En Español

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

Need to identify leaf extensions on the leaves of an elm sapling in Houston, Tx.
May 22, 2013 - I have an elm sapling which grows strange leave extensions on its leaves. Can I send you a picture? Tree looks healthy
view the full question and answer

Wasps on live oaks from Sinton TX
August 20, 2012 - Wasps on my live oak trees. What is attracting them? Does this hurt the tree?
view the full question and answer

Need help with a Pecan tree that has been topped in Austin, TX.
July 06, 2010 - Hi Mr. Smarty Plants! I have a pecan tree on my property that was topped by the previous owners. I have searched high and low for information on how to correctly prune a tree that has already been ...
view the full question and answer

Identification of Diospyros texana at Enchanted Rock Park
April 07, 2007 - I took pictures last year in April of one particular large shrub in Enchanted Rock Park. The flowers are extremely fragrant, sort of cluster of tiny creamy white bell shaped. We came back this last we...
view the full question and answer

Need to replace a Silver Maple in Illinois.
July 10, 2011 - My father recently had a tornado take out a 50 year old silver maple. He is looking to replace it, but he is looking for something with interesting summer color; as he put it not "green." I am try...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center