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Friday - September 19, 2008

From: Philadelphia, PA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Native plants for area shaded by crabapple in Philadelphia
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Can you recommend native plants about 4' tall to plant under a crabapple in the corner of a yard in front of a fence? Thank you.

ANSWER:

Since you did not say which species of crabapple you were growing, we chose the Malus coronaria (sweet crabapple), which has native distribution in Pennsylvania, as our example. We would recommend that you think first of the health of your crabapple tree before you make decisions on planting under it. The crabapple needs moist, well-draining soil. Members of the Malus genus are susceptible to a number of diseases, including fire blight and various types of fungus. The use of too much fertilizer around the tree will increase its susceptibility to fire blight. If you have plants under it that you fertilize frequently, while the tree may only need fertilizing every few years, this could be a problem for your tree. The prevention of fungus diseases includes keeping good air circulation and raking up fallen leaves which might harbor the fungus. Remember that the roots of a tree will ordinarily extend somewhat beyond the dripline of the tree, and that the majority of tree roots are in the upper 6 to 12 inches of the soil. Whatever digging, watering or fertilizing you do for the new plants will affect the crabapple, also.

Having said that, we will try to find some plants that might suit your purposes. Since the foliage of the crabapple is usually pretty open, we will assume that the plants underneath will be in part shade, which we consider to be 2 to 6 hours of sun.We think it preferable that you not have plants that will grow as tall as 6 ft., because this will reduce the air circulation.We will go to our Recommended Species section for Pennsylvania, and try to find plants that also need moist soil, can get by without very much sun, and won't interfere too much with your tree. You may make your own selections by Narrowing Your Search, searching on herbs for habit (or shrubs or ferns), part shade (2 to 6 hours of sun a day) and moist soil.We avoided any plants with poisonous parts.

Aquilegia canadensis (red columbine) - up to 2 ft. tall, perennial

Campanulastrum americanum (American bellflower) - 3-4 ft, annual, easy germination from seed

Claytonia caroliniana (Carolina springbeauty) - 4-12" stems, perennial

Conoclinium coelestinum (blue mistflower) - to 3: high, perennial, attracts butterflies

Delphinium tricorne (dwarf larkspur) - 12 to 30" perennial

Monarda didyma (scarlet beebalm) - 3 ft., perennial, attracts butterflies

Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry) - low, woody groundcover, evergreen

Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey tea) - low, deciduous shrub, up to 3 ft. tall

Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern) - 1 to 2 ft., evergreen, perennial

Athyrium filix-femina (common ladyfern) - 2-3 ft., perennial, deciduous

Botrychium virginianum (rattlesnake fern) - 3 ft., perennial, deciduous

Comptonia peregrina (sweet fern) - 2-4 ft., perennial, leaves aromatic when crushed

When you have found some plants you are interested in, go to our Native Plant Suppliers, type in your city and state in the Enter Search Location box, and you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed suppliers, and landscape consultants in your general area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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