Last Modified: April 3, 2024

Bark Mulch 101

explore the Different Bark Product Types

Close up of garden bark mulch

By Ben Parrot - Landscape Gardener & Amateur Geologist


Bark chippings, also known as bark mulch, are a wonderful natural product that confer a range of excellent benefits when applied as a decorative aggregates, usually as a mulch. Ranging from ornamental barks to woodland mulches, there are many ways to improve aspects of your garden whilst making it look naturally eye-catching.

Hey guys, just a quick note about our new tool, the 'Pebble Picker', in the sidebar or menu. It allows you to effortlessly browse and choose from every decorative aggregate based on their colour and type.

Landscaping bark around ornamental grass

Key Takeaways

  • Two Types: There are two main types, mulch and ornamental bark.
  • Benefits: Bark is more than just decorative; it aids in soil health and weed control.
  • Eco-friendly: Opting for bark supports sustainable gardening practices.
Laying bark mulch around heather

What Are Bark Chippings?

Garden bark chippings are a type of decorative hardwood aggregate derived from the bark of trees. Most often it is the waste material from sawmills and timber processing. It is on sold for further processing and use as garden bark products.

Although they come in various sizes from quite small as a mulch, ranging to fairly large size chippings for decorative purposes, they are all essentially fragments of bark from different varieties.

Green shrubs growing in decorative bark garden border

Types of Bark Products

There are so many different types of garden bark products available these days. Understanding the pros and cons of each type is important when deciding which product is going to be best suited to your project. There are two common types:

Conifers with red coloured mulch

Mulch Bark or Landscaping Bark

Mulch bark is great for beds, borders, and pathways but are not suitable to be used in poultry or animal enclosures. The fungus Aspergillus thrives on bark, posing respiratory threats and potential fatal risks to animals, especially those with weakened immune systems.

White wood chippings are the only safe option suitable for these areas. We cover these products in wood chip 101.

Woodland Mulch: More Than Just Pretty Borders

Woodland mulch offers a cost-effective solution to beautify soil, enhancing borders natural pathways and flower beds. Beyond their look, they have multiple benefits as a mulch, which we cover in the article: Bark Mulch for Gardens.

Ornamental bark nuggets in a flower bed

Ornamental Bark: Not Just Good Looks

Ornamental bark is also known as takes it to another level within decorative aggregates, again. Coming in a range of natural colours, it can be used to create sustainable borders that offer texture to complement the beauty to the plants and shrubs around.

Natural Pathways

Ornamental bark chippings are a very popular way of creating natural paths and ground cover that also resist weed growth while looking naturally beautiful. We have a detailed article about how to build a wood chip path.

Wood chip path

Need to work out how many bark chippings your project needs? Try our free bark and wood chip calculator.

Benefits of Using Bark Chippings for Gardens

Low Maintenance Gardens

As a decorative finish, bark can turn previously grass or weed-ridden borders into a low maintenance haven. Whether laid with or without no weed membrane, depending on the thickness, it will create a dense barrier which will gradually nourish the soil and keep surrounding plants in the best health.

Control Weeds Naturally

Landscape bark chippings are an excellent way to suppress weed growth. They do this by blocking the sunlight effectively, and minimising the chance of reaching the soil.

Spring bulbs in wood garden mulch

Improving Soil Structure

Regular use of bark, especially woodland mulch, can help in improving soil structure. It helps keep the soil moist, thus providing essential nutrients to plants.

Environmentally Sustainable

Using bark chips for gardens also ensures that your outdoors not only look good, but are also sustainable. Because they are natural, they decompose over time and return essential nutrients to the soil.

Palms in a bark with chipped wood

Concerns About Bark Chippings

Coniferous plant barks, like pine, can make the soil more acidic as they break down. This is something that you should be aware of particularly if you are already using soil that is acidic.

Also, while there's always a slight chance of introducing toxins, pests, or diseases like honey fungus through bark, sourcing it from a trustworthy supplier minimises this risk.

An Extensive Product Range For All Purposes

From 100L landscape bark bags to bulk bags of decorative bark, there is an extensive range to choose from. Bulk bags are the most economical way to go, especially for larger mulching projects. Just to be sure to check that the type of product you are purchasing will suit the type of plants you intend to mulch with it.

Landscaping bark front garden with shrubs


Bark chippings have so many benefits as a ground cover, that it is hard not to sing its praises as a decorative aggregate. Not only can it have the desired effect of enhancing your borders with beauty while controlling weeds, but it also confirms many other benefits like conservation of moisture and deterring pests. Sometimes, nature's always best!

Detail of the texture of a tree trunk


How much does 100 Litres of bark cover?

A 100 Litre bag typically covers an area of 1-2 square meters, depending on the depth applied.

What bark is best for gardens?

The best bark for your garden depends on your specific needs. If you are looking for the natural aesthetic, ornamental bark can be ideal, especially around established trees and shrubs. If you are looking for a weed control soil-improver, then a woodland mulch would be more appropriate.

What does bark do for your garden?

Bark can serve multiple purposes: It can be used as a decorative ground cover that prevents weeds, as erosion control and moisture retention, and as a natural fertiliser.

What is the difference between garden bark and mulch?

While garden bark is primarily used for decorative purposes, mulch has a broader range of functions including soil nourishment and weed control.

Does decorative bark stop weeds?

Yes, when applied correctly, decorative bark is a naturally alternative way for limiting weed growth by blocking sunlight.

How long does ornamental bark last?

Ornamental bark can last at least 3 to 7 years, but might require top-ups as it gradually decomposes and mixes with the soil.

What is an alternative to landscaping bark?

There are many decorative aggregates which are great alternative to landscaping bark, such as stone chippings, decorative gravel, slate chippings and even rubber mulch. Each one has its own pros and cons, and if you click the links you can find out more about them right on our website.

There are many other varieties of wood chippings available for your project. Check out them out!

About the author 

Ben Parrot is a landscape gardener and amateur geologist. He is the founder of Outdoor Aggregates, with the mission to create the first encyclopaedia for decorative aggregates. From natural stone through to decorative bark, these aggregates are critical to garden and landscape design, universally.

The problem: There isn't any place where all the different types of decorative landscaping materials and construction aggregates can be found, nor are the specifications of each type readily available. So, enriched by his extensive experience, and inspired by the timeless elegance and raw beauty of stone and rock, etched by nature's artistry over millennia, Outdoor Aggregates was born.