The Q&A Archives: Ground cover for rocky, shady slope under pecan tree

Question: I live in Arkansas and have a sloped area between my driveway and my neighbor's with a pecan tree. The soil is very hard and rocky. What suggestions can you give me for an attractive ground cover?

Answer: It is somewhat difficult to plant beneath large trees due to the tree canopy blocking sun and rain from reaching the ground, and then there are the tree's roots competing for moisture and nutrients as well. Rocky ground in an of itself is not necessarily bad, but it does make soil preparation difficult. For all these reasons I would suggest using a vine as your groundcover, possibly either the fall blooming, sweet autumn clematis or the Virginia creeper, a native which turns scarlet in the fall. These can romp across the ground and cover it while being undemanding to care for. Another possibility might be to try some of the Euonymus fortunei cultivars, these low growing shrubs swill mound somewhat in the center and then spread outward along the ground. Another choice might be Ajuga, although this more traditional groundcover would require digging many individual planting holes as it is usually set out as tiny plants about one to two feet apart. All four of these should do well in the bright dappled light beneath the tree and are low maintenance once established. Your local professional nursery staff and/or county extension may have additional or different suggestions based on a more detailed understanding of the planting conditions at the site and your design goals. Good luck with your project!

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