June 3, 2015 /
Jason Galliger

Spruce Up Your Roots: What to Plant Beneath Your Tree

The arrival of summer signals hot & humid weather. Going outside can feel miserable especially on those long July and August days. What better way to escape the heat than by gardening under the shade of a tree!

But before you get out your gardening tools and wide-brimmed hat know this:

Trees and gardens can happily co-exist, but selecting the wrong plant could jeopardize the health of a tree.

Here are some tips and tricks to having a happy, thriving (and tree-filled) garden:

Avoid Annuals. While these are often some of the prettiest plants in your garden, planting them beneath a tree can cut and expose the root structure, threatening the tree’s ability to collect nutrients.

Choose Perennials or Groundcovers. These plants are much more suited to share space with a tree. We recommend planting them while the tree is still fairly young and its root structure hasn’t spread very far.

Select Plants that Prefer Shade. The plants you choose should prefer a shadier, drier climate –like wild ginger and hostas. Being under a tree canopy is like being under an umbrella which means those plants will get significantly less rain than other plants in your garden.

  • Native woodland wildflowers also will work because they evolved to bloom early in the spring—before the tree leafs in.

Do NOT create a raised bed or planter box around the tree. Doing so can trap the roots so deep that they aren’t able to reach air, or seal moisture against the bark which can harbor insects or cause rot.< - Added Bonus: When your flowers start looking droopy, it’s an added reminder to water both your tree and your plants. This is an especially helpful reminder for young trees planted in the last three years.

Stay tuned to our blog for more updates about summer tree care, gardening and so much more!