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Tropical gardens are loved for their dense canopies of exotic looking foliage and flowers. These gardens typically resample tropical rainforests and paradise like holiday destinations.
Primarily, tropical gardens are characterised by their exotic looking plants and densly planted borders. This is also the case for tropical gardens in colder climates.
Cold hardy, tropical looking, evergreen, plants are planted to create a tropical effect. Tropical rainforests are well known for their deep leaf litter and decomposer ecosystems.
Therefore, mulching for tropical gardens is both aesthetically and functionally important. Here I will explain the importance of mulching and which are the best mulches for tropical gardens.
Benefits of mulch inside tropical gardens
Tropical gardens are typically recognised for their dense borders of varying sized plants. This can lead to competition between plant roots for both water and nutrients.
Therefore, a generous layer of mulch will help to keep the borders topsoil moist. This enables plants to maintain accesses to water and nutrients making sure they stay healthy.
Weed suppression is another major role of mulch within tropical gardens and especially during establishment.
Weeds can steal valuable nutrients, water and light from establishing plants. This is particularly important for tropical gardens in colder climates.
In such regions local weeds are far more adapted to local conditions and can be extremely vigorous. If you are particularly worried about weeds lay a robust weed membrane under your mulch material.
You will also want to apply a thick layer of mulch which does not break down easily.
Many tropical gardens are planted with species more adapted to warmer climates. Very often, tropical looking plants can take very cold temperatures but can perish during harsh winters.
One of the best ways to mitigate against this is to insulate the roots from freezing. Thick layers of mulch can do this very effectively especially for tender perennials.
In tropical habitats such as rainforests, continuous cycles of death and decay form a thick, natural layer of mulch.
This naturally occurring mulch is formed by dead, organic, matter continuously falling to the forest floor. Numerous, decomposer species break down the mulch invigorating soil ecosystems.
This process leads to a very nutrient rich and well oxygenated topsoil layer. The result is a very healthy soil where multiple plants can flourish.
Applying mulch to your tropical garden can help to boost soil ecology and increase fertility levels.
Types of organic mulch for tropical gardens
There are a few different options when it comes to mulching your tropical garden.
Some mulch will break down faster and help to feed underlying plants. Others however, may have more of a decorative function and will break down slowly, over time.
Below I have listed five main types of mulches which can be incorporated into tropical gardens.
Compost is a good mulch to use in tropical gardens particularly if you want to condition your soil.
Microorganisms will soon go to work breaking down the organic material and mixing it with your existing soil.
However, compost generally does not do a very good job of suppressing weeds. Typically annual weeds will germinate in the compost leading to continuous weeding.
Leaf mould is a naturally occurring organic material produced from decomposing leaves. It can be used as an effective mulch and soil conditioner for tropical garden planting schemes.
Leaf mould is usually quite inexpensive if you buy it in bulk. Alternatively you can collect masses of autumn leaves and compost them yourself.
Bark mulch is a type of woodland bark made from the shredded bark of certain trees.
The bark is produced as a bi-product from the timber industry and perfect for mulching flower borders.
Bark mulch is typically sold as ‘ornamental bark mulch’ which has a dark brown colour and decorative texture. This mulch is perfect for ornamental planting such as tropical garden schemes.
Wood chippings are similar to bark mulch but consists mainly of chipped up wood rather than bark.
This mulching material is typically a lighter colour and can be very effective at suppressing weeds. Wood chippings are normally less expensive than bark but will degrade faster.
Therefore, you may wish to apply an extra thick layer when mulching borders.
Coco chip mulch
Coco chip mulch is organic mulch created from the shelling and processing of coco beans for chocolate production.
The mulch has a dark, brown, colour which looks best in tropical garden borders. The great thing about coco chip is it will actually make your tropical garden smell of chocolate!
As the coco chip mulch slowly breaks down it will release extra nutrients into the soil.
Inorganic mulch for tropical gardens
Inorganic mulches are those which do not naturally break down back into the soil. On the whole, tropical gardens do look more natural with organic mulches like bark.
However, inorganic mulches like gravel can be spread as mulch around tropical garden borders.
This typically looks best with darker coloured gravels as lighter gravel can look more Mediterranean themed. When spreading gravels upon borders make sure you apply a robust, weed membrane first.
Thank you for visiting our article on the best mulch for tropical gardens. If you require a tropical garden designer or builder do not hesitate to contact us.
Buckinghamshire landscape gardeners are experts at creating tropical gardens in colder climates.
We have linked to some other tropical garden articles you may find useful below.
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