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Top Tips for Growing Plants Under Trees

Many landscapers will tell you that the most difficult area of the garden to grow anything of any real value is underneath shade or evergreen trees. And it’s not as if said landscapers don’t have logic and science on their side.

For one thing, the space directly under a tree can often receive insufficient sunlight even to grow healthy grass. What’s more, these are also the kinds of areas that don’t tend to receive sufficient moisture from rainfall, while the roots of the trees have a habit of draining the soil of nutrients and water.

Contrary to popular belief however, this doesn’t mean that landscapers don’t have plenty of options to play with if looking to successfully grow plants under trees. Along with ensuring the most appropriate plant species are chosen, the key to success lies in carefully considering the unique conditions you are dealing with.

Growing plants under trees may be a challenge, but it is a challenge most savvy landscapers can rise to with relative ease.

Essential Tips

Getting things started with a few basic tips, the following will certainly help your success rates when attempting to grow plants underneath trees:

  • If possible, it is better to plant perennials and shrubs under trees at the same time the tree is planted, or as quickly as possible afterwards. The reason being that you don’t want to risk damaging the fragile roots of established trees later.
  • Always bear in mind that certain trees produce compounds that can inhibit the growth of or even poison other plants.
  • Think about the kinds of plants that would grow naturally under the trees in question in their native Woodland habitat.
  • Always pay particularly close attention to how much water the plants under your trees are provided with naturally, topping them up manually as and when necessary.
  • Use a quality wood-chip mulch to help minimise weed growth and preserve moisture.

Landscapers at all levels can make life significantly easier for themselves by working in accordance with these rules. That said, all the hard work and effort in the world isn’t going to pay off if you fail to choose the most appropriate plants in the first place.

Ideal Plants for Under Trees

While there are dozens of different species and specimens that will not only survive but thrive under your trees, some examples are more popular than others. What’s more, by approaching things as strategically as possible, you have every opportunity of bringing a burst of colour and life into your garden throughout the year.

As such, the following examples provided by experienced British landscapers come most highly recommended of all:


The beautiful flowers of snowdrops are able to withstand even the harshest weather towards the end of the winter, bringing a beautiful carpet of white to the base of deciduous trees. Snowdrops require little to no maintenance whatsoever and produce flowers during January and February.


Brilliantly suited to areas of dappled shade, these gorgeous European woodland staples produce stunning white, blue and pink flowers from the late winter into the early spring. An immense hit of brightness for even the darkest regions of your garden.


A beautiful yet extraordinarily durable plant, lungwort is another British native that demands almost no care or maintenance whatsoever. The flowers explode in a multitude of colours – everything from bright white to deep red to brilliant blue – adding colour to your garden and attracting bees in abundance.


This popular woodlander comes highly recommended for any area of the garden that remains cool and shady throughout the year. Brilliant white flowers that remain close to the ground and burst into life during the early stages of spring.


Just about as beautiful and British as it gets, primroses are less outdoor essentials and more harbingers of the great British springtime. A firm favourite among landscapers across the country and the perfect choice for shady areas and borders, not to mention window boxes.


Another classic woodland staple with the beauty and appeal to brighten up just about any garden. Bluebells perform best in the shade of deciduous trees in soil with excellent drainage.


Last but not least, one of the best things about this shade-loving specimen is the way in which even the smallest plants quickly spread to cover a much wider area with their rich and luxurious foliage. Another popular plant that practically takes care of itself.

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