The Q&A Archives: Planting Under Pine Tree.

Question: Dear NGA, We have a large Pine tree that we have removed the bottom branches from, to clear area of too much of a dense closed look.We now are interested in finding the correct things to plant under P. tree, as it is a bare, root covered area. I have read about ferns and hostas but I was wondering about the median sized ivy ground cover under the tree. A nursery man told me that now was not the time to plant ivy and to wait til spring. Is this a good choice? we feel it would look good at all times , and we don't think the ferns and hostas would always look good.Please advise us. Thank you Carol

Answer: English ivy or Hedera helix is a traditional used evergreen ground cover and it is often suggested for difficult locations.

The area under a pine tree is considered extremely difficult because it is dry and dark and full of tree roots as well as being extra acidic due to the annual layering of pine needles. In my experience, the ivy would probably be the most likely plant to succeed and look good and healthy in that location.

When you plant it, amend each hole with some additional organic matter and be sure to water the plants until they become well established. If the plants are container grown you could probably plant them now as long as you are careful to water as needed to keep the soil moist until the ground freezes. However, the plants might suffer some winter damage due to the transplanting stress and timing -- late October is a bit late to plant any evergreens.

You might also have a better selection of plants in the spring when they can be purchased as inexpensive small plants for spring planting. If planted about a foot apart, the area should fill in within a year or two.

Hostas and ferns on the other hand tend to do well in shade but would probably need extra watering every year just to survive. They are also deciduous and disappear for the winter or, in the case of evergreen ferns such as the Christmas Fern, tend to look very ratty by spring.

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