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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.

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Tuesday - April 18, 2006

From: River Grove, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Groundcovers
Title: Possible ground covers under pine trees in Illinois
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Have pine trees in front of house. No luck with the lawn around them....was told it's because of ground acidity. Any tips on how to get a lawn to grow there? If not, can you suggest some ground cover that would grow there and look good without needing to be mowed often ? Thank you.

ANSWER:

If it really is an acidity issue, adding lime to the soil should help. You can have your soil pH tested. Your Cook County agent from the University Of Illinois Extension Service should be able to help you with the testing. They often provide a kit and will test for a nominal fee. The more likely cause is lack of sunlight through the canopy of the trees. While pines usually provide a fine, filtered sunlight, they can often create a fairly dense shade in which all grass will struggle to grow. Here are a few suggestions for native plants that grow in the shade in Illinois that could provide ground cover under your pines:

Vines
Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

Ferns
Crested wood fern (Dryopteris cristata)
Maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum)
Interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana)

Other groundcovers
Canadian wild ginger (Asarum canadense)
Running strawberry-bush (Euonymus obovata)
Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides)

Addtionally, many grass and grass-like natives will grow in partial shade. You can see those that do so in Illinois by doing a Combination Search in the Native Plants Database and selecting "Grass/Grass-like", "Shade" and "Illinois" from the options on the Advanced Search page.

You can look for suppliers of native plants in your area in the National Suppliers Directory on our webpage. A nursery in your area specializing in native plants and your Agricultural Extension Agent might have other recommendations for appropriate native ground covers.
 

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