What To Plant Around Trees


Best Plants to Grow Under Trees

Planting under trees can present unique challenges, such as limited sunlight and competition for water and nutrients. However, with careful selection and planning, you can create a beautiful and thriving garden bed beneath your trees. Here are some of the best plants to grow under trees:

  • Hostas: These shade-loving perennials are known for their lush foliage that comes in a variety of colors, sizes, and textures. Hostas are low-maintenance and can add a touch of elegance to the base of your trees.
  • Impatiens: These colorful annuals thrive in the shade and bloom profusely throughout the summer months. Available in a wide array of colors, impatiens can brighten up the area under your trees with their vibrant flowers.
  • Ferns: Ferns are a classic choice for planting under trees as they can tolerate low light conditions and add a delicate touch to the landscape. Choose varieties such as lady fern or Japanese painted fern for their unique fronds.
  • Astilbes: With their feathery plumes of flowers, astilbes are an excellent choice for adding vertical interest to your tree plantings. These perennials come in various shades of pink, red, white, and lavender.
  • Heucheras: Known for their stunning foliage, heucheras can add a pop of color to the base of your trees. The leaves come in a range of shades, including burgundy, lime green, and silver, adding visual interest even when not in bloom.

In addition to these plants, consider using groundcovers such as vinca, pachysandra, or ajuga to fill in the gaps and provide a lush carpet-like effect. These plants not only suppress weeds but also have shallow root systems that can coexist with the tree roots.

Remember to choose plants that thrive in shade or part shade conditions and are tolerant of the tree’s root competition. By carefully selecting the right plants and providing them with adequate care, you can create a stunning and vibrant garden under your trees.

Groundcover Options for Planting Around Trees

When it comes to planting around trees, groundcovers play a crucial role in providing a finished look to the garden bed while helping to retain moisture and suppress weeds. Here are some excellent groundcover options for planting around trees:

  • Creeping thyme: This low-growing perennial not only adds beauty to the base of trees but also releases a delightful aroma when walked upon. It spreads quickly, forming a dense mat of fragrant foliage and colorful flowers.
  • Creeping phlox: With its carpet of vibrant blooms, creeping phlox is a popular choice for groundcover under trees. It comes in various colors, including pink, purple, and white, and creates a visually stunning display.
  • Wild ginger: Wild ginger is a shade-loving groundcover that adds a touch of elegance to tree plantings. Its heart-shaped leaves and unique flowers add interest to the understory, while its dense growth helps to suppress weed growth.
  • English ivy: Although English ivy can be invasive in some regions, it is an excellent groundcover option when managed properly. Its dense foliage cascades over tree roots, creating a lush and green backdrop.
  • Dead nettle: Dead nettle is a low-maintenance groundcover that thrives in shade or part shade conditions. It has attractive variegated leaves and produces small, delicate flowers that add a pop of color to the tree plantings.

When choosing groundcovers, consider their growth habit and how they will interact with tree roots. It’s important to avoid aggressive groundcovers that can choke out the trees or compete for nutrients. Additionally, ensure that the groundcovers are appropriate for your region’s climate and soil conditions.

Proper care is essential for the success of groundcovers under trees. Regular watering, especially during dry spells, will help them establish and thrive. Apply a layer of organic mulch around the plants to conserve moisture and suppress weed growth.

Remember to periodically monitor the groundcovers for any signs of invasive spread and take appropriate measures to control them. With the right groundcover options and proper maintenance, you can create a beautiful and cohesive look under your trees.

Flowering Plants to Enhance the Tree’s Beauty

Adding flowering plants to the base of your trees can not only enhance their beauty but also create a vibrant and eye-catching landscape. Here are some stunning flowering plants that can transform the area around your trees:

  • Hydrangeas: Known for their large and showy blooms, hydrangeas can elevate the beauty of your tree plantings. They come in a variety of colors, including pink, blue, and white, and can add a touch of elegance and charm to the garden.
  • Bleeding hearts: Bleeding hearts are perennials that produce unique heart-shaped flowers that hang gracefully from arching stems. Their delicate blooms in shades of pink and white can bring a romantic and whimsical feel to the base of your trees.
  • Lily of the valley: These small, fragrant bell-shaped flowers are perfect for filling in the gaps around trees. Lily of the valley blooms in spring and adds a charming touch of white or pink to the landscape.
  • Japanese anemone: Japanese anemones are late-season bloomers that bring a burst of color to the tree plantings. With their delicate petals and tall stalks, they create a sense of drama and beauty in the late summer garden.
  • Lilyturf: Lilyturf, also known as liriope, is a versatile plant that produces beautiful spiky flowers in shades of lavender, purple, or white. Its grass-like foliage adds texture and interest to the base of trees.

