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Mr. Smarty Plants - Native plants for under a pine tree in Vevay IN

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Monday - June 29, 2009

From: Vevay, IN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Native plants for under a pine tree in Vevay IN
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

At our office we have a very nice garden however, in the front we have a large pine tree. We cannot get anything to take root & live there. Do you have any suggestions for a native shrub or perennial to fill in our spot. The soil is moist with partial shade.

ANSWER:

There are five pines native to Indiana: Pinus banksiana (jack pine), Pinus resinosa (red pine), Pinus rigida (pitch pine), Pinus strobus (eastern white pine) and Pinus virginiana (Virginia pine). What you have may be none of the above or a hybrid; it doesn't matter too much as members of the pinus share several characteristics that may be affecting what will grow around the tree. Pine trees also grow well on poor, rocky soil. If that is what you have in your whole garden, you should probably first address amending the soil where you wish to plant. Working in some humus, like compost, will help to make trace elements available to the roots of the new plants, and improve drainage. When the new plants are in the ground, mulch them with a good quality shredded hardwood mulch. This will shelter the roots from both heat and cold, help to maintain the moisture and, as it decomposes, continue to improve the texture in the soil. 

We were unclear if you were trying to plant shrubs or perennials around the tree or beneath the tree. We're assuming that the tree is doing well, that would probably mean that you have acidic soil, which pines all need. They even contribute to the acidity of the soil with their fallen needles. As the needles decompose, they add still more acidity to the soil. If you are trying to grow plants around the tree, they would just need to be adaptable to the acidic soil and part shade. If you are trying to grow plants beneath the tree, they are having to deal with the heavy shade of the pine, plus the needles on the ground.  We would recommend that you let the pine needles stay beneath the pine, they make a good mulch, should inhibit any weeds from coming up, and will continue to contribute to the health of the tree, itself.

On the assumption that you will plant around the tree, you could go to our Recommended Species section, click on Indiana on the map, and then use the Narrow Your Search  function to select on "herbs" (herbaceous blooming plants) for General Appearance, "perennial" for Duration and "part shade" under Light Requirements. You can even select for "moist" under Soil Moisture. Make the same search, choosing "shrub" under Habit. Follow the links to the webpage on each individual plant to learn growth habits, moisture needs, etc. All the suggested plants like acid or neutral soils and moist soil, will grow in part shade.

Perennial blooming plants for Indiana

Aquilegia canadensis (red columbine) - to 2 ft, tall, semi-evergreen, blooms red, pink, yellow February to July, part shade

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed) - to 2 ft., blooms orange, yellow May to September, sun or part shade

Dicentra cucullaria (dutchman's breeches) - 10" tall, blooms white, yellow April & May, sun, part shade or shade

Geranium maculatum (spotted geranium) - 1 to 3 ft tall, evergreen, blooms white, pink, purple March to July, part shade or shade

Lobelia cardinalis (cardinalflower) - 1 to 6 ft. tall, blooms red May to October, sun, part shade or shade, attracts hummingbirds

Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells) - 1 to 3 ft., blooms pink, blue, purple March & June, part shade or shade

Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot) - 2 to 5 ft., blooms white, pink, purple June to September, sun or part shade

Shrubs for Indiana

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (kinnikinnick) - evergreen, blooms white, pink March & June, sun, part shade or shade

Cephalanthus occidentalis (common buttonbush) - 6 to 12 ft. tall, evergreen, blooms white, pink June to September, part shade or shade

Cornus sericea (redosier dogwood) - dedicuous, 6 to 12 ft., blooms white May & June, part shade

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (coralberry) - 4 to 6 ft, deciduous, blooms white, green April to July, part shade or shade


Aquilegia canadensis

Asclepias tuberosa

Dicentra cucullaria

Geranium maculatum

Lobelia cardinalis

Lobelia siphilitica

Mertensia virginica

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Cephalanthus occidentalis

Cornus sericea

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

 

 

 

 

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