The Q&A Archives: Pine Tree Groundcover

Question: I have a huge pine tree in my yard. No grass grows in the most of the area under it. I have planted some azalea in this area and they seem to be doing well, but is there anything else I can plant, or anything I can do with this large grass-free area? Because I garden in a wheelchair, a lot of my good ideas for ground cover or using bark, gravel, etc. probably wouldn't work. Can you help with ideas and suggestions so this large area will fit in with the rest of my green yard and flower beds. Thanks!

Answer: Grass always has a hard time growing under pine trees. The roots have to compete with the tree for moisture and nutrients, the shade is often too dense for grass, and the soil acidity (from fallen needles) can overwhelm grass plants. Evergreen trees tend to keep rain from falling down to the soil, too, making the area directly under the tree rather dry. In my yard I use Ajuga (Carpet Bugle) and Vinca minor (Periwinkle) under my pine trees. Both will take everything a pine can throw at it and still thrive. Ajuga will take some foot traffic (or wheel traffic) and come right back. Vinca spreads by vining and would not be suitable if you need to cross over it. Viola (violets) make a great groundcover in shady areas but the leaves may be too tender for constant traffic. Oxalis oregana is another shade-loving groundcover, again with tender stems and foliage. Unless you're constantly running through the area, any of the above suggestions should make suitable (and reasonably carefree) groundcovers.

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