Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
2 ratings

Tuesday - April 18, 2006

From: River Grove, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Groundcovers
Title: Possible ground covers under pine trees in Illinois
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Have pine trees in front of house. No luck with the lawn around them....was told it's because of ground acidity. Any tips on how to get a lawn to grow there? If not, can you suggest some ground cover that would grow there and look good without needing to be mowed often ? Thank you.

ANSWER:

If it really is an acidity issue, adding lime to the soil should help. You can have your soil pH tested. Your Cook County agent from the University Of Illinois Extension Service should be able to help you with the testing. They often provide a kit and will test for a nominal fee. The more likely cause is lack of sunlight through the canopy of the trees. While pines usually provide a fine, filtered sunlight, they can often create a fairly dense shade in which all grass will struggle to grow. Here are a few suggestions for native plants that grow in the shade in Illinois that could provide ground cover under your pines:

Vines
Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

Ferns
Crested wood fern (Dryopteris cristata)
Maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum)
Interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana)

Other groundcovers
Canadian wild ginger (Asarum canadense)
Running strawberry-bush (Euonymus obovata)
Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides)

Addtionally, many grass and grass-like natives will grow in partial shade. You can see those that do so in Illinois by doing a Combination Search in the Native Plants Database and selecting "Grass/Grass-like", "Shade" and "Illinois" from the options on the Advanced Search page.

You can look for suppliers of native plants in your area in the National Suppliers Directory on our webpage. A nursery in your area specializing in native plants and your Agricultural Extension Agent might have other recommendations for appropriate native ground covers.
 

More Groundcovers Questions

Groundcover for Boston MA
March 12, 2013 - We have a small back yard that gets great sun in spring before the leaves are fully back on the tall trees surrounding the perimeter, and then a lot of shade in summer. We have weird patchy grass and ...
view the full question and answer

Deer proof ground cover for sunny area in Mississippi
June 09, 2012 - I am looking for a low ground cover that will thrive in a sunny location and is deer proof
view the full question and answer

Removing St. Augustine for natives in Grapevine TX
September 29, 2012 - We have St Augustine in our yard and we hate it. It guzzles water, we have to cut it often, and it's thick and hard to work with. Anyway, we want to replace it with a combination of some kind of g...
view the full question and answer

Native turf grass for acreage in Denison TX
January 27, 2014 - I have recently moved to Denison TX where we have 5+ acres of true crosstimbers land. I am looking for a native turf grass that will do well in sandy soil and with the water provided by nature. The m...
view the full question and answer

Buffalo grass and other native grass for lawn in Central Texas
March 17, 2008 - Hi, I live in Cedar Park, TX - recently moved to into a newly built house. I wanted to put some native grass (like buffalo) in the back yard. - My back yard has slope (away from house) and front...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.