When selecting flowering plants, consider their blooming season and color palette to create a harmonious and continuous display throughout the year. Choose plants that complement the existing tree foliage and consider the size and shape of the tree when determining the placement of the flowers.

It is important to provide adequate water and nutrients to ensure the healthy growth of flowering plants. Mulching around the plants will help conserve moisture and suppress weed growth. Regular deadheading of spent flowers will encourage prolonged blooming and keep the area looking tidy.

Remember to choose flowering plants that are suitable for the light conditions under the trees. Some plants may require partial shade, while others may thrive in full shade. By carefully selecting the right flowering plants and providing proper care, you can create an enchanting and picturesque scene under your trees.

Shrubs to Create a Layered Landscape

Introducing shrubs to the area around your trees can add depth and structure to the landscape while creating a layered and cohesive look. Here are some shrubs that are well-suited for planting around trees:

  • Azaleas: Azaleas are popular shrubs known for their stunning blooms in shades of pink, red, purple, and white. Their vibrant flowers can create a striking contrast against the tree foliage, adding visual appeal to the landscape.
  • Boxwood: Boxwood shrubs are versatile and can be used to create formal hedges or add structure to the garden. Their dense evergreen foliage provides year-round interest and serves as an elegant backdrop for other plants.
  • Camellias: With their glossy evergreen leaves and exquisite blooms, camellias are a favorite choice for adding a touch of elegance to tree plantings. They come in a variety of colors and sizes, making them suitable for various garden styles.
  • Forsythia: Forsythias are deciduous shrubs that produce a profusion of vibrant yellow flowers in early spring. Their bright blooms herald the arrival of spring and can bring a burst of color to the bare understory of trees.
  • Hydrangeas: While hydrangeas were mentioned earlier for their stunning flowers, they can also be grown as shrubs. Their large, billowy blooms and lush foliage create a focal point in the garden and complement the tree’s beauty.

When selecting shrubs, consider their size, growth habit, and desired maintenance level. Opt for shrubs that will not outgrow the tree or compete with its roots for nutrients. Additionally, choose shrubs that are suitable for the light conditions and soil type in your area.

When planting shrubs, provide adequate spacing between them and the tree to allow for proper air circulation and avoid overcrowding. Mulch around the shrubs to conserve moisture and prevent weed growth. Regular pruning will help maintain the desired shape and size of the shrubs and keep them looking neat and tidy.

By incorporating shrubs into your tree plantings, you can create a layered and visually appealing landscape. The different heights and textures will add depth and interest to the area, making it a focal point in your garden.

Perennials That Thrive in the Shade

If your tree-filled area experiences limited sunlight, there are still plenty of options for adding color and texture with shade-loving perennials. Here are some perennials that thrive in the shade and can brighten up the base of your trees:

  • Astilbes: Astilbes are known for their feathery plumes of flowers that come in various shades of pink, red, white, and lavender. These perennials thrive in moist soils and can add a touch of elegance to the shade garden.
  • Ferns: Ferns are a classic choice for the shade with their delicate fronds and lacy foliage. From delicate maidenhair ferns to dramatic ostrich ferns, there is a wide variety of ferns to choose from to add a fern-dappled charm to the tree plantings.
  • Lungwort: Lungwort, also known as pulmonaria, is a low-growing perennial that blooms in early spring. Known for its unique spotted leaves and tubular flowers that range from pink to blue, lungwort adds interest and color to shady areas.
  • Bleeding hearts: Bleeding hearts produce heart-shaped flowers that hang gracefully from arching stems. Their delicate blooms in shades of pink and white create a romantic and whimsical feel in the shade garden.
  • Hostas: Hostas are versatile perennials that come in a wide array of colors, sizes, and textures. Their lush foliage provides interest even when not in bloom, and they can be used to create a beautiful foliage display under trees.

When planting shade-loving perennials, ensure the soil is well-draining, as excessive moisture can be detrimental to their health. Adding organic matter, such as compost, to the soil before planting will improve its fertility and drainage.

Regular watering is essential during dry periods to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Applying a layer of mulch around the plants will help retain moisture and keep weeds at bay.

