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?

Share

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

Friday - April 05, 2013

From: South Elgin, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs, Trees
Title: Flower color under large pine tree from South Elgin IL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a very large pine tree that I would like to plant some flowers under. I have hostas, stonecrop and fern, but like to add some color. What do you suggest? Thank you.

ANSWER:

Since we don't know the species of pine that you have and also since the plants you already have are not all native to North America, we will not be able to be too accurate in our answer, but will take a stab at it. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, will recommend only plants native not only to North America but to the area in which the plant will be grown; in your case, Kane County in northeast Illinois. The first thing we will have to find out is if pine trees exhibit allelopathy on plants beneath them. Allelopathy is a process whereby some plants, mostly trees, secrete substances to inhibit growth in plants beneath them to eliminate competition.

There are 6 members of the Pinus (pine) genus native to Illinois, and Pinus strobus (Eastern white pine) is shown on this USDA Plant Profile Map as growing in nearby DuPage and Lake Counties, so we will choose that as an example. We could find no specific indication of allelopathy from that pine, although newly fallen pinecones and needles are thought to exibit some adverse effects. Pine needles that have been on the ground for some time have a minimal effect on plants growing beneath them and, over time, will cause the soil to become somewhat acidic.

Going to our Native Plant Database and, using the Combination Search part way down that page, we will select on Illinois, "herbs" (herbaceous blooming plants) on Habit, and  "shade" and "part shade" on Light Requirements. You can repeat the search for yourself choosing bloom times and colors, height, etc. Follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant to learn its growing conditions, soil requirements and so forth. We will check the USDA Plant Database on each one we select to make sure it is native to northeastern Illinois. This gave us 476 plant possibilities, so there are a lot more out there. We only got to the "F's in the alphabetical list:

Antennaria plantaginifolia (Plantain-leaf pussytoes)

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

Aruncus dioicus (Bride's feathers)

Asclepias incarnata (Swamp milkweed)

Campanulastrum americanum (American bellflower)

Caltha palustris (Yellow marsh marigold)

Chamaecrista fasciculata (Partridge pea)

Claytonia virginica (Virginia springbeauty)

Coreopsis lanceolata (Lanceleaf coreopsis)

Erythronium albidum (White troutlily)

Fragaria virginiana (Virginia strawberry)

If you have difficulty finding the native plants you want, go to our National Suppliers Directory, put your town and state or just your zip code in the "Enter Search Location box and click on GO. This will give you a list of native plant nurseries, seed suppliers and consultants in your general area. All have contact information so you can find out if they have what you are looking for before you start shopping.

 

From the Image Gallery


Eastern white pine
Pinus strobus

Plantain-leaf pussytoes
Antennaria plantaginifolia

Eastern red columbine
Aquilegia canadensis

Bride's feathers
Aruncus dioicus

Swamp milkweed
Asclepias incarnata

American bellflower
Campanulastrum americanum

Yellow marsh marigold
Caltha palustris

Partridge pea
Chamaecrista fasciculata

Virginia springbeauty
Claytonia virginica

Lanceleaf coreopsis
Coreopsis lanceolata

White troutlily
Erythronium albidum

Virginia strawberry
Fragaria virginiana

More Trees Questions

Problems with non-native Canary Date Palms from Miami FL
December 06, 2011 - Hi: The fronts of my canary date palm, which I planted about 6 years ago, has been getting brown from the bottom of the tree and working itself towards the top for the past several months now. The b...
view the full question and answer

Source for Desert Willow from Dallas
October 03, 2011 - I'm looking for a source for chilopsis linearis. I live in Dallas, TX. None of the specialty nurseries in Dallas seem to be able to source it. Is there any local source? Is there any source withi...
view the full question and answer

Treating suspected drought-stressed live oak
July 13, 2011 - I have a live oak with excessive leaf drop - it was planted approx. 20 year ago surrounded by heavy pavers. very little grass - I did not plant the tree - I have noticed in the last few years the dro...
view the full question and answer

Native evergreen trees with highest value for birds
April 02, 2007 - What native evergreen trees have the highest value for bird seed/fruit (other than Juniperus virginiana)?
view the full question and answer

Premature leaf drop on Red Maple in Kentucky
June 25, 2008 - I have a ten foot Red Maple tree that has been set out for 4 years. Its leaves have slowly turned colors until it currently looks like fall. The leaves are not falling off nor is there yet any s...
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center