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Plants That Will Survive Best Under A Tree Canopy

If you are a homeowner, one of the biggest worries you will ever experience in regard to your lawn is how to keep your plants alive for as long as possible if they are under a canopy or in shaded areas. Sunlight does not always get through the shaded areas properly, rain has trouble reaching, and it is often very difficult to get a lawn mower into those spaces, so getting the right nutrients to the plants can be a major problem in these situations.

However, there are certain plants that are better equipped than others to survive these conditions, which any Portland arborist should be aware of. Here are some the ones we like to recommend most often.

Hosta – Perform best when wet, but are largely resistant to drought and are available in hundreds of different forms. It is best to put them in large groups under trees.

Vinca – Can adapt to shady conditions and even grow when partially dry.

Wild Ginger – Has to have some moisture but can grow in the shade and, any moisture it absorbs spreads fast due to large leaves.

Wild Columbine – Gentle flowers that re-seed effortlessly and are fairly well resistant to drought once grown.

Impatiens – Tolerate a large amount of shade, though they do need to be consistently watered, and fertilized.

Plants That Will Survive Best Under A Tree Canopy

Pansies and Violets – Like most plants, these grow to their maximum potential with sunlight, but they can withstand shade pretty well.  

Azaleas and Rhododendrons – Require high PH levels and a reasonable amount of moisture and they do not grow very well in mountainous areas. They are beautiful, though, so if it is at all possible to grow them, it is well worth having them in your yard.

Hydrangeas – Also require good moisture, but grow surprisingly well in shady areas.

Alpine Currant – Perfect for a cold weather yard, this plant can grow in shade and sun and has multiple pedals on its leaves.

Oregon Grape Holly – Drought resistant so it can grow pretty much anywhere. Can be upright or trailing, which makes it perfect to grow underneath trees.

General Tips for Gardening Trees Under A Tree Canopy

(1)  Portland arborists should know that it is preferable to grow the plants and the trees at the same time for maximum effectiveness. This is because it helps avoid the need to dig around the soil, which could damage the trees since mature trees have roots that are located close to the surface.

(2)  Pruning lower branches is a good idea because it will allow you to have more space for planting and lets a greater amount of light get underneath the tree. This is important because no matter how well a plant can grow in the shade, it will still need at least some light to stay alive.

(3)  Building a raised bed is not a good move because it can badly damage the tree or possibly even end the tree’s life. Trees generally have surface roots that require oxygen to stay alive and when too many elements pile on top of those roots, oxygen cannot get in and the roots get suffocated. If the roots suffocate, it will also badly damage the tree’s trunk and cause it to decay.

(4)  Planting in holes makes a great deal of sense because well-dug holes help avoid damage to the tree’s roots. Mulch and composted organic matter can be used to help the tree, with the mulch being laid out among the tree’s base and the composted organic matter being used to fill the holes of the tree.

(5)  Adding large plants is frowned upon because they will grow too high, which could block the little sunlight from the other plants and the roots could interfere with the tree’s system.

(6)  You should always water flowers right after planting because it is hard for them to get water since their roots are not established and they have to – in a sense – fight the tree’s roots to get water. In the first month or so after planting, you should water your flowers every single day except on days when it rains.

(7)  It is essential to avoid damaging the roots when planting at all costs, which is, unfortunately, something that happens a lot when new holes are being dug for the plants. Making sure no root damage is done to the tree is an absolute necessity to ensuring the tree has a chance at long-term survival.  

The holes you make for the plants should be just big enough to fit between two roots and if a large root is hit while digging, it should be filled back up immediately and a new hole should be dug in its place. The roots should never be split up and the best way to keep yourself from doing any long-lasting damage when digging is to use a small hand shovel because it will provide the least amount of disturbance to the plants and trees.

(8)  Make sure you plant the proper plants because if you plant the wrong plants – plants that cannot survive under a tree canopy and have trouble staying alive under any kind of shady conditions – you are wasting your time and all but guaranteeing dead plants in your yard in the future.  

There are specific flowers and plants that are much more likely to survive under tree canopies and in shady conditions and knowing which ones they are and planting only those plants and flowers is critical to avoiding dead plants and flowers in your yard.  

It is also worth remembering that different plants and flowers grow best during different seasons and in specific areas, so playing to those factors is going to greatly increase the likelihood that the bulk of your trees and flowers will survive beyond just a few weeks or months.

A professional Oregon Arborist is just a click away with Mr Tree.