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Dark Brown Mulching for Landscaping

Updated on May 31, 2013

Make Your Landscaping Pop!

When it comes to choosing a mulch color, dark brown mulching for landscaping purposes has some very neat characteristics that make it an attractive option, but you should know how that dark brown color is achieved to be sure you are selecting the correct type of mulch.

The greatest benefit of using a dark colored mulch is that it will make certain landscape plants literally jump out from the dark backdrop. This is particularly true of bright tulips and daffodils, bright summer or fall flowers or shrubs, and even evergreens. The increase in contrast makes anything of color more impressive.

Beware the Dye!

I love the deep color of chocolate colored mulch, but you should know that if you leave this on your driveway for much time at all it will leave a stain for a while, so be ready to move the mulch to the garden when it's delivered, and pick a day it won't rain.

Dyed Hardwood Mulch

One of the most common brown mulch options is a dyed hardwood mulch. You can easily find this in nearly any home center or landscaping supply store. Because of this, it is easy to top off every few years and reasonably inexpensive.

The way that hardwood mulch is turned dark brown is with a dye. There are two things that you need to understand about this. First, that dye won't last forever, and the deep color will fade in the sun over time. Second, that dye may not be something you wish to consume, so think twice about planting vegetables in a mulch garden where dyed mulch is used.

Hardwood mulch is simply shredded hardwood trees, so this typically comes from scrap wood, fallen trees, or woods that are regenerated, making it a comfortable choice. It also means that the mulch will decay and slowly turn to soil over the years, enriching the soil. It will need to be topped off every few years to keep its color and weed controlling properties.

brown mulch makes colorful flowers pop out
brown mulch makes colorful flowers pop out

What About Coconut Mulch?

Coconut mulch is a more recently popularized but effective way to add rich brown color to your landscape beds. It is simply shredded coconut shells that can be used just like any other mulching material.

What's unique about coconut shell mulch is the look. It has the look of small curved shells, that make it smooth looking and easy to spread. It also means that it is easy to kick around, so depending on how your mulched areas are used this may be a factor.

You will find that coconut mulch decomposes much slower than hardwood mulch, which makes this a good choice for those who want a few more years between applications. It does just as well as hardwood for moisture retention and weed blockage, however - sometimes even better.

You can expect to look a little harder for find this mulch and the price will be a bit higher, but it is a neat option. Also, beware the difference between coconut, or coco mulch, and cocoa mulch, which is derived from the cocoa bean. The cocoa variety could very well be toxic to your pet.

When to Use Rubber Mulch

These days it seems that you can buy rubber mulch in nearly any color, and dark brown is no exception. Rubber mulch is often made from things like recycled tires or other recycled items, and it will basically never decompose, so installation is rather permanent.

This is a very good choice for mulch near a swing set or playground since these kids outdoor activities sometimes cause falls and the mulch has cushioning properties that will protect them. It is also easy to rake off the grass if kids kick it around a bit. However, it is rather expensive and, since it is not a natural material, it does nothing to improve soil.

Rubber mulch is a neat option for areas for kids, but for areas with landscape plants it's best to focus on hardwood or coconut mulch.

Everything stands out in dark brown mulch - even this snail.
Everything stands out in dark brown mulch - even this snail. | Source

Least Expensive Mulch

If price is your main concern, expect to pay the most for rubber mulch among these three. Depending on where you look, the price between dyed dark brown mulch and coconut mulch may be comparable.

A good place to start is at a local landscaping company, especially if you need more that a cubic yard or two. A truck delivery will likely save you money over bags. However, if you have just a small space to cover in mulch, bags from a big box store are a reasonably economical way to go.

Why Choose Different Types of Mulch?

The type of mulch you choose for deep color depends on your needs. For play areas, look into rubber mulch. For all others, consider hardwood for the availability and price or go with coconut mulch if you can find it and want a cleaner look with less maintenance.

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