The Q&A Archives: shade flowers

Question: I have an area under 7 large close-planted maple trees that I have planted spring bulbs. What other summer/fall flowering bulbs or plants can I add to my garden?

Answer: Unfortunately, most maple trees are very difficult to plant beneath. Their branches and thick foliage cast dense shade and prevent both light and rain from reaching the ground while their extensive roots near the soil surface steal moisture and nutrients from the nearby plants as well. If you clear away some roots to plant a new plant, the roots quickly grow back. If you place soil over top of the roots, they quickly grow up through it. In many cases plantings fail as a result. Spring bulbs can work there, as can undemanding groundcovers such as Vinca minor. Sometimes it is less frustrating and very rewarding to create a different type of space beneath these trees. You might consider a water permeable patio of loose pavers, a bench or hammock, a water feature, and large containers of annuals for seasonal color. This way you will have an outdoor space that is attractive year round and you will be able to enjoy the trees and their cooling shade in summer and still enjoy some flowers -- without battling the trees. I'm sorry I can't be more encouraging but I hope this gives you some ideas.

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