Red Mulch – Side Effects On Commercial Properties

Brendon Willis
Red mulch chips closeup

Several months ago one of our commercial property owners who owns 15 local restaurants was debating on switching from the natural mulch to a dyed red mulch. They liked how showy the red was and how much it popped. “I hear you!” I replied. I totally understand utilizing the landscape to draw the attention of prospects – in fact I’m a huge proponent of this. But ultimately I advised against switching to “raging red” mulch as there are some unintentional consequences to the subconscious mind of the customer.

I thought it may be helpful to share my e-mail response here for commercial property managers or owners who are debating switching to a vibrant mulch  in attempt to draw attention. I invite you inside the mind of a landscape professional.

Red mulch commercial landscaping

(Names have been changed out of courtesy.)

Dear Customer,

We’ve been discussing red versus natural mulch recently. I wanted to send you what I sent Amy regarding the matter. Please pass this on as you see fit.

The only reason I am taking the time to craft this email is because I truly believe that our work can add to your brand. Many landscapers would just do whatever is asked without any alternative considerations. Please allow me five minutes to explain my thought process as a designer.

Please know that I understand that the brand comes first and you all are the ultimate purveyors of the [customer] brand. It is my obligation to take what [customer] is out to accomplish and do my best, “from the curb,” to help with that. I want to offer a plea to upper management with reasoning for the natural mulch versus artificial dyed mulch and why I think the natural  mulch is better for your customers. You are the ultimate decision maker here and I will respect your wishes.

Red mulch doesn’t offer a sense of “welcome” or “place” to a property. It represents intensity, high-octane, energy, and danger. It has also been proven to raise blood pressure and respiration rates. However, red mulch is the most “attention-grabby” color that exists.

Most of the units we service have several thousand square feet of mulch area. As a professional who wants to create a sense of relaxation, home, and warmness, I believe red mulch in all of these areas causes too much chaos in the subconscious mind of your customers. We want to offer some level of tranquility for the customer when they are at dinner, lunch, or passing by and I believe a busy vibrant red mulch works against this.

The tool that we use to grab attention in cases like yours is seasonal color (flowers). You guys currently have us installing loads of seasonal color at every restaurant which is a very good thing. We can grab everyone’s attention, even passersby driving at 50-60 mph, with our seasonal color installations.

The important thing here is to actually allow the seasonal color to stand out. The way we do this is to surround it by neutrals and naturals. The natural mulch we use offers a very high quality, warm, clean look and is the perfect base to build a landscape on.

Brown mulch landscaping closeup

Remember, mulch is ultimately there to cover the soil and provide a backdrop. If we bring attention to the “soil,” that is all we’re doing. Let’s bring attention to the things you’re spending money on such as the seasonal flowers, shrubs and turf, and simultaneously preserve and enhance the warm and relaxing environment that can be found when we pull into a [customer] restaurant.

I think that by calling attention to everything that we in turn detract from the elements that are the most beautiful.

That’s my basic design perspective as to why most professional designers opt for neutral or natural colors. Below are some additional reasons for why the natural cedar is helpful from a landscape preservation standpoint.

  1.  Wind/wash resistance – This is the only type of mulch that develops a “mat” and is much more resistant to blowing and washing. This helps keep the parking lots clean. It “mats” together due to the fibrous nature of the shredded material. This is a big positive in Oklahoma with sporadic downpours and high winds. It’s still attractive when it mats together.
  2.  Doesn’t look as bad through the fading process – it just lightens up as compared to brown, red, or black dyed mulch which begins to fade into gray and black and grows fungi.
  3. If we have it built in to the contract (which I don’t think we do for you guys, I’ll have to look) it can be turned over once or even several times during the year which gives a huge aesthetic boost as the top begins to fade. This can’t be done effectively with the cheaper dyed mulches.
  4. Since it is cedar, it is resistant to termites, fungus and other bugs that harm structures and plants.
  5. It has strong moisture retaining capabilities.

Please advise on how we should proceed.



Fortunately, the customer made a nation-wide decision to go with a natural color instead of red mulch. I believe this decision was right. It will have a positive impact on the customer experience.

Warning against red mulch cover

If you need a professional landscaper who is truly invested in the preservation and growth of the brand of your company, call Willis Lawn Services LLC now at 405-241-4874.

More Reading

No more lawn care headaches, or your money back.

Schedule Conversation