I live in a Mediterranean climate. My soil is light in clay, so it is somewhat sandy. Still, when it's low in organic matter it hardens when dry, since it has some clay in it. The said area has: Parodia Leninghausii, Sansevieria Cylindrica, Echeverias and Aloe hybrids.

My plan: use wood chips mulch, which has some advantages over stone mulch:

1- degrades slowly by fungi, which release some nutrients to the plants and enhance microorganism activity,

2- Less hassle while doing maintenance work, like moving or introducing plants. Easy to rake the work area,

3- porous, allows air and water, though aeration is slow. Chips that were left after raking do not block air and water, because they degrade, while stones accumulate over the years.

4- slugs may feed on the decaying chips, leaving my succulents alone.

So, would my succulents do better with chip mulch than with stone mulch?

3 Answers 3


You may be able to have the best of both worlds when it comes to mulch. This idea works, but depends on a large extent on the size of the garden (the larger, the better).

You could use wood chips as the basic mulch in the bed, but NOT around the crowns of your plants. Around them, use small rocks/pebbles. It's like putting small doughnuts into a larger area. This should illustrate what I mean (brown = chips, gray = pebbles, green = plants):

enter image description here

The pebbles keep the crowns of the plants away from organic material, which prevents crown rot.

Since you're not using landscape fabric, it's easy to scrape away the chips (as you noted) to add plants, and it's also not too difficult to move the pebbles aside to replant if you lose something.

Please do not use bark here, but use arborist wood chips if available.

  • It's not a bad plan except for the wood chips. Bark superior to wood chips in every way. Buying it bagged insures you know what's in it. It's on the bag. Buy it bulk chips you have no clue what is chipped up.
    – GardenGems
    Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 1:44
  • @GardenGems - I base my horticultural practices on science, not anecdotes. See link I posted earlier for justification for using chips over bark.
    – Jurp
    Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 15:41
  • I already up voted your plan, because it is for the most part good. I like the creative compromise with wood and stone. What else do you want? I don't come one here to argue with someone. I love that you can just write a different answer than someone else if you disagree. Not spend time throwing punches. Waste of energy.
    – GardenGems
    Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 15:53
  • @GardenGems - I agree 100% with the end of your most recent comment. It just seemed to me that you hadn't even looked at the link I sent, which is why I wrote my previous comment. Life is way too short to hold grudges, and gardening is supposed to be stress-relieving. Flame-wars are a total waste of time :)
    – Jurp
    Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 17:50

Yes, you can use chipped wood, but chipped bark is a better alternative to chipped wood. Chipped bark breaks down slower, less likely to rob your plants of the nitrogen they need. Certain microbes break down organic matter, they feed off the nitrogen in the soil. If your wood is breaking down fast you will have an explosion of microbe growth. This explosion will not only rob the nitrogen from the wood chips, but the soil as well. The wood chips will have very little chance of being a soil conditioner.

I am uncertain what kind of access you have to ground bark. In Canada and the States, we would use primarily pines and fir. (The primary fir is Douglas Fir, which is not even a fir, an Abies, but Abies does work for your application. I believe you have better access to pine bark. Many people also use aged hardwood bark as well. Both barks have positives and negative. But, neither is necessarily better than the other. Hardwood mulch will leave the soil more alkaline and conifer mulch will leave the soil more acidic.

Rock is a pretty horrible mulch. It provides nothing for the soil. It allows weed seeds to get in between the stones and grow. It's impossible to pull up the weeds, roots and all if there is rock in the way. Yes, it does make adding more plants more difficult as well.

You are wrong on the slugs. If anything you will have more slugs. They will be able to hide under the mulch in the hot day and come out to feed at night. All mulch, even rock will give slugs a better chance of creating damage. If you had choose between eating wood or a nice juicy aloe plant, what would you choose?

If you can find ground bark from a conifer plant or aged hardwood. This does not mean you can not use wood chips. You can still use wood chips. You will just need to provide a synthetic fertiliser with high nitrogen content, like lawn fertiliser. Something with a nitrogen rate of 20% or more during the growing season.

If you have any more questions please ask.

  • I guess it is bark. I will have to look up closely at whatever is marketed locally to see if that is inner wood or the bark. One type available is an orchid potting medium, so I think this is bark. There are larger bags which sell cheaper per unit but I have to see what that is. Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 19:21
  • Anything market at a garden centre will be appropriate. Just don't buy it from a local arborist or landscaper. Buy the bagged stuff. You can buy bark nuggets of ground bark. I prefer the ground bark. It does break down quicker than the nuggets, but it does not float away in the rain . It will also start to condition your soil now. You can put a small layer of it down and a layer of nuggets on top if you prefer the look of the nuggets. The ground bark will keep the nuggets from washing away.
    – GardenGems
    Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 19:50
  • @GardemGems - Bark is actually a worse mulch than wood chips, especially in this situation, because it tends to lock together and prevent any water from reaching the roots (it runs off, instead). It also tends to have a ton of fines (sawdust), which promotes rot around plant crowns and stays wet a lot longer than chips when it does get water. Also, microbes only rob the soil of N at the mulch/soil interface, which doesn't affect plant roots.See here for more info: s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/403/2015/03/wood-chips.pdf.
    – Jurp
    Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 22:44
  • Oh yeah, do NOT buy the bagged mulch; 1. You will over-pay for it. 2. It's often (in the US) shredded pallets, which tend to give nasty slivers. 3. It's sometimes (in the US at least) made from forests that are being clear-cut just for making mulch, especially if it's cypress (not a paper mill byproduct). This is not eco-friendly. 4. If colored, no one knows what exactly is in the dye that colors the chips. Do you really want to put unknown chemicals on your landscape? Locally, you can often get chips from city or town "brush piles", often for free.
    – Jurp
    Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 22:48
  • @Jurp I am talking about ground bark, bot bagged mulch. Bagged mulch can be anything. I am specifically talking about using bark instead of using what the landscaper chipped up, or any kind of chip. Bark will does allow in moisture. You even say it traps moisture. Xmas snow lives in the Mediterranean, where the soil is clay mixed with chalk. It repels water. They want something to hold in water.
    – GardenGems
    Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 1:36

Depends how much rain you get - if you live in an area where it doesn't rain often, but when it does, it rains heavily, or alternatively, it rains quite often but its more showery,both wood and bark chips aren't such a great idea compared with stone chippings because they hold onto moisture and take a while to dry out. Plants such as echeverias are shallow rooted, and wood chips might be too damp for them when it rains, though you might get away with a light application of wood chips around deeper rooting succulent plants. https://www.mybluprint.com/article/tips-for-growing-succulents

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