The Q&A Archives: Planting Under Oak Trees

Question: I have a good size yard (80x120) with two mature oak trees in the middle. The oak trees are over 150 yrs and are deciduous. I think I need to create a rock garden them and would like to know what type of plants would be appropriate to grow around the oak trees (around the drip line area) and what type of trees (ideally evergreen and grown upright) would be appropriate to plant along the fence for privacy.

Is it possible to plan a 4-seasons garden around the oak trees?

Your comments and advice would be appreciated.

Katherine Wong

Answer: Planting under oaks can be risky business. These trees do not like competition from the roots of other plants; they don't like the additional water required to keep smaller trees and shrubs happy; and it's important not to change the soil grade around the roots of these trees. With those cautions in mind, you should be able to plant trees and shrubs outside of the dripline of your oaks without too much trouble.

Some good choices include Garrya (Silktassel, Daphne odora, Nandina, Osmanthus, Symphoricarpos (snowberry), Viburnum, Myrtle, Barberry, Bergenia, Erigeron (Mexican Daisy, Heuchera (coral bells) and Penstemon. There are many other plants listed in Sunset Western Garden Book if you need additional ideas.

Best wishes with your landscaping project!

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