En EspaŅol

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?


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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

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


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


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





More Invasive Plants Questions

Identification of plant with orange sap that glows at night
June 06, 2012 - I was just pulling up a plant and noticed that its sap was a kind of orange then I noticed it glowing orange at night. What kind of plant is this and is it dangerous?
view the full question and answer

Information on edible tubers of hog potato from Austin
November 10, 2011 - I inquired a while back about hog potato or Hoffmannseggia glauca. You gave me some information on the plant but no information on when the plant produces the edible tubers. Also how long does it take...
view the full question and answer

Ivy for wall cover in Dallas
August 03, 2009 - I am trying to cover older apartments with Ivy to create a beautiful exterior look, but after reading several articles on how the Texas Sun kills Ivy, I would like to know what plant can I use to crea...
view the full question and answer

Removal of invasive mints
March 30, 2005 - How do I remove common mint from my garden? I removed the previous years plants and tilled the soil. This year they came back more than before.
view the full question and answer

Removal, spread of native mistletoe
January 24, 2009 - My neighbor has a lot of mistletoe growing in a tree in her front yard. I have a tree in my yard that has mistletoe in it. Each winter I have the plant removed so birds won't spread it around. Do you...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center