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
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

QUESTION:

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!

ANSWER:

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

Problems with post oaks in Milam Co., TX
October 26, 2009 - I have an old ranch in Milam County, Texas on the Brazos River with several large, old Post Oaks. Recently a few of these grand old trees have lost large branches and two have died. One has died, poss...
view the full question and answer

Fruit trees non-toxic to dogs that will grow in Killeen TX
April 15, 2010 - I live in Central Texas and I'd like to know if there is any fruit tree that is non toxic to dogs that will grow well in my area. My dog eats everything in sight. Thanks!
view the full question and answer

Propagating Quercus agrifolia (Coast Live Oak)
November 08, 2013 - I am a gardener for the city of San Francisco. I am just curious about the best way to prepare an acorn from Quercus agrifolia for planting. I have heard many ideas about using sandpaper and microwavi...
view the full question and answer

Eastern Redbud Flowers and Leaves Dried Up
June 12, 2014 - I have a young Eastern Redbud that started blooming last year. This year blossoms formed and leaves started to come, but now they are all dried up. What might have caused this?
view the full question and answer

Small, attractive tree to replace redbud
September 23, 2008 - Hi. We have a dying redbud (approx 9 yrs old) in our west facing front yard. It gets lots of sun, and plenty of water from our irrigation system. We think the issue is a vertical split in the trunk, ...
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