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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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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 - November 03, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Trees
Title: Ground cover under trees from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I need ground cover plants that can tolerate leaf litter and grow under oak tree shade.

ANSWER:

Not a whole lot of those around. Please read this previous Mr. Smarty question on allelopathy in oaks. Even those oak leaves on the ground have bad effects on other plants trying to grow there. Instead, we are fond of recommending a good quality compost or shredded bark mulch under that tree. It will combine with the oak leaves and gradually decompose to help amend the soil beneath in terms of drainage and access to the nutrients in the soil. It will have to be replaced from time to time, but that is still less expensive and work intensive than constantly replacing plants that will not survive. Also, the mulch, up to 4 inches thick, will provide a non-muddy path and protect the tree roots from heat and cold as well as retain our all-too-scarce moisture in the soil.

 

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