Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - May 01, 2014

From: Amarillo, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Compost and Mulch, Shade Tolerant, Trees
Title: Plants to grow under elm tree in Amarillo TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a large elm tree and I can't get seem to get anything to grow under it. I was wondering if there are any shade-loving groundcovers that you would recommend (have tried English Ivy, hostas, and a few other plants to no avail). We would like to have something that would make this area nice to enjoy instead of a large, barren area. Is it a good idea to add new soil or mulch and how much? The elm tree gets quite a few suckers from the ground; how should these be managed/prevented?

ANSWER:

You should know that the American elm is somewhat allelopathic, which means it is capable of emitting chemicals that will damage or kill plants competing with the elm for water or nutrients. It isn't the worst tree at that, the walnut is, but it still can be a factor.

From a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer:

"Please note that it is difficult to impossible to grow much of anything under any tree, including grass, because of the needs of the tree roots for moisture and nutrients from the soil and because of the shade from the tree. Here in Texas, we would vote for the trees and spread mulch under the shade of the tree. See our How-To Article Under Cover with Mulch."

To address the sucker question: From eHow, here is an article on How to Remove Elm Tree Suckers. We urge you not to apply any chemicals to the tree as mentioned in this article; our observation is that those chemicals can adversely affect the whole tree. We do urge you to pay attention to this remark:

"Inspect the tree every few weeks and cut off new suckers you find. Be aware that this will be an ongoing part of the routine for caring for the tree."

By the way, the two plants you mentioned trying as shade tolerant, English Ivy and hostas, are neither of them native to North America and English Ivy is capable of being very invasive.

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Watering newly planted woodland plants in VA
June 12, 2011 - How frequently should newly planted, native plants, growing in wooded areas be watered? Is it better to not water at all than to use sprinklers in which case the water rarely saturates the leaf...
view the full question and answer

Shrubs for Shade in Annapolis MD
September 12, 2013 - Can you please recommend dense shade tolerant shrubs for Annapolis, Maryland.
view the full question and answer

Growing mosses in the Pacific Northwest
February 05, 2015 - Can you provide information on types of Mosses as well as Microferns in the Northwest Mountain region near Seattle? I assume that Mosses and Microferns are more resilient to foot traffic (i.e.Cush...
view the full question and answer

Understory shrub for shady area in San Antonio
December 03, 2008 - We would like to plant a small understory tree/shrub in an odd space that our new deck has created between our fence line and the house. A mature mountain laurel would be our dream but I think there ...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for shady site in Tyler TX
February 24, 2009 - I live in Tyler Texas and have a lot of shade and sandy soil. No grass will grow and I was wondering if I should look at ground cover instead? If so, what grows in shade and sand? I have tried sever...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.