Green with Reene

by Irene Ecklund

Gardening under trees is easy with plants adapted to dry shade.

Gardeners one moment are lauding the trees for providing relief from sun and the next criticizing them for preventing plants from flourishing beneath their dense canopies. Several factors make gardening under a tree a tall order. The more shallow-rooted a tree, the more difficult it is to grow plants above this thirsty root system. A thick canopy of foliage adds to the challenge by keeping light and rain from reaching the ground. The ground beneath trees with shallow roots and thick canopies can be so dark and dry that herbaceous plants competing for water and nutrients come up short.

Consider thinning your trees' canopies to allow more light and rain to reach the earth. You can add 4-6 inches of leaf litter under the canopy, but make sure you keep the mulch several feet from the trunk and off exposed roots. Excellent ground covers include Japanese spurge (Pachysandra, Cranesbill Geranium, Barrenwort, periwinkle, Lamium). For bloom lasting spring to fall, plant Virginia bluebells, Japanese anemones, Ferns, bush violets (Browallia), Wishbone (Torenia), lady┬╣s mantles, Lenten rose hybrids, foxgloves, barrenworts, fairy bells. Learn more about great plants for shade.