How to Mulch Magnolia Leaves? Is it Even Worth it?

So, magnolia leaves are falling off, and you’re thinking of using them as mulch.

Is it a good idea? In this post, you will find out what the purpose of magnolia leaves mulch is, and in what plants you can use it.

How Does Magnolia Leaves Mulch Work?

Magnolia leaves mulch retains moisture in the soil, protects the topsoil, and regulates soil temperature. Thanks to its allelopathic nature, magnolia leaves prevent weed growth.

Magnolia leaves are thick, tough, and hard to break down. Because of that, when they’re put on the ground, they are perfect for mulching. Moreover, the leaves are high in nitrogen.

However, magnolia leaves contain toxic chemicals, and they are good for weed growth prevention. Mulching plants is also possible, but only if the leaves spend about a year in a compost pile and get rid of harmful chemicals.

Is Magnolia Leaves Mulch Good for Plants?

Mulching plants with magnolia leaves isn’t recommended. The leaves contain a high amount of toxicity that as a result might kill your plants.

Magnolia leaves, twigs, and flowers contain toxic chemicals, called sesquiterpene lactones. This chemical is a natural way of magnolia’s protection. The chemicals aren’t toxic to humans, or animals, but are toxic to other plants.

If you mulch your plants with magnolia leaves, they will break down over time. The chemicals will then leach into the soil. As a result, it will inhibit root growth, cause plants to stunt their growth, not germinate, and die off.

In addition, magnolia leaves because of their toughness, partially block water from getting to plants. That means that watering will be very inefficient, and water-consuming.

Magnolia leaves mulch might break down for more than 2 years, so it will kill your plants sooner or later.

Mulching magnolia leaves is usually more harmful to established plants than newly planted ones, however, if you want to play it safe, don’t bother mulching any plant in your yard.

However, there are a few hardy plants that can withstand the effect of chemicals of freshly fallen magnolia leaves, like Coyote Mint, Hummingbird Sage, or Seaside Daisy. But it’s still a high risk, so even if you have hardy plants, there are better ways to mulch them.

What is Magnolia Leaves Mulch Used for?

Magnolia leaves mulch isn’t good for plants, but it can be used for paths, or to stop weed growth.

There is only one purpose for mulching fallen magnolia leaves. To stop the growth or vegetation of weeds in your yard.

The high toxicity of leaves can be a blessing in disguise. It will kill plants, but it will also kill most weeds.

If you don’t want to use inorganic chemicals to kill weeds, magnolia leaves mulch is one of the best natural things you can use. The leaves will gradually break down in the soil, killing the weeds.

Magnolia leaves mulch is effective in killing most types of weeds. However, some of them are too hardy, and sesquiterpene lactones that magnolia contains don’t work for them. Weeds like field bindweed, burdock, grand ivy, and johnsongrass tend to have deep roots and are hard to kill.

Magnolia leaves are also great for mulching paths in your yard, paths around plant beds, and around the edges of your property.

How to Mulch Magnolia Leaves?

To mulch magnolia leaves, take the following steps.

1. Shred the leaves with a lawn mower or chipper shredder.
2. Spread a thin layer of mulch.
3. Sprinkle a few inches of dirt over the top of the mulch.

The first step to take is shredding magnolia leaves. It’s very important. If you mulch the whole leaves, the mulch will have too many air pockets, which allows moisture to evaporate too quickly.

Moreover, shredded leaves will break down much quicker than whole leaves, which will make the weed poison work faster, and more effectively.

To shred the leaves, the best thing to use is a lawn mower. It will quickly chop the leaves into ideal size. You can also use a chipper shredder, if you have one. Optionally, you can put the leaves into the wastebasket, and use a line trimmer.

After the leaves are shredded, you can put them into a trash bag, and start spreading the mulch on the desirable area. You should spread the mulch thinly. It will make the leaves break down quicker, and let the water pass into the soil.

To speed up the decomposition process, sprinkle some dirt over the top of the mulch thinly. You also ensure that wind won’t blow away the leaves.

What Else Can You Do With Magnolia Leaves?

The best thing to do with magnolia leaves is it place them in a compost pile. After breaking down, they will be good to use as a mulch to moisturize and protect the topsoil, and regulate soil temperature.

If you don’t have a reason to mulch your paths with magnolia leaves, the best thing to do is to put the leaves into your compost pile. Before you do so, make sure to shred the leaves.

Shredded leaves will break down quickly. With the help of insects, earthworms, and microbiomes, the leaves will be deprived of toxic chemical in less than a year.

Putting magnolia leaves on a compost pile lets you reuse them for plants in the next season safely.

What are the Best Alternatives to Magnolia Leaves Mulch?

Magnolia is among the trees that needs to be composted before mulching. However, there are some trees with leaves that can be instantly used as a great mulch, including:

  • Hornbeam leaves
  • Beech leaves
  • Oak leaves
  • Lime leaves
  • Hazel trees leaves

These leaves are perfect for mulch, because they are clean, break down easily, and provide all the benefits of organic mulches.


Mulching magnolia leaves isn’t recommended for plants, because leaves contain toxic chemicals that might kill your plants. Fresh leaves are good only for weed prevention. To get rid of chemicals, you need to compost magnolia leaves first, and then use it for plants.