16 Best Plants To Grow Under Trees For Landscaping

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Are the spaces beneath the trees in your yard empty and bare, and wondering what to do with them? Here’s an idea- grow other plants under the canopy of your trees. While some plants need full sunlight to grow and thrive, some flourish in dappled light and sheltered conditions.

Before embarking on a journey to fill the expanse under your trees with plants, note that gardening under these conditions can be challenging. The plants will have to compete with the trees for moisture and contend with the absence of direct sunlight.

Give yourself the best chance of success by choosing the right plants.

Things To Remember When Planting Under A Tree

plants to grow under trees 

So, you’ve chosen to take on the challenge of planting under trees. While tricky, it is doable, but you must consider certain things. These are:

1. Dig Holes Carefully

When digging holes for plants under trees, the goal is to minimize disturbance to the tree’s roots while providing the new plants a conducive environment to establish themselves. To achieve this, look for areas where the ground seems less compacted or where there are fewer visible roots.

Also, dig with smaller hand tools like hand trowels or gardening forks for more precise digging and to reduce the risk of damaging roots.

Moreover, gently remove soil and detangle any roots encountered, and if you encounter larger roots, adjust the placement of your planting hole to avoid cutting or damaging them. Furthermore, make shallow planting holes and minimize soil disturbance.

2. Grow Plants According to Your Planting Zone

The success of any garden greatly depends on aligning your plant choices with your local planting zone. You’ll be able to pick the plants suited for your location if you know your region’s USDA Hardiness Zone.

Choose plants recommended for your planting zone’s conditions. For instance, if you’re in a colder area, select plants that can withstand frost or freezing temperatures if the tree provides less protective cover. Also, note any microclimates that exist under your trees.

Furthermore, account for the tree canopy by choosing shade-tolerant or partial shade plants if the tree provides significant shade.

3. Watering Needs

Since your new plants will be competing with your trees for water, choose plants suited to the moisture levels available under the tree. Water the new plants deeply and infrequently to encourage root development.

Adjust watering based on weather conditions. For instance, water your plants more frequently during hot, dry periods and less during cooler or rainy periods.

4. Mulch Carefully

Apply mulch around trees and new plantings to retain moisture and minimize competition from weeds and grass. However, don’t pile mulch against the trunk since this encourages pests and rot.

5. Trim The Trees

Trees with dense canopies can block sunlight, limiting the amount of light reaching the plants underneath. Therefore, before growing plants under your trees, prune or trim the tree canopies to allow more sunlight to filter through.

Consider elevating the lower branches of the tree to increase the vertical space for plants underneath. This will allow more light and create a better environment for growth.

Read More:

16 Best Plants To Grow Under Trees

Best Plants To Grow Under Trees

As mentioned, you must select the plants to grow under trees carefully. So, let’s explore the different types of plants that will thrive under your tree canopies.

Best Ground Covers To Plant Under Trees

1. Vinca Minor (Periwinkle)

Best Ground Covers To Plant Under Trees


Well-known for its ability to grow in shade or partial shade, Vinca Minor is an excellent choice for creating ground cover under your trees. The dark, glossy, green leaves give year-round coverage.

Periwinkle  is a low-maintenance plant that spreads quickly, creating a dense mat that smothers weeds. It also helps prevent erosion on slopes or areas where soil might otherwise wash away.

Hardiness zones: 4-9

2. Japanese pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis)

plants to grow under trees


Pachysandra, a highly shade-tolerant plant that can flourish in areas with minimal sunlight, boasts glossy, dark green leaves that persist year-round, providing continuous coverage. It spreads by rhizomes, forming a thick carpet that helps suppress weeds and soil erosion.

Control its spread through thinning or trimming.

Hardiness zones: 4-9

3. Liriope

plants to grow under trees in shade


For an attractive evergreen ground cover featuring strappy, grass-like foliage under your trees, plant Liriope. In late summer to early fall, the beautiful foliage is accentuated by spikes of small, bell-shaped flowers in shades of purple, white, or lavender.

Besides a suitable ground cover, Liriope’s spreading habit helps control erosion. It is also pest-resistant.

Hardiness zones: 4-10

Best Flowers To Plant Under A Tree

4. Bleeding Heart (Dicentra)

best flowers to grow under trees

This flowering plant often grows under trees or in woodland gardens with dappled sunlight, so it will do well under the trees in your yard. Bleeding Heart prefers partial to full shade and thrives in cool, moist environments.

Aesthetically, Bleeding Heart has attractive, fern-like foliage and heart-shaped pink, red, or white flowers with a dangling drop-like structure.

Hardiness zones: 3-9

5. Viburnum

flowers to grow under trees


These flowering shrubs have plenty to offer, from attractive flowers and foliage to colorful berries. They stand out for their clusters of white, pink, or even lightly fragrant flowers in spring. Their beautiful blooms aside, viburnum has lush, vibrant foliage.

