Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

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

Destructive landscape crews in The Woodlands TX
October 20, 2012 - Hi. We need help. We recently moved to a house where landscape crews have been blowing away the leaf litter from the front yard for many years. The underbrush was also cleared long ago. The result...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen groundcovers for NE NC
April 20, 2015 - Can you please provide a list of evergreen native groundcovers for Northeastern NC?
view the full question and answer

Natural groundcovers beneath live oaks in Austin
July 14, 2008 - We are moving to a home in NW Austin set in a forest of live oaks (15 of them). What plants are the natural groundcovers? We want to replace the 'grass' completely. There is no sun so we don't b...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for Orange County, Florida
April 14, 2012 - I live in Central FL (Winter Park)and I have a small, mostly sunny (no trees) backyard next to a large in-ground swimming pool which fills up with the leaves of my neighbor's oak trees. The backyard ...
view the full question and answer

Groundcovers for Moreno Valley, CA
May 17, 2012 - Hi, I live in Moreno Valley, CA I have a huge flower bed area surrounding our grass I am looking for the best ground cover that will have minimal up keep.
view the full question and answer

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