A lot of people simply skip on mulching their potted plants, although potted plants need a good mulch even more than plants that are growing in the soil. Your average pot is relatively small which means that the nutrients in the potting soil are also limited. Sooner or later no matter what plants you are growing the amount of nutrients will not be enough for the plants to grow strong and healthy.
You can mulch potted plants without any problems, in fact, mulch is excellent for potted plants as the mulch will actually feed the plants and will retain water. Ideally, you should mulch your potted plants with an organic mulch that decomposes quickly, like grass clippings, hay, straw, and compost. The faster the mulch can decompose the faster it will release the nutrients for the potted plants.
If you have a lawn then you should use your own grass clippings as mulch, my personal recommendation is to use a lawn mower that has a mulching option Click here to check it out on Amazon.com
Using mulch for potted plants is extremely beneficial, although it also depends on what kind of mulch you are using for the potted plants. Generally speaking, you should use an organic mulch that breaks down relatively fast. This way the mulch will add nutrients to the potted plants and your plants will thrive. On the other hand, if you are using some synthetic mulch like rubber or plastic then these can do more harm than good to your potted plants.
What kind of mulch you should use for the potted plants depends on several factors, like your local climate, if the potted plants are indoors or outside, and what kind of plants you are actually growing. If you are growing tomatoes in pots then check out my recent article Mulching Tomatoes ( Top 11 Best Mulches ).
Mulching Potted Plants With Grass Clippings
Grass clippings are one of my favorite mulches for potted plants, they release their nutrients relatively fast and retain moisture. If you are using plastic pots then you will notice that after a few weeks of direct sunlight the soil in the pots is mostly dry. Place the grass clippings mulch in the pot, without the mulch touching the actual plant as this can do more harm than good. Ideally, you should layer 1-3 inches of grass clippings, you can use both green or dryer out grass clippings and make sure to water the potted plant and the mulch.
Mulching Potted Plants With Hay
Hay is not an ideal mulch for potted plants, mostly because hay tends to be fairly long and you won’t want to clump up your pot with too much hay. If you want to use hay as a mulch for your potted plants then make sure to cut the hay into smaller pieces, this way they will easily fit in the pot. Place the hay mulch around the plant, in a 1-3 inch layer, without the mulch touching the plant and water it.
Mulching Potted Plants With Straw
If you do not have anything else to use as mulch for your potted plants then you can use straw. Although the main problem with using straw as much for potted plants is that the straw mulch tends to contain a lot of seeds, and sooner or later you will see wheat growing out of your pots. If you have large established plants in your pots then they should be fine with straw mulch, but young plants will not do well when competing with the wheat seeds germinating and taking up nutrients.
You can use straw as mulch for your potted plants by cutting the straw into smaller pieces, layer them in your pot in a 1-3 inch layer, and make sure that the mulch is not touching the stem of the plant. In addition to this also make sure to wafter the mulch for a couple of days, otherwise, if the wind picks up in your area you will be having straw all around your garden.
Mulching Potted Plants With Wood Chips
Wood chips can be used as much for potted plants, although they are mostly used for aesthetic purposes. Wood chips are excellent at retaining water and they do contain a lot of nutrients. The downside of using wood chip mulch for potted plants is that you will not have the benefits of their nutrients in the first couple of years as wood chips tend to decay relatively slowly. In some cases, you might also find that there is mold growing below the wood chips.
To use wood chips as mulch for your potted plants make sure to get a mulch that has not been dyed, place the mulch around your plant in a 1-3 inch layer without the muclh actually touching the plant, and water it.
Mulching Potted Plants With Cardboard
When most people think of mulching the potted plants they are most likely not thinking about cardboard mulch. The truth is that cardboard can be an excellent mulch for potted plants, especially for plants that have a woody stem. The cardboard tends to break down somewhat slower than hay or grass mulch but it does release a lot of nutrients once it is broken down as cardboard is made out of wood pulp.
Mulching with cardboard for potted plants is relatively easy, just cut the cardboard into thin strips and layer it 1-3 inches around the plant, make sure that the cardboard does not touch the stem of the plant. Ideally, you should use cardboard for potted plants that tend to live for several years, and not for annual plants. If you want more information about mulching with cardboard then check out my recent article Mulching With Cardboard ( Top 6 Best Practices ).
