Standard Hardwood Mulch vs Premium Hardwood Bark Mulch: Which is Best for You?

Mulch comes in a variety of colors, aids in the nourishment of soil and plants, and is an aesthetically pleasing additive for enhancing landscapes and gardens. But sometimes when you have a particular material in mind, it can be difficult to parse through the differences between all the options.

Not to mention the quality per cubic yard. Below aims to break down those differences by using two similar forms of a popular mulch material as an example: standard hardwood mulch and premium hardwood bark mulch.

Standard Hardwood Mulch


Standard hardwood mulch – without dye – is one of the most economical types of mulch available. Hardwood mulch is shaven pieces of wood from dicot trees, their blends deriving from oak, hickory, and maple wood. Usually, mulch is created using recycled forms of these wood types or their excess wood trimmings.

And while regular hardwood mulch loses its vibrancy and turns grey over time, making it an eyesore in the garden, this particular mulch is treated with a water and vegetable-based dye that’s reliable, eco-friendly, and non-toxic. That means it won’t poison plants, humans, or pets that accidentally ingest it.


Organic hardwood mulch generally lasts for up to two years with fine to medium-sized shreds. Due to its durability, it’s recommended for slopes and water-prone areas as a mulch that’s less likely to wash away during storms. Dyed hardwood mulch, on the other hand, should be laid under clear skies to preserve its color.

As an organic, it provides nutrients to the plants it surrounds. It’s also great at insulating plant roots, staving off weed buildup, and preventing soil erosion.


This particular mulch is all-purpose (for both gardens and landscapes) and compatible with alkaline soil. Alkaline is the pH of the soil and determines the types of plants that can survive within it. Soil is considered alkaline soil or “sweet soil” when it reaches a pH above 7.

Hardwood mulch is perfect for alkaline-tolerant plants like phacelia, lavender, and lily of the valley. It’s also great for alkaline fruits and vegetables that enjoy a pH of 8 or lower, like figs and cucumbers.

Premium Hardwood Mulch


Premium dyed mulch contains hardwood like the standard, except there’s the addition of bark. Hardwood bark mulch is the most popular organic mulch on the market. Just like the standard, it has toxin-free, water/vegetable-based dye. Versus standard’s black dye, premium’s long-lasting dye colors are dark brown, black, red, and cherry chocolate.


Premium’s mulch blend has small to medium bark and hardwood pieces. Pieces of different sizes ensure that the alkaline in the soil remains high. Smaller pieces will degrade faster and immediately upon being laid while larger ones decompose over a long period, consistently strengthening the soil’s alkaline state.

Both standard and premium mulch have this feature, but the inclusion of bark elongates its benefits, as well. Bark is more nutrient-dense than wood fibers, improves weed control, is less likely to blow away, and is more natural-looking underneath an array of flowers and shrubbery.


Both standard and premium mulch is beneficial for the styling and maintenance of gardens and landscapes. But while standard hardwood mulch is multipurpose, the presence of bark in premium hardwood mulch is useful for improving soil compaction, aeration, and transferring moisture to plants.