Choose smaller varieties like the Korean Spice for growing under trees.

Hardiness zones: 2-9

6. Astilbe

best plants to grow under trees

Add elegance to the spaces under your trees with Astilbe, a stunning perennial plant that produces feathery, plume-like pink, white, red, and lavender flowers. Astilbes also have green, attractive fern-like foliage.

For the areas under your trees, choose shorter varieties. Astilbes will thrive beneath your trees because of the cool, moist conditions in these areas.

Hardiness zones: 3-8

Best Perennials To Plant Around Trees

7. Hostas (Hosta spp.)

plants to grow under trees

While less hardy plants will die off in shaded areas, this shade-loving perennial will flourish under your trees. This versatile plant is best known for its attractive solid green, variegated with white, yellow, or even bluish-green foliage.

Apart from broad, heart-shaped, narrow, or lanceolate foliage, hostas produce white, lavender, or pink flowers on tall stems.

Hardiness zones: 3-9

8. Bergenia (Bergenia cordifolia)

plants to grow under trees in shade

This durable perennial can handle the shade exceptionally well. It can also withstand harsh conditions, including cold temperatures, hence a popular ground cover in colder climates.

Poor soil suits some Bergenia varieties, giving the leaves a reddish color in winter and fall.

Hardiness zones: 3-8

9. Hellebores (Helleborus spp.)

best flowers to plant under a tree

Often referred to as Lenten roses, Hellebores are shade-loving perennials prized for their early spring blooms. These enchanting, hardy plants tolerate dry shade but benefit from regular watering.

Hellebores provide beautiful, long-lasting flowers when many plants haven’t bloomed yet.

Hardiness zones: 3-9

Shrubs To Grow Under Trees

10. Leucothoe (Leucothoe spp.)

shrubs to grow under trees

This evergreen shrub is ideally suited for woodland gardens, as border plants, or as a ground cover under trees where other plants might struggle due to shade. They are often used as understory plants or in areas with filtered sunlight and prefer moist, acidic soil.

Leucothoe’s predominant feature is its glossy, leathery leaves that retain their vibrancy all year round.

Hardiness zones: 4-8

11. Japanese Pieris (Pieris japonica)

low maintenance shrubs for shade

Highly prized for its attractive foliage, graceful form, and clusters of bell-shaped flowers, the Japanese Pieris will bring life to the bare spaces under your trees. This shrub features leathery, lance-shaped leaves that emerge as bronze or red in spring, then gradually turn dark green as they mature.

Hardiness zones: 4-8

Evergreen Plants For Under Trees

12. Yew (Taxus spp.)

plants to grow under trees in shade


This evergreen shrub’s dense, dark green foliage provides consistent greenery in the landscape, ensuring the spaces under your trees stay appealing. While Yews can grow in full sun, they also thrive in shade or areas with dappled sunlight.

You can shape this shrub into various forms.

Hardiness zones: 2-10

13. Japanese Skimmia (Skimmia japonica)

best shrubs to plant under trees


Are you looking to add color to the areas under trees? You won’t go wrong with Japanese Skimmia. This evergreen shrub features green, glossy, leathery leaves.

Japanese Skimmia produces clusters of fragrant, white, or creamy-yellow flowers for a delightfully fragrant garden in spring. This plant prefers sheltered locations away from harsh, direct sun.

Hardiness zones: 6-8

Native Plants For Under Trees

14. Wild Ginger (Asarum spp.)

Native Plants For Under Trees

Shade is a dear friend of this native plant since it burns in sunlight, so it naturally makes sense to grow it under trees. However, contrary to the name, Wild Ginger is not edible or related to the famous spice.

Wild Ginger plants have glossy or velvety heart-shaped leaves. It also has unique and intriguing maroon, brown, or purplish flowers often hidden beneath the leaves.

Hardiness zones: 3-7

15. Coral Bells (Heuchera spp.)

plants to grow under trees 


Coral Bells thrive in partial to full shade and well-draining soil since overly wet soil can make the roots rot. Looks-wise, these plants’ most distinctive feature is their foliage, but they also produce slender stems bearing small, bell-shaped flowers in spring to early summer.

Hardiness zones: 4a-9a

16. Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)

plants to grow under trees 


If you are going for a less common plant to grow under trees, Foamflower is an excellent choice. It features low-growing mounds of foliage with deeply lobed, intricately patterned leaves. Additionally, it generates slender spikes or wands covered with tiny, star-shaped flowers.

Hardiness zones: 3-8

Final Remarks

From the versatile Viburnum shrub and mat-producing Vinca Minor to the unique Foamflower, there is always a plant suitable for beneath your trees. So, pick a shade-loving plant that suits the growing conditions, the aesthetics you seek, and the available space to brighten these areas.

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