Hardiness Zone: 3a
Lorraine from Lone Rock, WI
The biggest obstacle to overcome when planting under pine trees is the fact that whatever grows underneath them has to compete with them for sun, water, and nutrients. The pH of the soil underneath them is a second concern.
Start with a soil test. These are cheap and easy to do (your extension agent can give you details), and will give you accurate feedback on the nutrient content and pH of the soil. At the very least, get a cheap tester kit from a garden center and test the pH. Pine trees continuously drop their needles. Over time, decaying needles create an acidic environment in the underlying soil. In nature, this is the tree's way of deterring the competition. Pretty good, huh? Most ornamentals prefer soil with a pH that is only slightly acidic (6.0 to 7.0). If the pH of your soil tests more acidic than this, amending the soil with lime may allow you to grow a greater variety of plants. Certain broadleaf evergreens, like rhododendrons and azaleas, prefer acidic soil and should live quite happily under your pines. Hostas and impatiens do well, too.
Sun-loving plants don't generally do well under pines (very tall White or Red pines can being the exception). Removing lower branches to open up the light is a tricky business and not recommended, because they won't ever grow back again if you make a mistake. The best choices for plants are going to be those that prefer shade to partial shade.
Large tree roots are experts at finding and hoarding water. To that end, woodland natives are a great option in terms of drought tolerance. They provide beautiful color and interest, as well as provide food and shelter for local wildlife and insects. They are also well-adapted to growing among large surface roots. Native plant nurseries in your area can assist you with selecting the right native plants for your site.
Here are some other plants you might try:
About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com
I'm in Maine and have a huge pine in my backyard. Underneath I have planted hostas, bleeding hearts, columbine, and a bachelor button at the edge that seems to be doing great. Good luck! (05/19/2008)
My iris seem to love the acid soil. (05/23/2008)
Add your voice! Click below to comment. ThriftyFun is powered by your wisdom!