Planting large shrubs under a pine tree - Knowledgebase Question

seatac, Wa
Question by marjoriepurn
July 2, 2010
We live in Seattle and want to plant under a big pine tree. We had the lower limbs cleared, and have a 15Ft high clearance. Looking for shrubs that are 2-8 FEET tall. Want to tier/level with dif bushes. Looking for options other than azalea, rhododendron and camellia. Want something that does something-leaf color, flowers...Are nandina or burning bush options? Will any grasses work? Thanks!


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Answer from NGA
July 2, 2010

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The soil beneath pines tends to be on the acidic end of the pH scale because of the needles they drop. Another problem associated with growing plants under pines is that the trees have fibrous roots near the soil surface which will compete with any other plant for moisture and nutrients. Additionally, the canopy of pines effectively divert rainwater so things are usually pretty dry directly under the trees. Now that you have a little background information on why it's so difficult to grow plants under pines, you're better equipped to make the right plant choices. Look for plants that grow well in acidic soils, have shallow roots, grow in partially shady locations, and don't mind dry conditions. Some of the plants that will adjust to these conditions include Artemisia, vinca minor, Heuchera (Coral Bells), Limonium, Evening Primrose (Oenothera), Penstemon, Santolina (Lavender Cotton), Campanula, hosta, impatiens and Ferns of all kinds. Azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias are also good choices. Enjoy your landscape!

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