Flowers Under Oak Trees - Knowledgebase Question

el dorado hills, Ca
Question by snowboarderd
December 23, 2009
My backyard has oak trees, I would like to plant flowers along the boarding edge of my lawn. Are the oak trees root systems going to over take the flowers root systems. And will the amount of shade an oak tree has prevent sufficient sunlight for the flowers. I still do not know what kind of flowers I am planting. My main question is will most flowers survive the conditions surrounding oak trees?

Answer from NGA
December 23, 2009


Oak trees don't generally like to share their space with other plants and will resent having their roots disturbed or having to deal with frequent watering. With this in mind, there are several perennials that will thrive when planted under oaks because their water needs are low and they won't mind the shade cast by your oak trees. Some plants to consider include:
Autumn sage (Salvia greggii; Bushy 3- to 4-foot shrub bears red, salmon, or purple flowers from late spring to summer.

California iris (I. douglasiana); Knee-high plant with purple, blue, white, or cream flowers in spring. Related Pacific Coast hybrids also work well; they need a little summer water.

Catmint (Nepeta faassenii); Lavender-blue flowers make 2-foot mounds in late spring, early summer.

Coral bells (Heuchera); Compact perennials with roundish leaves in shades of dark green to purplish red; dusters of coral pink, red, or white flowers in spring or summer.

Daffodil (Narcissus); Flowers from February through April, then dies back and doesn't need water in summer.

Red valerian (Centranthus ruber); Perennial 3 feet tall that bloom from spring into summer.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis); Upright (to 6 feet tall) or prostrate (to 2 feet tall), plants have aromatic dark green leaves, plus lavender-blue flowers in late winter or early spring.

Santa Barbara daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus); This 20-inch perennial is covered with pink or white daisies spring into fall. Blooms best with extra light so plant at the edge of the border where there is more bright light.

Blue fescue (Festuca ovina 'Glauca'); Ankle-high clumps of bluegray foliage.

Dusty miller (Senecio cineraria); Woolly white leaves grow 2 feet tall.

Fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides); Graceful 3- to 4-foothigh clumps of bright green foliage topped by pinkish flower plumes.

St. Johnswort (Hypericum calycinum); Ground cover with evergreen foliage, yellow summer flowers.

Another ground cover you might consider is wood strawberries (Fragaria vesca). These tough natives spread by runners which grow in all directions, eventually forming a mat difficult for weeds to invade. Birds find their seedy fruit delicious.

A final suggestion is Monkey flower Mimulus aurantiacus) which flower during the spring and summer. Their funnel-shaped blossoms have two lips said to resemble a monkey's grinning face.

I hope this short list is helpful.

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