Bark vs Mulch – Pros and Cons

By John Brown •  Updated: 02/13/24 •  4 min read

Bark vs mulch are both popular choices for dressing your garden beds, but choosing between them can be confusing. While both offer similar benefits like weed suppression and moisture retention, they each have their unique characteristics and impact on your plants.

In this article, we’ll delve into the comparison between these two options to help you make an informed decision for your outdoor space.

The table below offers a quick overview of the key differences between bark and mulch, making it easier to compare their characteristics at a glance.

Bark vs Mulch Comparison Table

AppearanceNatural, rusticVaries depending on materials used
Weed suppressionEffectiveEffective
Moisture retentionHighModerate to High
Decomposition rateSlowModerate
Nutrient enrichmentProvides nutrients as it decomposesProvides nutrients as it decomposes
CostTypically higherLower
AvailabilityWidely availableWidely available

Can bark be used as mulch?

Absolutely! Bark is a popular choice for mulching due to its natural appearance and beneficial properties. When used as mulch, bark helps suppress weeds, retain moisture in the soil, and regulate soil temperature.


Additionally, bark gradually decomposes over time, enriching the soil with organic matter and nutrients, thus promoting healthy plant growth.

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Is it better to use mulch or bark?

Mulch and bark both serve as effective ground coverings, but they have distinct differences in terms of appearance, functionality, and suitability for different landscaping needs.

While mulch is typically composed of various organic materials such as shredded leaves, straw, or compost, bark consists of the outer protective layer of trees, usually shredded or chipped into smaller pieces.

Below is a photo of my garden bed that I incorporated mulch about 3years ago. I live in a place that has extreme weather, hence it gets really hot during summer and cold during winter. This photo was taken during the hot season.

From the photo, you can see that some of it has decomposed but still very much intact.

Mulch Garden Bed ~ Photo Credits John Brown – Build and Revamp

Pros and Cons of Bark

Pros of bark:

Cons of bark:

  1. Cost compared to other mulching materials: Bark mulch may be more expensive than alternative mulching materials such as wood chips or straw, depending on the type and quality of bark used.
  2. Potential for insect attraction: Some types of bark mulch may attract insects, although this is typically not a significant issue in well-maintained garden beds.
  3. Decomposition rate and need for replenishment: Bark mulch decomposes gradually over time, requiring periodic replenishment to maintain its effectiveness as a mulching material.
  4. Limited availability of certain bark types in certain regions: Depending on your location, certain types of bark may be more difficult to obtain, limiting your options for mulching materials.

Bark and mulch share many similarities in their benefits and drawbacks. However, it’s important to uncover their unique traits to make the best choice for your garden.

In addition to the points we’ve covered, mulch offers its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Additional Pros of Mulch

  1. Erosion control: Mulch helps prevent soil erosion by reducing water runoff and surface erosion, particularly in sloped areas.
  2. Temperature regulation: Mulch helps regulate soil temperature, keeping it cooler in hot weather and warmer in cold weather, which can benefit plant roots.
  3. Aesthetic appeal: Mulch adds visual appeal to garden beds, providing a neat and uniform appearance while enhancing the overall landscape design.

Additional Cons of Mulch:

  1. Nutrient leaching: In areas with heavy rainfall or overwatering, nutrients in the mulch may leach out of the soil, potentially leading to nutrient deficiencies in plants.
  2. Attraction to pests: Certain types of mulch, particularly organic varieties, may attract pests such as termites, ants, or slugs, which can become problematic if not managed properly.
  3. Flammability: Some mulch materials, especially those that are dry and finely textured, can pose a fire hazard in dry conditions, particularly in wildfire-prone regions.


In the debate between bark and mulch, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The decision ultimately comes down to your specific landscaping needs, preferences, and budget considerations.

Whether you opt for the natural aesthetics of bark or the versatility of traditional mulch, both options offer distinct benefits for enhancing the health and beauty of your garden.

John Brown

John Brown brings a wealth of experience and passion for DIY, Home and Garden, and Woodworking. With a dedication to empowering enthusiasts, he shares insights, tips, and comprehensive guides to help you transform spaces and master woodworking skills.