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Landscaping Under Pine Trees

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Landscaping Under Pine Trees

Everyone has seen those bare spots under pine trees. Do you wonder why? Perhaps you have heard that nothing likes to grow in such acidic soil. The needles are thick under these trees. They must just make the soil too acidic for anything to want to live there. That’s what I thought. Recently, I took an on-line class given by Dr. Tony Koski, professor at CSU and Extension Turfgrass Specialist. I learned that our soil here in Colorado is very high pH–free lime. Although pine needles fall in abundance, there could never be enough pine needles to lower the pH. Fallen needles may SLOWLY make the soil more acidic, but more likely for the better since it neutralizes the lime. It takes decades to change pH and will not decrease by more than .5 units. There goes that myth! Following are the some of the real reasons many things, especially turf, don’t want to grow under these trees: The turf tends to be smothered by a thick mat of pine needles. Dense, year round growth leaves little light. The only thing that will get through is ‘left over light’, according to Dr. Koski. This light lacks intensity and quality. This ‘left over light’ is what the tree does not use for photosynthesis. Any other plant will struggle with below ground competition—tree roots competing for water and nutrients. Our tree roots here in Colorado tend to be fairly shallow. Evergreens, with their dense growth, shed rain to the outside of the tree line, so it’s dry under the tree. Without adequate water and nutrients, most plants will suffer in this setting. But, what does grow under pine trees? I have found a few things that for whatever reason, seem to work well under them. The first is Brunnera macrophylla. It has a couple of common names; False-forget-me-not, Siberian Bugloss and Heartleaf Brunnera. This one, my favorite, is ‘Jack Frost’. It doesn’t mind the dense shade. It doesn’t seem to mind the thick layer of pine needles around it, and the lacy blue flowers are dainty and beautiful. After flowering is over, the stems can be cut back all of the way and you are left with the lovely heart shaped leaves for the rest of the season. The second, which I have come to count on, is Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, common name, Blue Leadwort. It, too, has dainty, pretty blue flowers, but it blooms later in the season than Brunnera. The flowers are followed by seed pods that look like little red tufts and are quite attractive. The foliage is semi-evergreen and turns red in the fall. This plant is able to tolerate full sun to full shade! The third is Kinnikinnick. This is a native plant in Colorado. You’ll find it in the mountains growing quite happily along with all of the evergreens around it. Kinnikinnick is more of a ground cover with evergreen, glossy, rounded, small leaves. It blooms with tiny white and pink bells and shows off with pretty red berries in the fall. All three of these plants will need additional irrigation, however, since lawn sprinklers and rain can’t reach them well, but it’s worth the extra time. So, at least we know there are choices. The easiest one would be to allow a natural mulch of needles to occupy that space, and that is just fine. In fact, I find pine needle mulch quite attractive! The other choice is to try one or more of the above plants, especially if you must have flowers in as many places as possible!
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Landscaping Under Pine Trees

Backyard pine trees offer year-round shade and privacy, as well as the clean, wholesome smell of needles. Landscaping beneath pines involves two central challenges. First, evergreen trees create a perpetual shade that many garden plants cannot tolerate. Second, falling pine needles mix with the soil beneath the trees, making it acidic. The challenge for the gardener is to select plants that prefer a shady location and thrive on acid soil. The selection of such plants is greater than you may think.
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Landscaping Under Pine Trees

I use to live in Michigan and had many pine trees. I tried a variety of plants with no luck. Seemed they never got enough water, even though I would water them daily. I was told that the ground beneath was too acid to grow anything. I also tried native ferns, but again they seemed to wilt and die quite fast. However, what I did find, was that I had a huge crop of Moral Mushrooms yearly under and around the pine trees ! So you might want to wait till next Mayish and check to see if you have any of the delicacies under your trees.
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Landscaping Under Pine Trees

