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?


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
Not Yet Rated

Monday - May 11, 2009

From: Federal Way, WA
Region: Northwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Companion plants for Douglas fir in Federal Way, WA
Answered by: Barbara Medford


What are good companion plants for large Douglas Fir trees? we have 5 large trees in our cul-de-sac "island" and would like to plant something colorful around the trees. It's very dry, shady, and covered with dropped needles. I planted windflower bulbs a couple of years ago, but the squirrels didn't leave many of those; they had a feast. I welcome any suggestions!


The phrase "dry, shady and covered with dropping needles" is going to be the biggest obstacle to what you want to do. We will go to Washington on our Recommended Species map, and see what we can find for acidic soil (from the pine needles), shade and low moisture. We wouldn't suggest trying to get plants too far in under the trees, that is just asking for failure. Rather, go for a nice border and try to get some water on them the first year or so they are in the ground. We consider "sun" to be 6 or more hours a day of sun, "part shade" 2 to 6 hours of sun, and "shade" less than 2 hours. We're going to choose perennials that will come back year after year, but we can't guarantee the squirrels won't like them, too. These plants are all commercially available and, if you have difficulty in finding them, go to our Native Plant Suppliers section, type in your town and state in the "Enter Search Location" box, and you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed companies and landscape and environment consultants in your general area.

Perennials for shaded area

Aquilegia formosa (western columbine) - 2 to 3 ft. tall, blooms red, yellow May to August, medium water use, sun or part shade

Calochortus macrocarpus (sagebrush mariposa lily) - 8 to 20 inches tall, blooms purple July and August, low water use, part shade

Delphinium glareosum (Olympic larkspur) - 8 to 16 inches tall, blooms blue, purple June to August, low water use, sun, part shade or shade

Campanula rotundifolia (bluebell bellflower) - 4 to 15 inches tall, blooms blue, purple June to September, low water use, sun, part shade or shade

Fritillaria affinis var. affinis (checker lily) - to 4 inches tall, blooms yellow, green, purple April to July

Iris tenax (toughleaf iris) - to 13 inches tall, blooms white, pink, yellow, purple April to June, medium water use, part shade

Lupinus polyphyllus (bigleaf lupine) - 3 to 5 ft., blooms pink, blue, purple in May, moist or dry soil, sun or part shade

Lupinus sericeus (silky lupine) - 1 to 2 ft. tall, blooms blue, purple June to August, low water use, sun, part shade or shade

Impatiens capensis

Calochortus macrocarpus

Delphinium glareosum

Campanula rotundifolia

Fritillaria affinis var. affinis

Iris tenax

Lupinus polyphyllus

Lupinus sericeus





More Trees Questions

Flowering Dogwood for NY
February 21, 2011 - Hello - can you advise me on a disease-resistant/hardy dogwood? Every nursery I've visited has discouraged me from planting dogwoods. What would you recommend? I live in Westchester County, NY
view the full question and answer

Identification of mystery tree in Huntington Beach, CA
March 25, 2015 - Have a "tree" that has grown from about 18" tall to about 10' tall in a little over a years time. It has a central trunk that is about 3/4" in diameter at it's largest. It has short thin branch...
view the full question and answer

Problems with Ashe juniper from Lakeway TX
May 25, 2013 - Dear Sir/Madam, I have been living for the last three years in Lakeway, Texas approximately 20 miles west of Austin. In my back garden there are several ashe junipers about 15-20ft tall. However...
view the full question and answer

Dog eats Celtis laevigata, sugar hackberry
May 21, 2012 - This is an odd question but I am a biologist and have for years notice an odd behavior in my Golden Retriever. When he gets stomach distress or something makes him nervous like an incoming thunderstor...
view the full question and answer

Looking for a Privacy Barrier Plant for NC
August 21, 2014 - I am trying to determine the best plant for a privacy barrier for my area in NC that has clay soil. I have a 6 foot high fence but need something 12 feet or taller. It has to be something that does no...
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.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center