Growing plants under shade trees

Do you have trouble with grass underneath large shade trees in your landscape? Or no grass at all? This is a common problem for those of us fortunate enough to have such large shade trees. While these large trees provide much needed shade and a home for birds, squirrels and other wildlife, they tend to shade out the sunlight that grass needs to grow.

Its kind of like that old saying of having our cake and eating it too. But we cannot force plants to grow where they are not intended to grow. The good news is, weve got options, and with a little research the proper plants can be found.

One option for this shady situation is to plant the area with a shade-tolerant ground cover or even landscape it with shrubs, annuals and perennials that thrive in shade. If you want to stick with the concept or look of a grass, a great substitute is to plant the area with a low-growing ground cover.

Some of your options for covering larger areas with ground covers include monkey grass, creeping lily turf, and coral bells heuchera that is a native of North America, Asian jasmine, English ivy and Japanese ardisia.

Ferns are another option found growing naturally in heavily shaded forests. Choices include maidenhair fern, lady fern and oak fern. Most of these ground covers are reliable, easy-to-grow, fast-growing and reliably found in local nurseries.

Other plants to consider are black snakeroot, also known as black cohosh a native perennial of North America, caladiums, wild ginger, and ligularia. Plants like caladiums, gingers and ligularia can be readily found in local nurseries while the more native plants sadly are not as available. Call your local nurseries to check availability or try online for even more options Be aware that when planting around trees it is very important to remember the root system of the tree itself. You do not want to damage a large trees root system. When possible, try to avoid cutting any roots larger than 1 inch in diameter. This can be done more easily by using a gardening fork rather than a shovel to turn the soil under the tree. The fork will damage fewer roots as you work the area to prepare to plant.

Dont fight your lawn when an area has become too shady. Do your research and work with the shade, not against it.

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