I knew mulch is awesome for plants in the garden. But I wanted to know if mulch is beneficial for potted plants as well.

Potted plants should be mulched by adding materials such as wood chips, dried leaves, straw, or hay on the potting soil. The mulch helps regular soil temperature, helps retain moisture, and protects roots from the intense heat. It improves aesthetic appeal of the potted plants.

I’ve written details below on what kinds of mulch you can use for your potted plants, how you should apply the mulch, and when to take it away. So keep reading.

What are the benefits of mulching potted plants?

1. Helps regulate soil temperature

The soil temperature is important because the roots of your plant are sensitive to sudden changes in heat and cold. This can cause them damage or death if they’re not protected from these fluctuations.

Adding mulch to potted plants helps prevent the soil temperature from fluctuating as much as it would without mulch.

2. Helps retain moisture in potting soil

The mulch in potted plants will help the soil retain moisture. This is a major benefit because you don’t need to worry about soil drying out as quickly.

Mulching potted plant pots can reduce water evaporation from your container garden by up to 50%. This will save you time spent watering the plant and the risk of underwatering.

My holy basil plant that was wilting due to underwatering

3. Improves aesthetics of the potted plant

The mulch in your potted plant will help cover up the soil and make it look pleasing to the eye. This will make your potted plants look more attractive and pleasing to visitors to your garden or home.

4. Helps protect roots from the sun

The mulch on the potting soil will help avoid exposure of roots to the harsh sunlight. This will prevent the roots from damage due to drying out.

It will also protect the roots from being attacked by pests that may be present in the potting soil.

5. Prevent weeds from growing

One major benefit of mulching potted plants is preventing the germination of weed seeds.

This will help to keep your potted plants from getting infested with weeds. And reduce the time you need to spend pulling out those weeds.

6. Protect the plant from diseases

Adding mulch to the potting soil helps prevent it from splashing on the foliage when watering the plant. This prevents diseases present in the soil from reaching the foliage of the plant.

7. Adds organic matter to potting soil

If you use organic mulch for the potted plant, it will decompose over time. This adds organic matter to the potting soil, which is beneficial for plants.

The organic matter contains nutrients beneficial for the plant. It also contains beneficial organisms that improve the soil texture that helps with aeration and moisture retention.

8. Protects potting soil from pets

Pets tend to dig into potting soil and mess their paws and your house. If you use mulch in the potted plant, it will cover up the soil and prevent pets from digging into it.

What are some types of mulch for potted plants?

Wood chips

You can use wood chips as mulch for potted plants but it is best not to cover up more than one-third at most with them. Make sure they are dry before using them.

You can either buy wood chips from your local garden center (which may cost more) or save some money by buying bags at home improvement stores like Lowes where there’s usually plenty on hand if needed.

It is also important that you don’t use wood from trees with any type of fungus on their bark such as oak which may spread spores onto your potting soil.

Dried leaves

Dried leaves are a good mulch to use for potted plants but you need to shred them before using them. Also, make sure they are clean and dry before adding to the potting soil.

Grass clippings

Dried grass clippings can be used as mulch for potted plants but they need to have been dried out first.

You can leave them in the sun to dry but don’t pile them up too high. That can cause them to rot quickly.


You can use straw or hay as mulch for the potted plant but it needs to be dry and not moldy.

These materials will not decompose fast and can be used in the winter when other types of material are unavailable


Moss can be used as mulch for potted plants but it needs to be dry and not moldy. Spanish moss as mulch is suited for potted plants that are in a shady area.


You can use paper such as from books, newspapers as mulch for potted plants. Make sure to shred them up before adding them to the potted plant.

Don’t use paper from glossy magazines as the paper may contain chemicals not suited for plants. And it will take a lot longer to decompose into the potting soil.

Pine needles

Pine needles are a good choice for mulching potting plant pots because they will not decompose fast and can be used in the winter when other types of material are unavailable.

You should only use pine needles that have been dried out first. Or they may rot down quickly or cause mold to grow on your potting soil.


The hemp works well as mulch for potted plants because it is a weed-suppressing mulch and it decomposes quickly.

Coconut coir

This material is a good choice as mulch because it will break down and improve the soil texture. It’s inexpensive and should last you a long time.

Peat moss

Peat moss is an expensive option as mulch for potted plants but it is also a good choice because of its acidity and ability to suppress weeds.


Compost is one of the best choices as mulch for potted plants because it will help improve the soil texture over time. It will also introduce beneficial organisms to the potting soil.

When should you apply mulch to potted plants?

You should not add mulch if you have just planted the seeds. The best time to apply mulch to potted plants is when the seedlings are 2-4 inches high. This is when the roots of plants are starting to grow.

They need protection from sun, wind, or rain damage as well as cold temperatures that could kill them off before they have time for their first set of leaves (cotyledons). 

If you have already mulched the potted plants, wait until they are at least two inches high before adding more to avoid suffocating them or causing root rot from too much moisture in their potting soil and not enough air circulation around it (which is what happens when a plant’s roots get wet). 

The best time of year for this type of application would be springtime because that’s usually after weeding season but still early on so there isn’t any chance yet if frost coming back again soon which could kill off newly planted seeds just as fast.

The timing also ensures your new planting will grow strong with plenty of sunlight without being damaged by windy days ahead – all while staying warm during colder months.

How to apply mulch to potted plants?

You should place the mulch on the potting soil but keep it 3 inches away from the base of the plant.

Make sure the mulch is dry and preferably in small pieces. If you are using dried leaves, paper, wood chips, make sure to shred or chop them up into smaller pieces.

The mulch should be applied to the top of your potting soil and not on it because that will create a barrier between your plant roots from getting enough water, air, or nutrients they need for healthy growth.

You can apply a 2-inch layer of mulch on top of the potting soil. Just make sure this material doesn’t touch leaves where diseases could spread easily by contact alone (like black spot). 

You should water your potted plants after applying mulch to ensure that it is not too dry or wet for them.

How to water potted plants with mulch?

You need to separate the mulch from the base of the plant before watering. If you pour water on the mulch it may lead to water retention and root rot.

You should water the potting soil till the water runs out from the drainage holes at the bottom. And then you can put the mulch back on the potting soil.

You can use a watering wand with an adjustable nozzle, which will allow you more control over the amount of moisture in each pot and also help prevent overwatering.

If you have several potted plants you can consider using drip irrigation or a soaker hose. These are suited to work with mulch as they will drip water into the potting soil over time. You don’t need to separate the mulch when using these watering methods.

When should you remove mulch from potted plants?

You should remove mulch when the growing season has ended and the plant is dormant. You should remove mulch if you see pests or fungal growth on the mulch.

Remove mulch when you notice that it has become too dry and brittle to be effective as a water-retainer, or if there are any signs of disease on your plants.

You should also remove mulch if it’s compacted and blocking water flow to the roots.

You may need to add a fresh layer of compost, fertilizer, or potting soil on top. That is also the time you need to remove mulch before adding those materials.

Further Reading

It’s important to mulch potted plants for regulating soil temperature and protecting from weeds and pests. But there are other important basic activities such as fertilizing and pruning as well. Check out more details in the post below,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.