What to grow under a Maple Tree?

June 19, 2004

I have a Maple tree in my front yard and I can't seem to get anything to grow under it, I heard I should try to Grow Hosta's under it. any other suggestions??? It is mostly shade under the tree with some sun at times maybe 2 to 3 hours of sun. It is about 4x4 area under it with treated wood going around the tree just need something planted in the middle now :-) Please help me Thnaks to all

Comments (28)

  • LinLee

    I've been very successful with Epimediums planted under a Norway.

  • joepyeweed

    let me guess - its a norway maple. chop it down and plant something else ;-)

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  • Ghanima

    I have sugar maples all through the yard and I have large shade gardens under most of them. Hostas have done well, as have azaleas, spiderwort, ferns and astilble. The biggest pain is having to weed out all the maple seedlings (my, these trees are prolific!). But even the seedlings are a small price to pay for the fast growth and shade the trees give. I really haven't had any problem with my sugar maples. What makes the norways so different?

  • joepyeweed

    the norways have a very dense canopy that is early to fill out and late to drop. the canopy is so dense and long lasting that many shade loving plants cannot grow under them. other maples still have a dense canopy but not as dense or long lasting as the norway - they fill out later allowing spring bloomers to succeed. oaks have the most open canopy and short lasting canopy allowing alot more sunlight to reach underneath them.

    the maple seedlings grow quickly in your yard and mine too! the maples produce thousands of seedlings and they are a problem for spreading into natural areas. the wind (or birds) move the seeds into woodlands and the maples grow quickly (unchecked by periodic forest fires of the past) and shade out the slower growing oaks and woodland wildflowers that used to grow under the open canopy.

  • michaelzz

    hostas are good and so is pachysandra .. ferns if you add some water retentive materials as the roots suck up all the water

  • kellied

    My BIL grew lemon balm under his Bigleaf Maple and it thrived.

  • helgabluethumb

    I've had good luck with Blue Holly. but I occasionaly give it a dose of compost tea since the maple is such a nutrient hog. Vinca minor has survived well, too, but I just hate cleaning it out in the fall.

  • nanis

    Since vinca grows so easily everywhere around here I thought it would have no problem under my two maples in the parkway. I was wrong. It's not doing well. Is there anything I can do to help it along?

  • pinktoes

    Here in Georgia I "grow" what volunteers: liriope, virgina creeper, poison oak. Two mature dogwood trees are doing well.

    I'm afraid to try much else. It's on a southwest exposure. Everytime I clean out the weeds I swear to just give up and grow pine straw. But I'll keep reading here for alternative ideas.

  • merrygardens

    I've got some hosta, forget-me-nots, geranium, and will be trying other hardy & wild-type flowers--lunaria, nicotiana, foxglove--under my maples. I've transplanted lily-of-the-valley under one tree, and plan to put lamium, pachysandra, ferns and other very hardy shade-loving groundcover under others. I do topdress the area with various organic substances a couple times a year--coffee grounds, manure/sawdust mix.

  • wpooh

    Sweet William, Hyacinth, dafodils, are the only plants left that still grow under my Sugar Maple root carpet. This year I dug holes to bury pots that I placed a cut piece of landscape paper in the bottom of pot before the drainage gravel and soil. I am gonna plant elephant ears in the pot and mulch around the rim to hide the top of the pot. Hope to prevent the root carpet from choking them out! The roots finally choked out my Hostas, Lillies, and numerous other plants. I plan to try adding more pots each year if it works this Summer. I hope to use this method to prevent my perrenials from getting choked out after a few years of thriving (wasting money on bulbs) and make it easier to dig up those bulbs in Fall that aren't Winter hardy.

  • laura_l_greer_yahoo_com

    My parents have water maples and their roots take over. They get in the septic line, kill other trees, flowers, etc cause the root branch out. So they're trying to figure out what they can plant that won't be effected by these trees. They had to cut 3 huge one's down in their back yard because it got into their septic line. Have several in the front and side yard, which are huge. Beautiful trees but can be a hastle when it comes to their roots.

  • sandy0225

    If you plant hostas under a maple tree, provide them additional water with soaker hoses or drip irrigation. Hostas don't really mind the roots of the maple, they will grow when extremely rootbound in containers as long as they're receiving adequate water and nutrients. It gets real dry under maple trees even though it's shade because they are big thirsty trees.

