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

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

Skin allergies; is Juniper the culprit in Simi Valley, CA?
July 21, 2012 - My husband and I have had terrible skin allergy problems this spring (for me it's been 3 years) and think it may be the juniper bushes outside our bedroom and kitchen windows. Is there a fast growin...
view the full question and answer

Pruning native Senna lindheimeriana
September 28, 2008 - I asked a question about pruning a Texas Senna tree. The Texas Senna I have is either a S. wislizenii or a S.lindheimeriana. It is a beautiful tree that I purchased at a Texas Native Plant nursery. ...
view the full question and answer

Poolside plants for East Texas
June 18, 2015 - What are the best plants, shrubs, ornamental trees, etc. for poolside planting in East Texas?
view the full question and answer

Shade Trees for Bullhead City, AZ
August 12, 2014 - We have a patio with 2 old (unused) fire pit cut-outs; about 4 ft wide each. The cut out is not lined with concrete or brick: just rimmed with the concrete on all sides. The center of the cut-outs i...
view the full question and answer

Wanting to grow a Buckley Oak in Amarillo, TX
January 20, 2016 - I live in Amarillo Texas in the Texas Panhandle. I recently became interested in the Buckley Oak and was wondering if it might grow well here and if so, where I might find one that I could purchase a...
view the full question and answer

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