Posted by on August 17, 2017

One of the most popular landscaping desires is to plant beneath a mature shade tree. It creates an attractive focal point and can replace poorly performing turf grass. Landscapers and gardeners can easily close their eyes and instead of a hard bed of weeds, ground and knobby roots, they can see a beautiful patch of lush flowers and grasses that bring beauty and coziness to an area under a tree.

But, as with many things, proper planning is essential to ensure the success of this design.


It is important when planting in this area that you are careful to not harm the tree, chopping or cutting into the roots. This can create undue stress or introduce disease that may result in loss of the tree rather than enhancement of it!

First, you will want to determine the outline of your under-tree planting bed. Remove any grass or weeds within that outline. Put down a four-inch layer of mix of compose and fine mulch rather than topsoil. This will allow the tree roots to breathe.

Bark can be damaged if constantly in contact with moist soil.

You’ll also need to meet your tree’s needs. Each tree requires specific conditions for light and soil and moisture to remain healthy and thrive. Some trees are especially sensitive a a major soil disturbance, so any alterations to the grade of the landscape or changing the soil pH under a tree can be difficult. Adding a layer of soil that is too thick can reduce moisture and oxygen, causing trees to suffer.

You will want to refrain from disturbing certain trees such as pines, dogwoods, most fruit trees and oaks. Sycamores, redbuds, red maples and spruces fare better with just light disturbances and the trees that are fairly easygoing about disturbances are arborvitae, pecans, willows and poplars.

When planting, you will want to start with small plants. This will reduce soil disturbance. When making your plant purchases, think small. Buy the smallest size available, which require a smaller planting hole that will minimize the disturbance to the tree’s roots. You might have to buy more plants, but you will have an easier time tucking them in among the existing roots.