The Q&A Archives: Groundcover Under Oak Trees

Question: We live in a California oak forest. We heard that a strawberry plant ground cover would survive the toxic effect of the oak leaves. Please, would you tell us if this is true and if so, what type of strawberry plant is it? Also, are there other plants that would do as well or better? Thank You.

Answer: Oaks are especially particular about having their roots disturbed and about having too much water, so your choices should include those plants that get along without regular irrigation. It's important not to plant within 10 feet of the trunks of your oaks, and to keep water to a minimum by using soaker hoses or drip irrigation. The shrubs, groundcovers and perennials that will do well under oaks in your gardening region include Manzanita, Barberry, Wild Lilac (Ceanothus), Rock Rose, Pacific Wax Myrtle and Cape Plumbago. Cotoneaster, Wild Strawberry, Rosemary and Evergreen Currant, Aloe, Dusty Miller, Daylily, Oregano, Penstemon, Salvia, Sedum, Thyme and Kniphofia (Red-Hot Poker). Try not to disturb the roots of the oaks when planting, and try to keep the soil as dry as possible by avoiding the use of sprinklers. Following the above guidelines should result in happy oak trees and attractive, healthy landscape plants.

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