Growing roses is not too hard. Buy a rose, dig a hole, place into the soil and water well. After this there is the need to continue water, giving some feed, cutting off old flowers, and pruning in winter. But there is another factor some still do not understand its importance – mulching.

One of the more common questions I am asked is what is the best mulch?  But let us go back and understand what mulch does and then can assess which is the best.

The best mulch for roses needs these characteristics.

  • Breaks down to feed the soil.
  • Being light in colour – to keep soil cooler.
  • Be light weight – to allow good air flow to the soil.
  • Hold in moisture – does not set hard and become hydrophobic (repel water).
  • Be easy to apply.
  • Be not too expensive.
  • Be easy to find and transport.

I would to like now to give my opinion on the best mulch with these factors.


Mulches can be anything that is a waste organic material that can be broken down by nature and releases nutrients to the plant.

Standing out above all others in this field is the Who Flung Dung which is both organic but also has added fertiliser to feed the plant in one application. Other products in the same group under this aspect are pea straw, bean straw, lucerne hay, sugar cane, green waste, compost and lastly bark products.


Australia is a vast country with much of the gardens located in areas where substantial heat can hit the gardens over summer. To keep the soil cooler it is advisable to try and use a mulch which is light in colour to try and reduce the ground temperature.

Of all the products available on the market the one with the lightest colour and would keep the soil the coolest is sugar cane mulch. After this comes lucerne hay, pea straw, bean straw and pine bark being slightly darker being Who Flung Dung and green waste.


One factor few people know is the need for the soil to ‘breath’ and for air to reach the soil level. Some products will set hard which both stops water to penetrate as well as air reach the soil. Of the products which will keep quite light weight and not set quickly I rate equally pea straw, bean straw and lucerne hay. Others such as Who Flung Dung, mushroom compost, green waste and sawdust will settle quite quickly once placed on the ground.

Products such as bark or pebbles also do not set hard and allow for good air flow. One aspect of products which are light weight is the problem of moving in the wind but this does reduce once the products have settled and start to adhere to the soil below.


In Australia mulch primarily should be used to hold vital moisture in the soil. This can be achieved by two ways. Products which can absorb lots of water and those that stop moisture from escaping.  Example of water holding products can be Who Flung Dung, green waste or mushroom compost however these can be issues if these products dry out as can then become water repelling.  To overcome this problem, if it happens, throwing soapy water over them which will allow water penetration.

The other type of product which reduces evaporation are the straw type products of lucerne, pea, bean and sugar cane. As water moves easily through to the soil there is little or no need to do anything to these mulches.


One of the biggest decisions to make for those with a large garden would be these next two sections. The ease to be able to purchase a product and transport home can be a major one. Today many products are tight packed in plastic bags and available within a short distance of homes. Easy to carry, easy to transport and easy to apply. These products are Who Flung Dung, lucerne,sugar cane and pea straw.

For larger gardens some searching may need to be undertaken to find products that can be loaded onto a trailer or home delivered green waste, bark, mushroom compost are available or bales can be bought of any straw type material. Large bales of meadow hay or pea straw are always able to be found however cost can be prohibitive if some distance from production.

As mentioned previously the price of the mulch can in many cases be the most vital component. Remember the more processed, packaged and distance transported can all affect the cost.

Here are some rough prices as does vary enormously around the country.

AWho Flung Dung $20- $22 a bag covers 2-4m2 $5-$11 per plant.
Sugar cane $12-$16 a bag covers 4m2 $3-$4.00 per plant.
Pea straw bag $12-$17 a bag covers 5m2 $2.30-$3.30 per plant.
Pea straw small bale $10-20 a bale covers 8m2 $1.20 – $2.20 per plant.
Pea straw large bale $70 – $100 a bale covers 100m2 70c – $1.00 per plant.
Green waste $5-$20 per m3 covers 20-30m2 25c -$1.20 per plant.
Lucerne hay $16-$25 covers 10m2 $1.60 – $2.50 per plant.


In this article I have mentioned just the easiest to find products, however many other products can be located in specific region of Australia.

I have heard of Grape Marc, almond shells, rice hulls and husks and even pebbles being used. Look around as to what may be in your area and talk with other rose gardeners to see if they have used a product and how they found it.

Selecting the right mulch for you can also depends on several other factors. Pea straw does regularly send up pea plants which for some is inconvenient. For me it’s not an issue for I just Whipper Snip them all down getting more mulch for the plants. For others this is too hard and although this is an excellent mulch it probably would not be for you.

A mulch which is working properly will attract birds. As the mulch starts breaking down it attracts worms or other insects so it is a readymade source of food for hungry birds. Birds will scratch and disturb the mulch as they search for what is living under it. If this is too messy for you other mulches which do not attract birds may be better. Remember there are many products that can be used and finding the ideal one for you is as important as the benefits the mulch offers.

One point of concern I hear a lot is those who still adhere to the old tradition of not putting mulch around the base of a rose. This information does not come from Australia. Our extreme heat can see problems occur with sun burn to the understock. It is not a rare occurrence to hear of some who have their roses die due to sun burn on their understocks, yet I have not heard of one case of collar-rot from mulch around the stock. It is vital to protect the understock in the first few years of growing until the bush creates its own shade. There may be concerns if a product such as lawn clippings were piled up over the understock for lengthy periods of time when constant rain does not allow it to dry at all and becomes ‘slimy’.

For a wonderful rose garden do consider mulch as vital as water, feed, soil and sun with many products available catering to all needs, price and availability.


Created   2/9/2021