Beware of the Mulch Volcano ~ No Tree is Safe!!

There are many rumors out there that somehow become common knowledge that are very detrimental to whatever the cause is. Mulching trees is one of them. I am so saddened when I see trees mulched up to their lower branches, called ‘Mulch Volcanoes’. Professional landscapers do it all the time for two reasons, one, to sell you more mulch and to not have to come back anytime soon to remulch you. Sadly, homeowners see this and think this is the correct way to go and the vicious cycle continues.

imagemulch volcano

There are many problems that a mulch volcano can cause. Girdling roots, poor growth, mold to name a few.. However, crown rot rates as a number one worst issue. One stiff breeze is all it will take. Notice in the photo below, the trunk snapped off right at the mulch-line. These types of happenings can cause some costly repairs. Mulch volcanoes are sneaky. Sometimes a tree with a lot of gumption will grow large, however the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

mulch volcano topple

Here are my PeeGee Hydrangea trees, PROPERLY mulched, which looked to have survived my fall planting. You can clearly see the root flair at the top of the mulch line. I really only put enough over the rootball to make it the same color/blend well with the mulch donut.


© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

40 thoughts on “Beware of the Mulch Volcano ~ No Tree is Safe!!

  1. I think we better remove our volcanos…. I’m one of them who thought that’s the way… and we probably bought bad mulch, we imported shameless stinkhorns with the mulch…and sadly the clue is in the name :o(


    • Ohhh. I thought that smell was Easy!;);)
      The upside is stinkyhorns don’t hurt your plants. The mulch you got may have not been aged as much as it should have been before you got it. Stinkhorns are decomposers (actually are the good guys) just trying to break down dead stuff. Never use freshly mulched mulch. If you take a pitch fork and turn it/air the mulch up those stinkys should go away.
      FYI – there is a fungus we get here called ‘dog puke fungus’… guess what that looks like? ! 😀


      • ewwww I asked google, that looks really like recycled food! the smell of this stinkhorns is awful and we will remove the mulch in fall when we start our great “garden project”, I would like to do it immediately, but we have roses there what start to flower, not the best time to replant them (or is that possible?)


    • So, so true! The problem is, just because a guy in a truck has a sign on his door that states he knows landscaping, they really mean lawnmowing. And the more mulch he can sell you the better. . For him! 😈


  2. I love the hydrangea trees! My parents’ did not survive the winter, as apparently their cat decided it was a very pleasant (and expensive) scratching post. Should I be looking forward to future pics of the tree this summer?


  3. So far I’ve not seen any trees locally that have been smothered with mulch. I can not believe the stupidity of a company allowing their planting crews to do that to a tree. Really awful.


    • It’s an epidemic. We recently had a tree go down in a clients yard that matches the downed tree in this post. Boss asked why this happened, I said mulch volcano. He said, “ah, well they keep us in business.” When I heard that, I puked in my mouth a little, choked back my nasty comment and just lost a bit of respect for the man. I walked back to my desk, feeling crappy.


  4. This is quite informative, thank you. I’ve seen this often and thought myself it was the way to go. Luckily, and thankfully, with your help last year I did not do this to my fruit trees. The world must know! 😉


      • Most of the blooms are done now but I will have to get a pic and get a pic of this amber-colored sap piled at the base, perhaps you’ll know a thing or two about it.


          • Sorry I did my summer disappearing act, but have had a lot to deal with (still do – don’t we all? lol).

            Anywho, I went back and found that something had run off with the mass of sap and I haven’t seen it since. There are small young peaches & nectarines on it now though no plums or apricots. Meanwhile the Apple Cocktail tree bloomed but did not produce fruits, bummer.


            • Ok.. kinda funny something ran off with the sap. .. but who am I to judge? 😉 Maybe it was a snack. . Ha ha.
              They’re is a possibility that your apple tree needs another tree to fertilize it. An idea for next year, finds another apple tree and prune off some blossoms. Use a q-tip and exchange pollen. The timing must be good also. Just a thought.
              Sometimes there are just bad years for fruit. . My apples fruited, but now the tree is dropping them (marble size). Too many perhaps.

              Liked by 1 person

              • I’ve got some pics I’m going to share with you soon. I went out there yesterday and discovered that this amber sappy stuff seems to be oozing from the base of the tree and there’s a spot a couple inches up that has a little sap sticking out.

                Interesting note about the apple tree, I did do some hand-pollinating with the “stone fruit” tree but then figured I didn’t need to do that; maybe I should have helped the apple along anyways.

                Yours is dropping fruit? Hopefully not all of it! I found a couple tiny peaches on the ground yesterday but no more. I hope that’s all it’s going to drop since it’s so small of a tree as it is.


                • Sap coming out isn’t the worst thing in the world. Something may have tried to get in, but was pushed out by the sap. This is a good thing. The sap is a scab of sorts.
                  My apples are terrible and not edible. Well, 1 year out of 10, we got good ones. I think I have 8 yrs to go. ……

                  Liked by 1 person

                • Thanks for that information, I’ll still share a pic with you once I upload them.

                  So why do you think your apples have so much trouble, is it cause you don’t spray…or…? I’m so new to the world of fruit trees it didn’t even dawn on me come spring I should be doing something other than making sure they have water, lol. I did wind up at a local nursery and the guy told me I should spray them so I got an organic mixture – makes me feel better about feeding the fruit to my birds should I get that far. I made one of the spray times…maybe that’s what messed up my apple blossoms…


                • My apples have so much wrong with them, I could probably list what’s right quicker!!
                  They have fireblight, a bad disease that will wipe them out soon. My only hold-up to taking them down is the shade garden they are creating shade for is behind them. I don’t spray, as I would need to spray for everything and even then, may not get any viable fruit. I had tried in the past with no luck. Two years ago, I did get some edible ones I made pie with. They still had problems (I didn’t spray), however I wasn’t selling them. =-)
                  Timing of those sprays are CRUTIAL for them to work. At this point, you shouldn’t be spraying anything. Now it’s the waiting game and to see if your efforts work. Fingers crossed!!

                  Liked by 1 person

                • Well that’s a bummer in your case, maybe by some miracle next year will be a good year… … … … hmmm…

                  I only sprayed once and even then I’m not sure I sprayed at the right time as not all of the buds were at the same stage. I’m afraid I probably deterred some bugs from pollination…oops. So I didn’t spray again b/c I already knew I was too late for spray #2. So far I still have a dozen or so little fruits, just enough to not rot should they make it to home-base. 😉


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