The Q&A Archives: What To Plant Under An Oak Tree In A Raised Bed?

Question: I have a raised bed under an oak tree and would like to know what kind plants would grow? The soil is on the dry side and the area receives partial sun. The site faces South to Southwest. The area is 6' x 15'. The bed is a half moon shape and faces the drive way. I enjoy starting plants from seeds and would like to know what type of annuals and perennials would work best.

Answer: An oak is a good tree under which to create a bed, since they will compete less with your plants than some other deciduous trees. Dry shade is a challenge: it really narrows the field of choice, since there aren't many ornamentals that thrive in such conditions. If you improve the soil so that it will hold moisture better, and perhaps install a soaker hose or drip irrigation line in the bed, you'll have a lot more room to be creative. If you want to stick with plants that tolerate dry shade, here are some to consider: bellflower, nasturtium, sweet woodruff, coral bells, lamb's ears, Vinca minor, barberry, dwarf columbine, thyme and lemon thyme, wooly yarrow, German chamomile, heartleaf bergenia, sundrops, catnip, and rosemary. All of these will need regular, deep watering until they become well established. Mulch helps keep moisture in the soil, and actually creates a more "woodsy" soil condition that many of these plants enjoy. You can start many of these plants from seed, too -- have fun!

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