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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





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