Mulching Potted Plants With Newspaper
Newspaper can be used as mulch for potted plants, although it is definitely not an ideal mulch for any potted plants. Most newspapers are made out of wood pulp, which in theory when it breaks down it should feed your plants with valuable nutrients. The problem with using newspapers as mulch for potted plants is that most newspapers are treaded with chemicals in order to be waterproof.
If you are using newspaper as mulch then you will notice that the newspaper doesn’t really hold any moisture, and once it gets wet and dries out it compacts which can actually hinder water from entering the soil. On the other hand, if you only have newspaper as mulch then make a 1-3 inch layer around your plants without the mulch touching the stem of the plant, make sure to water it and keep an eye on the newspaper so that it doesn’t dry out completely.
Mulching Potted Plants With Leaves
Leaves are an excellent mulch for potted plants, they are extremely good at retaining water, and most importantly they tend to decay rather fast which means that the nutrients trapped in the leaves will be available for your potted plants in a short time. The only problem which you might face when using leaves as mulch for your potted plants is that the winds tend to blow the mulch all over your garden.
To mulch your potted plants with leaves spread the leaves around the plant in a 1-3 inch layer without the leaves touching the stem of the plant. Ideally, you should crush the leaves with your hands before using the mulch, this way it is a lot easier to work with it. Make sure to water the mulch, this way the decaying process can start a lot faster and the wind will not blow the leaves away.
Mulching Potted Plants With Pine Needles
Pine needles are an excellent mulch, although they are not that good for potted plants. Pine needles raise the acidity of the soil, if you use the pine needle mulch for your plants that are growing in the soil then this should be fine, as pine needles only make the soil more acidic for a short period of time. On the other hand, if you use pine needles as mulch for your potted plants then you might make the soil way too acidic for the plants.
You can use both green and brown pine needles, place the pine needles around the plants in a 1-3 inch layer and make sure that the pine needles are not in direct contact with the stem of the plants. My personal recommendation is to use pine needles for potted plants that need an acidic soil, such as blueberries, if the leaves of your blueberry plants are curling then check out my recent article Blueberry Leaves Curling ( Top 5 Reasons ).
Mulching Potted Plants With Compost
Compost can be used as mulch for potted plants, although it really depends on what kind of compost you are using. If you are composting kitchen scraps then you should not use it as mulch for your potted plants as the decaying compost will attract a lot of pests like slugs, snails, and rodents. On the other hand, if you are composting organic material from your garden like grass, leaves, twigs, and so on then, you can use the compost as mulch for your potted plants.
To use compost as mulch for potted plants, place the compost around your plants in a 1-3 inch layer, without the compost touching the stem of the plant. Make sure to water the compost this way the valuable nutrients will have an easier time entering the soil in the pot.
Mulching Potted Plants With Plastic Mulch
People who tend to have a lot of potted plants will simply give up the fight against the weeds and use plastic as mulch for them. Although plastic mulch is excellent for keeping out weeds even in potted plants but this kind of mulch tends to do more harm than good. Plastic mulch absorbs and radiates heat, this will only dry out the soil in the potts, no matter how often you water the potted plant.
To mulch your potted plants with plastic mulch place the plastic fabric around your plant, and tuck its sides into the ground, this way the wind will not blow it away. Make sure to leave a large enough hole for the stem of the plant as this is where you will be watering the plant. If you have a lot of potted plants then you can use plastic as mulch for them, but otherwise, plastic mulch has more cons than pros.
Mulching Potted Plants With Rubber
Rubber mulch isn’t really intended for potted plants, usually, they are used for mulching plants that grow in the ground. The rubber mulch doesn’t really have any of the benefits of organic mulches, it doesn’t retain water, and it doesn’t break down into valuable nutrients. On the other hand, rubber mulch is great at absorbing heat, so if you use rubber as mulch for potted plants then you will sooner or later notice that the soil in the pot has dried out and compacted into a hard brick.
You can use rubber as mulch for potted plants by making a layer of 1-3 inches of mulch around your plants, make sure that the mulch is not touching the stem of the plants. In addition to this make sure to water the potted plant which has the rubber mulch every day, as a plastic pot and rubber mulch on top of it will be a small oven.
As you can see mulching potted plants is an excellent idea, as the mulch will not only be able to retain water but will also feed the plants. Make sure that the mulch doesn’t actually touch the stem of the plants as while the mulch is decomposing it could hurt the plants.