Remember that these perennials may require dividing and rejuvenating periodically to maintain their vigor. Removing faded flowers and yellowing leaves will encourage new growth and promote a tidy appearance in the shade garden.

By selecting the right shade-loving perennials and providing them with the proper care, you can create a lush and vibrant garden under your trees, even in the absence of direct sunlight.

Pro Tips for Planting Around Trees

Planting around trees requires some careful consideration to ensure the success of your garden bed. Here are some pro tips to keep in mind when planting around trees:

  • Choose the right plants: Select plants that are well-suited for the light conditions and soil moisture levels in the area. Opt for shade-loving varieties that can tolerate the competition from tree roots.
  • Observe the tree’s root zone: Take note of the tree’s root zone and avoid damaging or disturbing the roots when digging or planting. The majority of a tree’s roots are within the top few inches of soil, so be mindful of the depth at which you plant.
  • Remove surface roots carefully: If there are surface roots near the planting area that may hinder the growth of other plants, remove them gently using a hand trowel or pruning shears. Avoid cutting or damaging large roots as it can harm the tree.
  • Amend the soil: Improve the soil quality by incorporating organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, into the planting area. This will help enhance the soil structure, drainage, and fertility, providing a better environment for plant growth.
  • Consider companion planting: Pair compatible plants together to create a harmonious garden bed. Some plants have a symbiotic relationship, benefiting from each other’s presence and deterring pests or attracting beneficial insects.
  • Water properly: Water the plants deeply and less frequently to encourage deep root growth. Avoid frequent shallow watering, as it can promote shallow root development and make the plants more prone to drought stress.
  • Mulch effectively: Apply a layer of organic mulch around the plants, leaving a small space around the base of each tree. Mulch helps conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature. Avoid piling mulch against the tree trunk, as it can lead to rot or provide a habitat for pests.
  • Monitor and adjust: Regularly inspect the health and growth of the plants. Adjust watering, fertilizing, and pruning practices as necessary to promote optimal plant growth and prevent any issues.

Remember, every tree planting situation is unique, so it’s important to assess the specific conditions and adapt your approach accordingly. By taking these pro tips into consideration, you can create a successful and visually appealing garden around your trees.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Planting Under Trees

Planting under trees can be a challenging endeavor, but avoiding common mistakes can help ensure the success of your garden bed. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when planting under trees:

  • Planting too deep: One of the most common mistakes is planting trees or other plants too deep. Tree roots need access to oxygen, and planting too deep can suffocate them. Avoid burying the trunk base or covering the tree’s root flare.
  • Ignoring the tree’s growth characteristics: Before choosing plants for the area, consider the growth characteristics of the tree. Some trees have shallow roots that may compete with other plants for water and nutrients. Select plants that can coexist with the tree’s root system.
  • Overcrowding: Resist the temptation to overcrowd the planting area. Overcrowded plants can lead to competition for resources and hinder their overall growth. Give plants enough space to mature and spread without overcrowding each other or the tree.
  • Not considering light conditions: Different areas around the tree may have varying levels of sunlight and shade. It’s essential to choose plants that can thrive in the specific light conditions of each area. Some plants may tolerate full shade, while others may require some dappled sunlight.
  • Using aggressive or invasive plants: Avoid planting aggressive or invasive species under trees, as they can quickly take over the area and outcompete the tree and other plants. Research the plants thoroughly before introducing them to the garden bed.
  • Underwatering or overwatering: Finding the balance with watering can be challenging. Overwatering can lead to root rot, while underwatering can stress the plants. Observe the moisture levels in the soil and water appropriately based on the specific needs of each plant.
  • Neglecting maintenance: Proper maintenance is crucial for the health and longevity of the plants under trees. Regularly inspect for signs of pests, diseases, or nutrient deficiencies. Prune plants as needed to maintain proper shape and remove any dead or damaged growth.
  • Using improper mulching techniques: Avoid piling mulch against the trunks of trees or directly touching the stems of plants. Improper mulching can lead to moisture imbalances, rot, and pest infestations. Leave a small space around the base of each tree and plant to allow proper airflow.

By being mindful of these common mistakes and avoiding them, you can create a healthy and thriving garden under your trees. Take the time to plan and prepare the planting area, choose suitable plants, and provide the necessary care for optimal growth and beauty.

