Can plants grow through bark chippings?

Last Updated on 20/07/2023 by Barney

can plants grow through bark banner image with hands holding bark

A. For most plants to grow through bark chippings do not to cover plants completely. Putting a generous layer of wood chippings over perennials will deprive new growth of sunlight and can cause crown rot. This is especially true with newly planted perennials where the crown is not fully formed and low to the ground.

Pick the right time of year when placing bark chippings around plants and shrubs in the flower bed for minimal weed growth and healthy plants .

As a professional gardener, I like to create smart looking, low maintenance flower beds. I have wheelbarrowed many tons of wood chippings for clients. My many back ailments can testify to that.

Continue reading for the how, whens and whats when applying bark chippings for weed control without damaging plants.

The best times of the year to apply bark as a mulch.

The best time of year to apply bark chippings as garden mulch is when the growing season starts in Spring. Late Autumn is also a great time when the growing season winds down for the year.

picture of daffodil


In early Spring, when plants start their growth cycle it is clearer to see where those plants are positioned so they can be worked around when placing the bark avoiding covering them entirely.

As the ground warms in Spring weed seeds laying on the soil surface will germinate in the sunshine. Having a mulch of bark chippings will deprive those seeds of light preventing weed growth.

picture of autumn leaves on ground


Autumn is another good time of year for laying bark chips. In late Autumn the soil is still warm . Applying a layer of bark chippings at this time will lock in warmth for longer resulting in healthy root growth.

If winter was a particularly harsh one a layer of bark chippings applied in Autumn will help insulate the soil and protect plant roots by delaying the ground from freezing.

Laying in Summer?

Whilst Spring & Autumn are the best times of the year for laying any type of garden mulch it is still OK to perform this in the Summer, especially if there is a heatwave and looking at ways to cut down on watering and conserve moisture in the soil.

When laying in the summer give flower beds a good watering prior to applying a mulch. This will make it clear what and how much has been watered before applying.

Choose Carefully – The different types of bark chippings

With different types of bark products do some research about the desired look you’re going for.

Ornamental Bark chippings

When looking for the smartest look, perhaps around beds & borders, around patios and paths etc then an ‘ornamental bark’ is necessary.

Ornamental bark chips come from the bark of spruce, pine & conifer trees. Supplied with the chips being a regular size with no additional organic matter.

Contractors, woodland & eco-bark mulches

This is generally a mix of bark chippings and branches that have been through a tree surgeons shredder. Using this type is a cost effective option when covering large areas of soil and is great at controlling weeds.

This will however break down quicker than the ornamental types of bark.

Does bark kill weeds?

Bark mulch is an great way to kill weeds and maintain a beautiful garden. Prior to laying bark chips clear borders of existing weeds. Remove deep-rooted perennial weeds need to prevent re-growth.

Bark effectively stops light from reaching the soil, essential for weed germination. A covering of wood chips will block the sun-light and stop the cycle of weed germination in its tracks.

How much bark will I need?

Calculating how many bark chippings needed to cover flower beds is easy.

Using the recommended layer depth of 5 – 7cm to suppress weeds whilst encouraging healthy plant growth follow this process:

Formula is length of flower bed (l) x width of flower bed (w) x depth of bark chips. For example:

5m (l) x 2m (w) x 0.07m (d) = 0.7 cubic metres.

Individual bags of bark chippings are available in 100 litre bags. 100L = 0.1 cubic metres.

Therefore, to cover the flower bed in the example given with a 7cm deep layer is 7 x 100 litre bags.

When covering larger areas it is cost effective to buy bark chippings in the much larger builders bags ranging from 850 – 1000 litre.

How long does bark last; when will it need replenishing?

A good quality decorative bark mulch will last 5 – 7 years. However, whilst bark chippings may last that long they look their most decorative in the first 3 years.

A natural, organic product bark chippings are affected by environmental factors such as sun, shade & moisture. These factors contribute to the rate of decomposition and determine how long the chippings last.

Can I Plant Bulbs under Bark chippings?

Daffodils & tulips have no problem growing through bark chippings. The flowers energy is stored in the bulb & they have no problem pushing a bit of bark away to wow you with their beauty.

Depending on the depth of mulch, Snowdrops & crocus can look swamped as both of these have an eventual flowering height of 10-15cm (can just look plain silly).

Can I put bark chippings on a weed membrane.

Yes, bark chips can be placed directly on-top of a weed membrane (and even planted through). However be prepared to replace the membrane when it becomes clogged up.

Over-time, as bark decomposes it leaves a layer of organic matter sitting on-top of the weed membrane. This is the perfect medium for weed growth.

What are the alternatives to bark mulch?

Compost, well-rotten manure, gravel, coco shells, slate chippings and shredded leaves can all be used as a garden mulch. They all do an excellent job to lock in moisture whilst controlling weeds.

Can I put bark chippings over seeds?

No. Do not put bark chippings over seeds. To grow successfully seeds need light, covering them in bark will prevent the essential part of germination from happening.

It’s A Wrap From Me

Hopefully I answered your question about growing plants through bark chippings. Extremely effective in locking moisture into garden soil (less watering) and preventing weed growth. Care does need to be taken with the whens, wheres and what type of bark is used.