The Q&A Archives: Planting amongst pine trees

Question: I want to create a privacy shield under pine trees. What will grow there? How do I deal with the compacted soil and roots?

Answer: It is really difficult to find things that will grow happily under pines. Not only is the soil acidic from the dropped needles but the shade they cast is dense and the soil will be dry. Anything you plant beneath them will have to compete for moisture and nutrients. With that said,t I have had success with oakleaf hydrangea and redtwig dogwood. You might also try arborvitae 'Techny', which is the most shade tolerant of all Arborvitae cultivars. Or, try Taxus such as Hicks Yew, Capitata Yew, Cuspidata Yew, or Taunton Yew. Although they are slow growing, they are tough as nails. Buy them as big as possible. Or try Canadian Hemlock but make sure you can keep the soil moist especially during the 1st month after planting. For Deciduous shrubs you could choose, Witchhazel, Redbud, Pagoda Dogwood, Winterberry, Viburnum Dentatum, Viburnum lantana, Viburnum lentago, Viburnum trilobum, Euonymous alatus 'Chicago Fire' or Tures, Kerria japonica, Northern Bayberry, Snowberry, Clethra, Gray Dogwood, Aronia Chokeberry and Amur maples. All of these will tolerate shade very well but will grow in a more open habit, have less flowers and less fall color. You can plant in layers to create the desired screening. All will tolerate the soil conditions under the pines so just dig your planting holes wherever you can find space between the pine's large surface roots. Best wishes with your landscape!

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