By Kim L. September 9, 20130 found this helpfulI use to live in Michigan and had many pine trees. I tried a variety of plants with no luck. Seemed they never got enough water, even though I would water them daily. I was told that the ground beneath was too acid to grow anything. I also tried native ferns, but again they seemed to wilt and die quite fast. However, what I did find, was that I had a huge crop of Moral Mushrooms yearly under and around the pine trees ! So you might want to wait till next Mayish and check to see if you have any of the delicacies under your trees. Reply Was this helpful? YesAd
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Landscaping Under Pine Trees

Add greenery plus flowers under your pine trees. For example, Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) foliage creates a feathery lawn all year long and in summer, white flowers that please butterflies. Yarrow can grow under a dense pine canopy and requires little if any maintenance in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 though 9. Alternatively, plant azaleas (genus Rhododendron), which grow most vigorously in moderate, filtered shade and acidic soil. Some varieties, such as Herbert Azalea (Azalea x “Herbert”) grow in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 though 9.
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Landscaping Under Pine Trees

3Add greenery plus flowers under your pine trees. For example, Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) foliage creates a feathery lawn all year long and in summer, white flowers that please butterflies. Yarrow can grow under a dense pine canopy and requires little if any maintenance in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 though 9. Alternatively, plant azaleas (genus Rhododendron), which grow most vigorously in moderate, filtered shade and acidic soil. Some varieties, such as Herbert Azalea (Azalea x “Herbert”) grow in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 though 9.
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Landscaping Under Pine Trees

Some of the challenges presented under a pine tree include extreme shade, lack of moisture, a heavy layer of pine needles, and rarely, extreme acidity. In all honesty, the biggest challenge is a lack of moisture, as a pine tree can create a solid rain shield underneath its branches.
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Landscaping Under Pine Trees

Shrubs have a variety of uses including as hedges and screens. Azaleas (Rhododendrons) are a large genus of flowering shrubs, which — depending on the species — grows in USDA zones 4 through 9. This acid-loving plant grows best in dabbled shade and — once established — doesn’t require regular watering. Witch alder (Fothergilla major) is another acid-loving shrub you can plant under pine trees. Witch alder grows in partial shade to full sun in USDA zones 4 through 8. It reaches heights of 6 to 10 feet tall and produces white, fragrant blooms in spring. Witch alder shares similar growing requirements as azaleas and can be planted together underneath the pine.
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Shrubs Shrubs have a variety of uses including as hedges and screens. Azaleas (Rhododendrons) are a large genus of flowering shrubs, which — depending on the species — grows in USDA zones 4 through 9. This acid-loving plant grows best in dabbled shade and — once established — doesn’t require regular watering. Witch alder (Fothergilla major) is another acid-loving shrub you can plant under pine trees. Witch alder grows in partial shade to full sun in USDA zones 4 through 8. It reaches heights of 6 to 10 feet tall and produces white, fragrant blooms in spring. Witch alder shares similar growing requirements as azaleas and can be planted together underneath the pine.
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Rake well under the pine trees, removing small rocks and pieces of wood as well as fallen evergreen needles. Cut or dig out any weeds or brambles growing in the area. Inspect the area and determine the mix of short, lawn-like greenery, flowers and taller bushes you prefer in the landscaping.
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1Rake well under the pine trees, removing small rocks and pieces of wood as well as fallen evergreen needles. Cut or dig out any weeds or brambles growing in the area. Inspect the area and determine the mix of short, lawn-like greenery, flowers and taller bushes you prefer in the landscaping.
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Planting ground covers under the pine tree provides a seemingly endless carpet of foliage and flowers. Creeping wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) is a dense evergreen plant used as a ground cover in U. S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8. This 6- to 12-inch tall plant grows in full or partial shade in acidic soil. Unfortunately, creeping wintergreen requires regularly moisture, so if it is planted under a pine tree, you must water it about once a week. “Metallica Crispa” bugleweed (Ajuga reptans “Metallica Crispa”) is a shade-loving ground cover growing in USDA zones 3 through 10. It has purple foliage and flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. This plant grows in both alkaline and acidic soils and can tolerate dry soils.

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