Fallen leaves can look messy — and you definitely don’t want them to accumulate on driveways, patios, or walkways — but are dead leaves harmful to plants and soil?

Not if handled right.

Dead leaves can be beneficial or they can be dangerous to plants and soil, depending on how they’re used and the types of leaves.



Leaves contain trace minerals that the tree has pulled from the soil. These minerals include calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. When the leaves fall and decompose on soil, those minerals end up back in the soil.

Leaves also are a good source of organic carbon which balances out excessive nitrogen in the soil. A carbon-nitrogen ratio of 24:1 (24 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen) is considered ideal.


While dead leaves can balance the soil and put nutrients back into it as well, they also can be harmful to plants and soil in certain conditions.

For example, a heavy layer of dead leaves can smother and kill grass or other plants that are covered by the leaves.

Burying dead leaves can also create issues for plants later planted in that area if the soil hasn’t yet had time to return to a balance.

And if the soil had a low nitrogen level to begin with, adding dead leaves can lower the nitrogen even further.

Some types of dead leaves also can be harmful to plants and soil because of the type of tree they’re from. Walnut, eucalyptus, and camphor laurel leaves can inhibit plant growth unless properly composted first.


If you want to get the benefits of using the dead leaves that fall in your yard, you have to be intentional about using them. And this does not mean simply letting them lay where they fall.

It’s best to rake or blow them into a pile and then shred them (to speed up the decomposition process) before using them as mulch in garden beds or mixing them into your garden soil. If you mix the shredded leaves directly to the soil, you may need to add nitrogen fertilizer to maintain a healthy carbon-nitrogen ratio.

If you have a compost pile, which typically is high in nitrogen, you can also let the leaves decompose in the pile where they will balance the nitrogen levels.


Mike’s Evergreen offers yard maintenance service, which includes removing dead leaves. However, if you want to use the leaves that fall in your yard, just let us know. We’ll help you deal with them in a way that keeps your plants and soil healthy.

You may find our Landscaper FAQs helpful as well.

Mike’s Evergreen is the right choice for your landscaping needs because we are the Valley’s premier outdoor living experts. We work hard to understand your goals and provide quality results that will exceed your expectations. We understand that one of your biggest and most important investments is your home or business. Your objectives, lifestyle, personality, as well as the specific needs of your property are carefully considered to reflect a landscape that will provide beauty, function, and value to your home or property. Mike’s Evergreen offers a complete range of landscape services so we can make your yard look the way you intend it to.

Choose Mike’s Evergreen as your landscaping experts!