around the stem to prevent excessive moisture buildup and potential rotting.
What kind of mulch is best for perennials?
Organic mulches like bark mulch or wood chips are commonly used for perennial beds. They help retain moisture, suppress weeds, and provide insulation for the plants during temperature fluctuations.
Is it better to mulch or not to mulch?
Mulching offers several benefits, such as conserving soil moisture, reducing weed growth, regulating soil temperature, and improving overall plant health. Therefore, it is generally recommended to mulch garden beds and around plants.
When should you remove old mulch?
It is generally recommended to remove old mulch before applying a fresh layer. This is typically done in spring or early summer when the soil has warmed up and new plant growth begins.
Should I mulch around my garden plants?
Mulching around garden plants is beneficial as it helps retain moisture, regulate soil temperature, prevent weed growth, and enhance the overall aesthetics of the garden. However, it’s important to avoid piling mulch directly against the plant stems to prevent moisture-related issues.