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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.

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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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Tuesday - July 15, 2008

From: Jordan, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Planting shrubs and flowers under pine trees in New York
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We just started to plant flowers and the whole back side of our yard is pine trees. I was wondering what types of flowers can be planted under them, and what kind of plants or shrubs can be planted under there. But we want to plant flowers more, if we can. Hope you can help.

ANSWER:

There are two issues involved in planting under pine trees. The first, obviously, is the fairly dense shade that pine trees create, causing many sun-loving plants to languish and die. The other issue is that the constant drop of pine needles creates an acidic soil. Certain plants thrive in acidic soil, but many do not properly develop or just die. Some plant experts recommend planting nothing at all under a pine tree, and leaving the needles there to continue to provide nutrition to the soil beneath the tree. Pine needles make a nice mulch and will slowly decompose to add to the soil texture. You can expect that in a yard with several pine trees, the effects of the needles dropping has spread to soil not just below the tree itself, so regardless of where you plant, you need to be aware of the soil Ph level.

We are going to go to Recommended Species, click on New York on the map, and look for some plants that are native to your area, and then check for their shade tolerance and the type of soil, alkaline or acidic, they demand. We'll choose some shrubs, flowering perennials, and perhaps some ferns, just a sampling. You can go back and do the same thing, looking for other plants more to your liking. When you follow a plant link to its webpage, you will need to look down the page at what types of soils the plant needs and what kind of sun exposure. If you are not going to plant inside the dripline of your pines, you will probably be able to grow plants that need part shade, which we consider to be 2 to 6 hours of sun a day. These plants are all commercially available, and by going to Suppliers, and typing in your city and state in the Enter Search Location box, you will get a list of nurseries, seed companies and landscaping professionals in your general area who specialize in native plants.

HERBACEOUS PERENNIALS

Achillea millefolium (common yarrow) - 3' tall, blooms April to September

Actaea pachypoda (white baneberry) - 1-3' tall, poisonous fruit

Anemone canadensis (Canadian anemone) - 1-2' tall

Lobelia siphilitica (great blue lobelia) - 2-3' tall

SHRUBS

Cornus alternifolia (alternateleaf dogwood) - 20-35' tall, deciduous

Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry) - 1-3' tall, evergreen

Rhododendron arborescens (smooth azalea) - 8-12' tall, deciduous

Rhododendron calendulaceum (flame azalea) - 6-12' tall, deciduous

FERNS

Adiantum pedatum (northern maidenhair) - 1 to 3' tall

Matteuccia struthiopteris (ostrich fern) - 2 to 8' tall

Osmunda cinnamomea (cinnamon fern) - 3 to 6' tall

Osmunda regalis (royal fern) - 2 to 5' tall


Achillea millefolium

Actaea pachypoda

Anemone canadensis

Lobelia siphilitica

Cornus alternifolia

Gaultheria procumbens

Rhododendron arborescens

Rhododendron calendulaceum

Adiantum pedatum

Matteuccia struthiopteris

Osmunda cinnamomea

Osmunda regalis

 

 

 

 

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