The Great Maintenance Dilemma: Pine Straw Or Mulch

Landscapes need a barrier between the soil and the residents. It looks better and it cuts down on maintenance costs. However, not all barriers look the same, and they don’t provide the same benefits. So, should your landscaping company approach your Home Owners Association and ask what sort of covering you prefer, here are some things that you should consider.


Mulch can actually refer to many types of coverings, but it generally means shredded organic matter spread over the plant bed and around plants. A thick layer applied once a year or so protects plants from cold snaps, discourages weeds, and keeps water from evaporating away during hot summer days. Also, most types decompose over time, and in the process, provide many different nutrients to your plants.

A covering of mulch makes it easy to clean leaves and weeds from around your plants, so if you want to do any spot checking before a meeting or if you have residents with a habit of littering, you will have an easy time clearing up the mess.

Pine Straw

Pine straw is a type of mulch that refers to a covering of pine needles. A thick layer of the needles provides the same insulation and weed barrier that other types of mulch do, but it does have some distinctive attributes.

Pine needles are acidic, and it will break down over time to lower the soil pH. This is great news for many plants because they like acid. Hydrangeas, lily of the valleys, snapdragons, azaleas and a host of other plants will love the soil that the pine needles create.

Pine straw interlocks once it is laid down, so it makes a lot of sense on slopes and hilly landscapes. It won’t migrate after a heavy storm, nor will it stain any hardscapes.

Ultimately, though, the big deciding factor between mulch and pine straw is aesthetics. Some folks prefer the look of one over the other. Pine straw is particularly popular here in the South, but it is really up to the individual. Your group can look at some pictures and decide which looks better in your particular landscape.