Mulching Techniques for Tree Plantings

Mulching is an essential practice for tree plantings as it provides numerous benefits, including moisture retention, weed suppression, and improved soil health. However, it’s important to follow proper mulching techniques to maximize its effectiveness. Here are some mulching techniques to consider for your tree plantings:

  • Mulch depth: Apply a layer of mulch around the base of the tree, extending to the drip line. The mulch layer should ideally be around 2 to 4 inches thick. Avoid piling mulch against the trunk, as it can cause the bark to hold excess moisture, leading to rot and disease issues.
  • Mulch material: Organic mulch materials, such as wood chips, shredded bark, or compost, are recommended for tree plantings. These materials break down over time, enriching the soil with nutrients. Avoid using inorganic materials like rubber mulch, as they do not provide the same benefits to the soil and can negatively impact tree health.
  • Mulch ring: Create a ring-shaped mulch bed around the tree, leaving a small space around the base of the trunk. This allows for proper airflow and prevents excessive moisture accumulation, which can attract pests and cause root decay. The mulch ring should extend to the tree’s drip line to cover the area where roots are actively absorbing water and nutrients.
  • Mulch maintenance: Regularly monitor the mulch layer and replenish it as needed. Over time, the mulch will break down and decompose, reducing its effectiveness. As the mulch layer thins, add additional mulch to maintain the desired thickness and continue reaping the benefits of mulching.
  • Keep mulch away from the trunk: Ensure that the mulch is not directly touching the trunk of the tree. Pull the mulch a few inches away from the base of the trunk to create a gap. This helps prevent moisture buildup and reduces the risk of pests, diseases, and rot affecting the trunk.
  • Extend mulching to the tree’s root zone: The tree’s root zone extends beyond the drip line, so it’s beneficial to extend the mulching area accordingly. This provides an improved environment for the tree’s roots, promoting healthy growth and water absorption. It also helps to suppress weed competition in the surrounding area.

By following these mulching techniques, you can create an optimal environment for your tree plantings. The mulch will help conserve moisture, regulate soil temperature, suppress weed growth, and improve soil structure. It’s a simple and effective practice that can greatly benefit the overall health and vitality of your trees.

Maintenance Tips for Your Tree Plantings

Maintaining your tree plantings is crucial to ensure their overall health and longevity. With proper care and attention, you can help your trees thrive and enhance the beauty of your landscape. Here are some maintenance tips to keep in mind:

  • Watering: Provide adequate water to newly planted trees and regularly monitor moisture levels. Deep watering is preferable to promote deep root growth. Water slowly and deeply around the root zone rather than a shallow sprinkling, as this encourages the development of a robust root system.
  • Pruning: Regularly inspect your trees and prune as necessary to maintain their form, remove dead or diseased branches, and promote healthy growth. Prune during the appropriate season, avoiding heavy pruning during the active growing season to minimize stress on the tree.
  • Fertilizing: Consider fertilizing your tree plantings to provide the necessary nutrients for healthy growth. Consult with a local arborist or horticulturist to determine the appropriate fertilizer and timing based on your specific tree species and soil conditions.
  • Weed control: Keep the area around your trees weed-free to minimize competition for water, nutrients, and light. Regularly inspect the planting area and remove any weeds or grasses that may encroach on the tree’s space. Applying a layer of mulch can help suppress weeds and reduce weed maintenance.
  • Pest and disease monitoring: Regularly check your trees for any signs of pests, diseases, or damage. Look for discolored leaves, premature leaf drop, or unusual growth patterns. If you notice any issues, consult with a professional arborist who can provide guidance on effective treatments or preventive measures.
  • Protection from mechanical damage: Take precautions to protect your trees from mechanical damage, such as lawnmower strikes or accidental bumps from gardening equipment. Create a protective barrier or install tree guards to prevent accidental harm.
  • Monitoring soil moisture: Regularly monitor the soil moisture levels around your trees, especially during hot and dry periods. Irrigate accordingly to ensure the soil remains adequately moist but not waterlogged. Avoid over-watering, as it can lead to root rot and other issues.
  • Regular inspection: Take the time to inspect your tree plantings regularly. Look for any signs of stress, damage, or changes in growth patterns. Promptly address any issues to prevent further damage and maintain the health and vitality of your trees.

By following these maintenance tips and providing appropriate care for your tree plantings, you can ensure their long-term health and enjoy the beauty they bring to your landscape. Regular monitoring and proactive management will help you address any issues early on and promote the well-being of your trees.