Trees not only provide shade to your landscaping, they can add a magical bit of majesty, as well. As beautiful as they are, though, they generally only continue the palette of greens, browns and grays. Planting around the base of those trees can bring some color to the landscape, or, if you opt for foliage over flowers, those plant contribute texture to the aesthetics. There are some important things to remember before you start digging, though.
First Rule: Do No Harm
When you are planting beneath trees, you have to consider both the needs of the new plants and those of the trees. The tree roots may be exposed or near the surface, so be careful when you start digging, so you don’t injure them. And dig individual holes for each plant, rather than digging out the whole area.
Also, those roots need oxygen to keep the tree alive, so don’t smother them! Don’t build raised beds or pile on heavy loads of soil. Instead , after you dig the individual plant’s hole, add a little compost in it before the plant. After all the plants are in, add a thin layer of mulch – no more than 3 inches. Leave at least 1 inch between the mulch and the trunk of the tree, as well
Even better, consider a container garden for under your trees. Not only does this prevent damage to the trees’ roots, it allows you to move cold-sensitive plants indoors during the winter or to change them out easily.
Prepare the Area First
Even shade-loving plants need a little sunshine to thrive, so trim back the lower branches of the tree to allow the light through. You want to plant at least 1 foot inside the tree’s drip line, so use that as a guide to choose the branches to trim or remove.
Smother any existing grass by covering it with wet newspaper and then a light layer of mulch. This may take awhile, so plan ahead before purchasing your new plants.
Choose the Best Plants
Whatever variety of plants you choose, go with the smallest ones available. This allows for less disturbance to the ground and to the roots.
Opt for native plants as much as possible. They have already adapted to the growing conditions in your geographical area, so they are more likely to do well, and they will need less care over time. If natives aren’t an option, check the light, water, and soil requirements carefully when selecting plants.
Ground covers, like hosta, sweet woodruff, and Spanish bluebells make good choices, as do sage, periwinkle, violets, lilies, ferns, and primrose. Impatiens add a blaze of color, as well, and they are relatively easy to care for.
Hostas are great choices for adding texture to the plantings, either by themselves or as filler with other plants. The foliage color varieties seem nearly endless, including white with green edges, olive green with white edges, and even gold with dark green edges.
Fringed bleeding hearts have beautiful pink flowers and blue-green foliage, and Dicentra exima will continue to bloom through the summer.
You might also opt for annuals like caladiums, salvia, violas, begonias, and violas. Or, if you prefer a bushier planting, oakleaf hydrangea and azaleas are lovely around a tree.
Are you ready to expand your landscaping? Contact us for tips and suggestions for the best trees for your yard.