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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - April 23, 2011

From: Colorado Springs, CO
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Plants for under pine trees in Colorado Springs CO
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What can I plant under pine trees in Colorado that will grow every year? Would like ground cover; tried bishop weed.

ANSWER:

Please don't plant Aegopdium podagraria, Goutweed or Bishop's Weed. Read this Plant Conservation Alliance's Alien Plant Working Group LEAST WANTED to find out why. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is committed to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the areas in which those plants grow as natives.

Having said that, allow us to mention a couple of other problems. At an altitude of 6035 ft.  depending on what part if the city you live in, and USDA Hardiness Zones 3b to 5a, you will have challenges growing many plants, especially under the shade and in the needle-drop area of pines. The pine needles on the ground contribute to an acidic soil, and the needles on the tree cause a lot of shade beneath it. We consider "sun" to be 6 hours or more of sun a day, "part shade" 2 to 4 hours of sun, and "shade" less than 2 hours.

You did not mention if you were interested in herbaceous blooming plants or shrubs, but we are going to assume you want blooming plants and demonstrate how to use our Native Plant Database to find appropriate plants. And since you mentioned wanting plants that will grow every year, we will look for perennials. Those perennials will probably not be evergreen and many will die to the ground in winter, but you can trim them back, leaving just enough stalk to identify their location, and they should re-emerge in the spring.

We will go to our Recommended Species section, click on Colorado on the map which will give us 110 plants of all types recommended for Colorado. We will sort on the sidebar at the right hand side of the page for "herb" (herbaceous blooming plant") and "perennial" as well as "part shade" and "shade." Clicking on "Narrow Your Search" will yield 17 results. We are going to give you 4 examples that might do well in your gardening situation. You should always read the entire webpage reached by following each plant link to learn growing conditions, bloom time and color and the soils which that plant prefers. Once you know your way around our website, you can also find suitable trees, shrubs, vines, ferns and succulents, native to your area.

Native herbaceous blooming plants for Colorado Springs CO:

Actaea rubra (Red baneberry) - 1-3 ft. tall, rich, moist soils, coniferous woods and thickets, blooms white April to June, sun, part shade or shade.

Aquilegia caerulea (Colorado blue columbine) - 1-2 ft. tall, blooms blue, June to August, medium water use, shade

Melampodium leucanthum (Blackfoot daisy) - blooms white, yellow March to November, 1-3 ft. tall, sun, part sun or shade

Penstemon barbatus (Beard-lip beardtongue) - 3-6 ft., low water use, blooms red June to October, part shade

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Actaea rubra


Aquilegia caerulea


Melampodium leucanthum


Penstemon barbatus

 

 

 

 

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