En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
3 ratings

Tuesday - April 22, 2008

From: Detroit, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Soils, Trees
Title: What can be planted under a pine tree in Detroit, MI?
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What type of plant would you suggest I plant under my big (Blue bruce) pine tree? It's about 25 ft high and the branches are trimmed to about 4 feet up, so it does get some light but mostly shade.I am having trouble keeping anything alive, I was told that was because of the acid in the pine needles,is this true? What would you suggest I plant, that is strong enough?

ANSWER:

We went looking for a "Blue Bruce" pine, but could not locate one. We did, however, find Picea pungens (blue spruce), which is a native of North America. It is mostly found in Colorado, but since it has a "Christmas tree" shape, it is widely sold in the nursery trade. The blue spruce is in the genus Picea, and one of about 35 species of coniferous evergreen trees in the family Pinacea. There is a lot of confusion about which trees are really pines, and which are firs or spruces. Read this Gardenline webpage on Fir, Pine, or Spruce - Which do I have? In terms of your question, it really doesn't matter a whole lot what it is, as they all share the same characteristics of creating acidity in the soil beneath them.

So, the problem is not the strength of the plant that goes beneath the tree.The problem you are having is due to the acidity of the soil. The acid-loving plants are rhododendrons, including azaleas, blueberries, blackberries and hydrangeas, as well as many types of evergreens and conifers. All of these are considered moist woodland plants, but they all require some sun. Leaf drop from deciduous trees, and especially conifers, will raise the acidity in the soil underneath. Really, if you value your tree, and you certainly should, you need to leave it alone, and not try to grow anything until out beyond the drip line of the tree. And don't clean those needles up-the tree needs them for continued nutrition. Here is a page of Images of the blue spruce.

 

More Soils Questions

Flowers for sunny and shady gardens in Cedar Hill TX
March 30, 2010 - Last year I spent way too much on flowers for my sunny and shady flower beds. They all died from the heat, even after constant watering. What flowers could I plant in sunny and shady flower beds that ...
view the full question and answer

Apartment Landscaping
September 13, 2005 - I live in an apartment and have a small patch filled with rocks and an ugly plant I don't know the name of. I want to take out the existing plants and put something else in. It has to be hearty,low m...
view the full question and answer

High water table in Glewood Springs CO
March 03, 2012 - We are considering the purchase of a home in Glenwood Springs, CO (elev. Approximately 5,000 ft) and find it strange that while neighboring properties in the subdivision have beautiful landscaping wit...
view the full question and answer

Is California fan palm found on Edwards Plateau from Austin
January 18, 2013 - Is the following Palm, Washingtonia filifera, found in the Texas Hill Country, specifically the Edwards Plateau or Balcones Canyonlands NWR.
view the full question and answer

Restoring disturbed land in Marshall, TX.
December 04, 2014 - I have a 30 acre tract of land in Marshall, Texas. The oil company has turned 2-3 acres surrounding the rig into gravel. I would like to return the gravel area to green space. Any suggestions on gras...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center