What Are the Drawbacks and Benefits of Rubber Mulch?

Plant emerging from garden bed covered with brownish-red rubber mulch.

When it comes time to add mulch to your garden, you have a lot of options, including bark chips, pebbles, lava rock, and even coconut coir. Over the past few years, rubber mulch has grown in popularity. In fact, you might have even seen rubber shreds on athletic fields or crumbs on your kid’s playground. So, what are the benefits of rubber mulch, and is it the right choice for your garden?

In this article, we’ll dive into the benefits of rubber mulch and also highlight some rubber mulch problems so you can make an informed decision when choosing mulch for your flower beds.

What Is Rubber Mulch?

Rubber mulch is usually sourced from shredded tires. It comes in a variety of forms, including shreds, nuggets, crumbs, sheets, and even rings that you can wrap around your trees. (Learn more about mulching around trees.)

Rubber mulch is prized for its long-lasting and durable nature, which is why it often shows up in gardens, playgrounds, athletic fields, running tracks, and even roads. 

The Benefits of Rubber Mulch

Rubber mulch offers many valuable benefits that make it a great choice for the right type of garden and landscape. Here are some of the biggest pros of adding mulch to your garden.

It Offers Longevity

Organic mulch, like wood chips and coconut husks, will eventually break down over time and require you to re-mulch your garden. Depending on your preference, you may choose to re-mulch every year if the colour of your mulch begins to fade due to exposure from the sun.

It Suppresses Weeds

One of the primary jobs of mulch is to keep weeds at bay, and rubber mulch does this job admirably. As long as you add a thick layer of rubber mulch over your garden, it will block sunlight and prevent weeds from germinating, killing them before they can grow and spread. Just make sure not to cover the plants and flowers you want to cultivate!

It Conserves Moisture

Rubber is nonporous, so it won’t absorb water. This makes it a great cover because it doesn’t compete for water, which will help your soil retain water more easily and prevent evaporation. If you live in an area prone to drought, rubber mulch can be a useful way to help conserve more water for your landscaping. 

More Colour Choices and Good Color Retention

Rubber mulch comes in a variety of colours, including blue, white, gray, brown, and black. This gives you plenty of options when it comes to designing your garden. You can choose muted colours that mimic natural elements or go with a bright colour to add personality to your garden.

Organic coloured mulches tend to fade over time, but rubber holds its colour.

It’s a Good Insulator

Rubber is an excellent insulator, which can make it especially useful for cold weather climates like Canada. Rubber will absorb and hold heat, which can help keep the soil warmer during chilly spring or fall days. This may allow you to start your garden earlier in the year and enjoy your blooms later in the season. 

It’s Recycled

Every year, tons of discarded tires end up in landfills throughout Canada. Using rubber mulch allows you to reduce some of that waste by keeping old tires out of landfills. Every little bit helps us use our limited resources a little more mindfully. 

It Provides a Safer Surface

Rubber mulch has shock-absorbing qualities that reduce the risk of injuries if someone trips or falls on the surface. The cushion it provides makes the surface a little safer than many other types of mulch.

Rubber Mulch Problems 

While the benefits of rubber mulch are substantial, there are some important drawbacks that homeowners should know about. Let’s review some of the cons of adding rubber mulch to your property. 

It Doesn’t Help the Soil

As we mentioned, organic mulches break down over time. This can be a hassle when you have to re-mulch your garden, but these organic materials can also add nutrients and healthy compounds to your soil. Rubber mulch doesn’t do that. 

It’s Expensive

Rubber mulch will cost you more upfront when compared with many other types of mulch. In some instances, it can be three times as costly as organic options. However, keep in mind that rubber mulch can last up to 10 years or more. You won’t have to keep buying more mulch every year. In the long run, rubber mulch might actually be cheaper than other types of mulch.

It Absorbs Heat

The same characteristic that allows rubber mulch to keep your soil warm can also be a negative on extremely hot days. Rubber is very good at absorbing heat. Though Canada doesn’t get many scorching days, they are becoming more common in some parts of the country. On sizzling days, hot rubber can damage your plants and even burn sensitive paws or feet. 

It’s Flammable

Rubber is extremely flammable. It also burns faster and longer than other types of mulch and may release toxic fumes if it catches fire. Wildfires have become more of a risk in certain parts of Canada. If your area is at risk of wildfires, rubber mulch might not be a good choice for your property. 

You’ll Need to Put Down Substrate

It’s not a good idea for rubber to come into direct contact with your soil. That means you’ll need to put down a form of substrate, such as landscape fabric, before you add your rubber mulch. This extra step will add time, cost, and effort to the initial task of putting down rubber mulch.

It’s Difficult to Remove

Before you put down rubber mulch, make sure your garden is exactly the way you want it. Remember, rubber doesn’t break down for a long, long time. If you decide you want to rearrange your plants, move your garden, or get rid of it altogether, you’re going to have to pick up and dispose of all that rubber mulch, which can be a long and challenging chore. 

It Can Smell

If you’ve ever walked by a playground with rubber crumbs on a hot day, then you know that rubber can smell when exposed to heat for an extended period. This smell comes from the emission of gas from the rubber, and it’s not exactly a pleasant scent during an outdoor barbecue or when you’re trying to relax on your patio.

Get Help with All Your Gardening Needs

Now that we’ve reviewed rubber mulch benefits and drawbacks, we hope you have the information you need to choose the right type of mulch for you. If you’re in the beginning stages of planning your garden, we’d love to help. The Grounds Guys® are experts at designing and building a garden from scratch. We love providing plant and flower recommendations based on your vision, budget, and climate. 

We can also take over your existing garden care, including putting down new mulch of any type. When you work with us, you’ll get knowledge, experience, and great customer service. We provide free estimates, and all our work is backed by the Neighbourly Done Right Promise™, which guarantees your satisfaction.

Ready to get the garden of your dreams? Find The Grounds Guys location nearest you and contact us for a free estimate today!