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Can perennials grow through landscape fabric?

Updated: May 14, 2023

I’m sure you’ve seen rolls of landscape fabrics (weed barriers or weed carpets) in your local gardening center. Most people buy them to keep weeds out. But what about your perennial flowers?

Can perennials grow through landscape fabric? Yes, they can. The real problem is that a weed carpet can limit the growth of a plant. And that is the opposite of what you want.

What I mean is that they can grow with landscape fabric around the plant. But they can not rip through the fabric like the Hulk. And, the fabric can limit the size of your plant. Take Lupines, for example. If you plant them with weed carpet around the plant, you'll constrict its size (it wants to grow to around 1-2 feet in diameter.

Let’s look at the benefits and drawbacks of using landscape fabric in the garden, and whether or not perennials can thrive when grown through it. I’ll also give you a few quick tips for choosing the right type of fabric if you do want to use it in your garden.

Perennial flowers and landscape fabric

Perennial flowers can grow through landscape fabric if the fabric is permeable.

That means that the fabric allows water, air, and nutrients to pass through and reach the roots of the plant.

If the fabric is non-permeable, it blocks the flow of these essentials and the flowers will not be able to grow through it.

Some types of landscape fabric are specifically designed to be permeable, while others aren’t. If you’re set on using a weed carpet, always choose a permeable fabric when planting perennial flowers to give the plants access to the resources they need to thrive.

How to choose the right landscape fabric for a perennial garden

A lot of gardeners do use (and love) a weed carpet. I’ll admit that I’m not one of them. But that’s the beauty of gardening… it’s an experience unique to you!

Here are a few factors to consider when choosing landscape fabric for a flower bed or garden of perennial flowers.

  • Permeability: Choose a fabric that’s permeable, meaning it allows water, air, and nutrients to pass through. Non-permeable fabric blocks these and ultimately starves your plants.

  • Durability: Select a fabric that’s strong and durable enough to withstand the elements and the weight of the soil, mulch, and plants.

  • UV resistance: Look for fabric that can resist fading and deterioration from exposure to the sun.

  • Weeds: Consider your weed control needs when choosing fabric. Some fabrics have a pre-printed grid or other design that can help guide you when planting and can also aid in weed suppression.

  • Price: Compare prices of different brands and types of fabric to find the best value for your budget.

  • Ease of installation: Choose a fabric that’s easy to cut and install.

  • Reviews: Read reviews and get recommendations from other gardeners or gardening professionals before purchasing any type of weed barrier.

6 reasons to not use landscape fabric in your flower bed

So now you’re thinking about buying a big roll of landscape fabric and saving yourself hours of weeding. Right?

Before you head to the garden center, here are six reasons why you might not want to use landscape fabric or a weed carpet in your flower bed:

  1. It can be unsightly - Landscape fabric and weed carpets can be visible in the flower bed, which may not be aesthetically pleasing. Even when you think you’ve covered them with stones or mulch, one hard rain can expose the fabric and ruin the look you’re after.

  2. It can block water and nutrients - If the fabric is not permeable, it can stop water, air, and nutrients from reaching the soil and roots.

  3. It can cause soil compaction - The weight of the fabric can compress the soil, making it more difficult for roots to grow and access nutrients… even if the fabric is permeable.

  4. It can harbor pests and diseases - The fabric can provide a favorable environment for pests and diseases to thrive. This is especially true in hot, humid climates.

  5. It can be difficult to remove - It deteriorates very quickly, usually within a couple of years. Plastic landscape fabric is future labor when you have to remove the tiny ripped pieces, and it’s maddening. Not to mention how hard it is when it comes to raking up leaves. Plus, it’s difficult to rearrange plants. One of the joys of perennial gardening is that you can easily move flowers. With a weed carpet, you’ll have to cut through it when giving a plant a new spot in your flower bed.

  6. It can be expensive - Landscape fabric and weed carpets can be costly, especially if you have a large flower bed.

How do you keep weeds out of your garden without landscape fabric?

I’ve planted my perennial flowers close together. These plants want to grow large and that keeps weeds from growing up around them.

But it’s not a magic trick.

I do have to start the season (early spring) by weeding. And I keep doing it throughout my flower beds as I see weed pop up. But overall, by planting my perennials closer together, I have very little weeding to do during the late spring and summer months.

When planting shrubs and perennials, is it better to use landscape fabric or just put on a layer of mulch directly on the soil?

Now you’re on the fence about landscape fabric. That’s a good place to be because it means that you’re really thinking about what’s best for your garden.

Mulch is a great alternative to a weed carpet. But there are pros and cons to using landscape fabric or mulch when planting shrubs and perennials. Here are some things to consider when deciding which to use:

Pros of landscape fabric:

  • Can help suppress weeds

  • Can help conserve moisture in the soil

  • Can protect plants from certain types of pests

Cons of landscape fabric:

  • Can be visible in the garden

  • Can block water, air, and nutrients from reaching the soil if it is not permeable

  • Can be difficult to remove

Pros of mulch:

  • Helps suppress weeds

  • Conserves moisture in the soil

  • Improves the appearance of the garden

  • Adds nutrients to the soil as it breaks down

Cons of mulch:

  • Can harbor pests and diseases

  • Can wash away or blow away in heavy rain or strong winds

I’m all for using mulch to suppress weeds.

I apply mulch (a thick layer around 4-5 inches deep) over a thick sheet(s) of cardboard. Think of the cardboard as a biodegradable weed carpet. This stops weeds from receiving enough sunlight to grow. This also smothers weeds under it, kills weeds waiting in the soil, and reduces the germination of any weed seeds.

Those smothered weeds break down into nutrients for the roots of my plants. And worms and microorganisms will love you for using natural materials. They’ll show you their gratitude by improving the soil.

Can you put landscape fabric under mulch?

Yes, you can. But I don’t recommend it.


Because eventually the mulch (assuming you’re using a plant-based mulch) will turn to soil on top of your landscape fabric. The nutrients that it’s releasing won’t enrich the underlying soil where you’re growing your plants because it’s blocked by a weed carpet.

And as you re-mulch over the years, you’ll be adding to a rich, thick layer of composted bark and wood, which will grow weeds very well but won’t help your plants at all, since they are separated by the weed barrier.


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Hi! I'm Lars (Denmark).

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