If your mulched beds are looking drab, you may wonder if there’s an easy way to refresh the color without removing and replacing all the mulch. The good news? You can restore rich, vibrant color to your existing mulch. 

Dyeing or staining mulch lets you transform the appearance of tired, weathered mulch and change it to a whole new color if desired. Mulch helps control weeds and retain moisture in your garden and landscaped areas.

Reasons to Change Mulch Color

The color of mulch has a big visual impact on landscape design. Dark mulches like black, brown, and red create a formal look. Earthy mulches, such as natural cedar, blend well with natural plantings.

Mulch made from recycled wood is often available inexpensively and sometimes for free from services. But it fades quickly to an unattractive gray. Coloring this mulch lets you get the benefits of natural wood mulch without compromising your landscape design.

Mulch Color Options

Mulch colorants and wood stains provide long-lasting color that resists fading. Black, brown, red, and cedar are some of the most popular mulch colors.

  • Black mulch creates the look of rich soil. It contrasts nicely with bright flowers and foliage.
  • Brown mulch enhances a natural look in cottage gardens. It also hides fallen leaves.
  • Red mulch makes a bold statement in formal landscapes. It contrasts well with greens and blues.
  • Cedar-toned mulch mimics freshly harvested cedar mulch. It provides an organic look.

You can also create custom colors by mixing dye concentrates. Blending colors lets you match specialized mulch colors.

How to Dye Mulch

To dye mulch, you need a sprayer to apply the liquid colorant evenly across the top of the mulch beds. Mulch dye comes as a liquid concentrate and is easy to mix. Mix it with water in the sprayer and apply it evenly across the top of the mulch beds. Three application tips:

  • Apply the paint on a dry, sunny day when no rain is expected for 24 to 48 hours. The extended dry time allows the dye to fully saturate and cure.
  • Wear gloves, eye protection, and old clothes. Mulch dye will discolor your skin and clothing.
  • Coat all exposed mulch surfaces evenly, including sides of raised beds. Don’t overspray on plants.
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Each application lasts about a year before fading. To refresh the color, reapply the dye using the same method.

How to Stain Mulch

Mulch stains contain pigments, binders, and polymers that penetrate into mulch particles. Benefits include:

  • Color lasts two to three years, longer than the one year for mulch dye.
  • The stain doesn’t wash off easily when it gets wet.
  • Stained mulch resists UV light better, giving it a longer life before its color fades.

Apply the stain with a sprayer, roller, or staining machine. Allow the required drying time before exposing treated mulch to foot traffic, rain, and irrigation.

DIY Vs. Professional Mulch Coloring

You can buy mulch colorants at home improvement stores for DIY applications or hire a landscaping pro to color your mulch. I found that doing it yourself has two main advantages: lower overall costs and flexibility to perform the project on your own schedule.

On the other hand, hiring a professional has some benefits, such as:

Experienced technicians apply stains evenly
Commercial spray equipment penetrates stains deeper into mulch
Professionals can match custom mulch colors

Improving Colored Mulch Appearance

To keep colored mulch looking fresh, rake it periodically to break up matted pieces on the top surface. You can also add a thin layer of new mulch once a year to existing mulch. Finally, you can reapply dye or stain as needed.

Avoid pushing dyed mulch up against siding or fences where overspray can cause stains.

Safety Precautions With Mulch Dye

Mulch dyes contain pigments similar to typical paint colorants. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid health and environmental risks.

You should wear gloves and protective eyewear when mixing and applying dye. If you spray the color on, avoid inhaling spray mist. Use a respirator if needed.

Keep children and pets away during application until dry. You also should prevent mulch dye from running off into storm drains, streams, and ponds.

Today’s Homeowner Tips

Always spot-test new mulch dye products on a small, inconspicuous area before treating the entire landscape. Don’t use dye or stain if you notice signs of it harming your plants.

So, Is Changing the Mulch Color Worth It?

Refreshing mulch color restores an attractive just-mulched look without the work of removing and replacing all the mulch. Mulch dyes provide an inexpensive color transformation. 

Longer-lasting stains are a smarter investment if you want a color that persists for a few years.

Professionally applied mulch stain offers the most even color and longest duration, but DIY spray-on mulch dyes let you refresh color affordably at your own convenience. 

Either method can revitalize the appearance of your mulch and landscape.

FAQs About Changing Mulch Color

What is the easiest way to change mulch color?

In my experience, spray-on mulch dyes offer the simplest DIY method. Just mix with water and apply evenly across the top of mulch beds. Reapply as needed when the color fades.

Does coloring mulch affect plants?

Mulch colorants are considered non-toxic when used as directed. However, some plants may be sensitive. Do a small test area first and watch for any signs of injury before treating the entire landscape.

How long does mulch color last?

Mulch dye lasts about one year. Mulch stains that penetrate deeper may last two to three years before needing to be reapplied. Durability depends on the product, application method, and exposure to sun and rain.

Should mulch under trees be dyed?

Use caution when coloring mulch under trees. Some tree roots grow shallow and may absorb chemicals from mulch additives. Stick to untreated natural mulch around sensitive trees.

Can you use mulch colorant on pine straw or rubber mulch?

Mulch colorants are only formulated to bond with organic mulches like wood and bark chips. They will not adhere well or evenly to inorganic mulches.

Can I mix my own custom mulch color?

Many mulch dye brands offer primary color concentrates that can be blended to create custom colors. Test samples first before treating a large area with an untried custom mulch color.

Can I color mulch in my vegetable garden?

Mulch colorants should be safe for food crop gardens when used as directed. However, some gardeners prefer to avoid dyes where edibles are grown. Use natural mulch or untreated wood chips around vegetables.

Further Information

Editorial Contributors
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Coty Perry

Expert Writer & Reviewer

Coty Perry is a lawn and garden writer for Today’s Homeowner. He focuses on providing homeowners with actionable tips that relate to the “Average Joe” who is looking to achieve a healthier and greener lawn. When he isn’t writing he can almost always be found coaching youth football or on some trail in Pennsylvania in search of the next greatest fishing hole.

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Sabrina Lopez


Sabrina Lopez is a senior editor for Today’s Homeowner with over 7 years of writing and editing experience in digital media. She has reviewed content across categories that matter to homeowners, including HVAC services, home renovations, lawn and garden care, products for the home, and insurance services. When she’s not reviewing articles to make sure they are helpful, accessible, and engaging for homeowners like herself, Sabrina enjoys spending time with her family and their two parrots.

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