Ground Cover Plants: Tips For Planting Ground Covers Under A Tree

ivy under trees
Image by Don Graham

By Anne Baley

Trees make attractive focal points in any landscaping design, but the ground around their trunks can often be a problem. Grass might have a hard time growing around roots and the shade a tree offers can discourage even the hardiest of flowers. Instead of leaving the circle around your tree a line of bare earth, why not install a ring of attractive ground cover? These plants thrive on neglect, requiring less sunlight and moisture than most other garden plants. Surround your trees with circles of ground cover and you’ll give your landscape a professional, finished look.

Ground Cover Plants

Choose your ground cover plants according to the trees around which they’ll live. Some trees, like the Norway maple, have very thick coverage and offer almost no sunlight underneath. Others have sparser branches and smaller leaves, giving you more options to choose from. Find out how large each plant type will eventually spread to determine how many plants you will need to cover the entire area around the tree.

Some good choices for ground cover plants under trees include:

Tips for Planting Ground Covers under a Tree

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Like any other part of the landscape you install, planting ground covers under a tree starts with preparing the planting spot. You can plant ground coverage for trees at any time of the year, but early in the spring and later in the fall are the best.

Mark a circle around the grass at the base of the tree to indicate the size of your proposed bed. Lay a hose on the ground to indicate the size of the bed, or mark the grass with spray paint. Dig the soil inside the circle and remove all the grass and weeds growing inside.

Use a trowel to dig individual holes for planting the ground cover plants. Stagger the holes instead of digging them in a grid design, for the best eventual coverage. Drop a handful of all-purpose fertilizer in each hole before placing the plants in place. Leave enough room between plants to allow them to fill in the spaces when full grown. Lay a layer of bark or other organic mulch in between the plants to help retain moisture and to shade out any emerging roots.

Water the plants once a week until they begin spreading and have established themselves. At this point, natural rainfall should provide all the water your ground cover under trees should need, except in extremely dry period of drought.

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