Best mulch for palm trees | Keep weeds away + grow healthy trees

There are many types of palm trees all with different needs and growth habits but all palms will benefit from mulch. Bark mulch makes the best mulch for palms in home gardens but keep the mulch away from the trunk to avoid mold and rot. Palms love mulch like sugar cane, bark, straw, pea straw or compost.

This article will explore the best mulch for palm trees for your yard and some options to try at home.

Palm trees will grow healthy with a layer of bark mulch.

How to mulch around palm trees – Quick guide

Here is my quick guide to mulch around palm trees.

1. Clear the area around the palm root zone

Mulch around palm trees by first clearing the area the tree base. Create a clear circle around 8 feet in diameter. Rake away any old palm fronds and remove any weeds under the palm tree.

2. Place a 2-3 inch layer of mulch around the root zone

Place a 2-3 inch layer of natural bark mulch around the tree’s root zone. Choosing a natural bark mulch like pine is a great choice as it will be untreated, will usually contain a mix of bark and leaf matter which will break down to improve the soil under the palm tree.

3. Keep the mulch away from the palm trunk

Keep mulch 2-3 inches away from tree trunks to avoid rot, disease and pests. Natural mulches like bark or tree mulch will to stop weeds, stop water from evaporating from the soil and to improve the soil over time.

Bark mulch will last for at least 6 months around your palm tree.

Benefits of mulching around palm trees

Applying a 2-3 inch layer of natural mulch like pine bark mulch will have multiple benefits for young and mature palms. Here are the top benefits of mulching around palm trees.

Holds moisture in the soil

Mulching around palm trees helps to hold moisture in the soil by stopping it from evaporating as quickly from the surface. During heavy rain downpours, the mulch will absorb the water, slowly releasing it into the soil and it will help to hold soil and nutrients around the roots.

Palm trees often have a ring of shallow roots which can be exposed after heavy rain. Mulch can help to hold it in place, keeping more soil around the tree and stabilizing it.

Increases organic matter in the soil

Natural mulches including bark, sugar cane, straw, pea straw, grass cuttings and leaf mulch will all increase the organic matter in the soil for your tree. Soil bacteria and worms will break down the organic matter from the mulch releasing the nutrients to your plant’s roots and adding it to your soil.

Be careful if you choose to use grass clippings as mulch that they don’t contain weed seeds. This applies to straw as well. Make sure you have a look through the bale and see if there are any obvious weeds.

Bark mulch is the best choice for this reason as it lasts longer and should be weed free.

Increases aeration for plant roots

Adding a layer of bark mulch under your palm tree will help with soil aeration. A layer of bark mulch will protect the top of the soil, keeping it moist and allowing worms to travel up to eat the mulch.

Worms will dig their way through to the soil surface to decompose the mulch. Good soil bacteria will also thrive and break down the mulch releasing the nutrients into the soil.

As the organic matter from the mulch is mixed into the soil by the worms, more air will be added and available for the palm roots to grow deep and healthy.

Mulch regulates soil temperature

Mulch placed around palm trees will help to regular soil temperatures during extremes. A layer of mulch acts like a blanket on the soil slowing down the temperature change from getting very cold or very hot.

Mulch layers can protect your palm’s roots during a cold snap and prevent frost from sitting directly on the roots.

Bark mulch works like a blanket in the winter and an air conditioner in the summer protecting tree roots from rapid temperature changes.

Protect palm roots from damage by surrounding them with mulch.

Protects palm roots from damage from mowers

Layering mulch around the tree base over the roots zone can act like a protective layer an barrier to stop lawn mowers or line trimmers from damaging the trunk. The mulch will act like a barrier stopping machines from coming too close.

Mulch will also protect the palm tree roots from damage from pets or people walking across them. The mulch will act like a cushion, reducing the pressure and impact of feet.

Mulch stops weeds

One of the best benefits of adding mulch around palm trees is weed control. A 2-3 inch layer of mulch will be enough to stop most weed seeds from growing through and competing with the tree for nutrients and water.

Mulch will block the light from reaching weed seeds and stop them growing.

Weeds that do manage to grow through the mulch will be easy to remove as they have had to stretch to grow through. The soil will also be softer because of the mulch and the roots of the weeds will  come out easily.

Why keep mulch away from palm tree trunks

Here are the top reasons to keep mulch away from the trunk of the palm tree.

Allow oxygen to reach palm roots

Keeping mulch away from the palm trunk trunks will allow air to flow through to the roots easily. Palms often have exposed root near the trunk and the additional air movement will help to prevent rot.

A 2-3 inch gap between the mulch and the trunk will allow excess water to drain down to the soil.

If roots do not get enough oxygen, they can slow their growth, stopping the tree from growing well and can even result in tree death.

Avoid disease and rot

Keeping mulch away from the palm trunk will avoid excess moisture and other problems such as mold and fungus. Tree trunks that have mulch placed close to the base are more likely to grow mushrooms and toadstools which can look unsightly

Other diseases including root rot can occur if the trunk is kept wet which can cause damage to the roots, trunk and can eventually kill the tree.

Avoid post attack

Keeping moist mulch against a palm trunk can make it easier for pests such as termites, rats, mice and ants to live and damage the tree trunk. Keeping the mulch away from the trunk will stop them from having easy access to the woody part of the tree and they are less likely to cause damage

Mulching around palm trees surrounded by grass

There is no need to add extra mulch around palm trees grown in grass. Mowing the grass and allowing some lawn clippings to decompose back into the lawn will be a great way to feed the tree and the lawn.

For young palm trees or newly planted palms it is great to add a layer of mulch around their base instead of growing grass. A mulch layer around the drip line of the tree is a great guide which is the imaginary line that would reach the outside of the leaves.

The mulch layer can be widened as the palm grows to feed and protect the roots and offer all the benefits of mulch like weed control and keeping moisture in the soil.

Mulching around palms with exposed roots

When mulching around palms with exposed roots, keep the mulch back from the root area. This will avoid rot, insect damage or fungus growth. Treat exposed roots like you would the tree trunk and keep the mulch at least 2-3 inches away.

Mulch will move over time so use a rake to move it back from exposed roots and allow air movement.

Mulching around palm trees – FAQ’s

Should you mulch around large palm trees?

Mulch around large mature palm trees if the soil under their canopy has no other coverage. Cover bare soil with a natural mulch such as bark mulch as this will not easily blow away and will protect tree roots.

Mulch layered 2-3 inches thick will improve the soil under your tree and keep the soil temperature and prevent weeds.

Do you need mulch around palm trees?

While you don’t need to mulch around palm trees they will grow better if you do. Mulch provides protection from weeds and any damage from feet or mowers. Mulch will increase water retention, improve the soil and protect tree roots.

If you already have a covering of grass around your palm trees, leave the grass and keep it mowed regularly.

Does mulch around palm trees kill them?

Mulch around palm trees will only kill them if it is laid thicker than 4 inches or is placed against the tree trunk. This can cause rot, starve the roots of oxygen or heat up the soil too much as the mulch breaks down and traps heat.

Keep mulch layers to a maximum of 3 inches thick to allow extra heat to escape and water to come through to the roots.

Best mulch for palm trees | Summary

The best mulch for palm trees are natural mulches like tree mulch or sugar cane mulch. Choose mulch that is free of weeds and has a variety of sized pieces. Tree mulch will have leaves, stems and larger bark pieces which will all break down to feed the tree and prevent weed growth.

Happy mulching.