  • rose0lavender

    I heard that putting new soil around a maple tree more than a few inches thick will rot the roots. I want to put something underneath, not by the trunk (because that apparently will rot it too). The soil is dense underneath it, and I don't want to risk hitting any roots trying to dig...

    I was wondering if I could make a sort of raised bed (lasagna method) around the tree, but not too close to the trunk and put some hostas underneath it.

    Do you think this is okay?

  • dominoswrath

    Vinca minor. It takes time to establish, but looks beautiful once it does with lovely purple or pink flowers in the spring. Mine has no where else to go because the soil is so bad over there, so it contains itself. I wouldn't plant it where it can spread, because I've heard it's hard to get rid of. Works great for erosion prevention and where other plants refuse to grow.

    If you try hostas under maple trees, you should sever through the roots with a spade around the hosta every three years or so - maple tree roots are an entangled mesh that runs three or more feet deep or so.

  • rose0lavender

    For those looking for some success stories on planting under mature maple trees...

    This summer I made a round raised bed around my maple tree. I left about a shoes distance with no soil by the trunk so that it wouldn't rot. I also put a thick layer of newspaper beneath where I put the soil so that no grass would peak through. I planted a few shade perennials and they took off quick and strong. The soil flattened out after a month of watering, so I just topped it off every so often with a small bag of soil, and then I mulched. I am hoping by spring 2013 I will have a much fuller flower garden beneath my tree as near the end of the summer the root system did seem to be strong and I didn't have to add more soil in July or August.

  • dominoswrath

    p.s. I add composted manure to my vinca every spring to give it a little feeding - I sprinkle it over the top and water it in. Blooms beautifully.

  • jim_1 (Zone 9A)

    I have a problem with the idea of doing hostas under a maple. Ideally, they should be divided on a regular basis and those maple tree roots can make that extremely difficult to accomplish.

    Someone mentioned the Norway Maple, if it is, get rid of it. It isn't worth all the problem. I have Autumn Blaze in the back yard (I really enjoy the coloring) and it doesn't have those pesky seeds. Front yard has October Glory, again great color. I don't plant anything under either one. I just keep expanding the space to the drip line. Reading bench in the back yard makes for a nice spot. The front yard is fine without having plants everywhere.

    Sometimes, less is better.


  • jim_1 (Zone 9A)

    Maple tree roots, any variety, can suck up lots of moisture and planting under them can be a challenge. Maples create significant shade, in Upper Michigan, from May through October. So, something that will get some sun in the early to mid-spring should work for you.

    Phlox Subulata might work, in that it fills in nicely, and there is little maintenance. The spring colors are good, the rest of the year it just sits there, green.


  • CollinGarden

    How do you rake the leaves in fall if you grow a cover (like a plant cover opposed to SOD/ Grass cover). They shed every bit of their leaves and I find it hard theoretically thinking how you can rake them off. Just wondering. I have hedges growing in side through filtered sunlight from the sides. I am strongly considering putting down Gravel or pebbles and putting out a chair under the shade instead of trying to grow some grass or plants under it - Its been a battle esp with drought and water restrictions going on

  • greenhearted

    I have epimediums (x rubrum) under my maple trees because I heard they do well with the root competition. So far they are doing fine but I haven't had them long. I also have some Geranium macrorrhizum growing which I read can do well with tree roots.

    CollinGarden, I don't know where you are at but in my zone, winter kills the top growth of my perennials. So when I am doing clean up of last season's growth, I remove the leaves at that time. What about a blower to remove the leaves?

    I may be alone in this, but I love the Norway Maple. It looks like a storybook tree to me. I didn't know they were such prolific seeders though!

  • emerogork

    I have a 60 year old Autumn Glory Maple on the west point of my house. It affords little light to anything below except for winter months and early spring. During that time, many flowering plants will do quite well. I have snow drops, crocuses, squills and daffodils of many varieties.

    If you have an old grill. Remove the guts, plug up all but one hole and grow hanging Sedum.

    Forsythia will work very well and only has to be trimmed once a year. The one in the picture is 40 years old and is in dense shade from April to October.

    Bleeding Heart and Epimedium.

    Elephant Ear but I have to dig up the bulbs for the winter.

    I have three potted Clivia plants that give orange blooms in July or so. They too come in for the winter.

    Variegated Hosta is a cheap standby that can't be killed. Don't worry about dividing. It doesn't need it unless you want an easy plant to propagate.

  • edlincoln

    Daffodils, grape hyacinth, Virginia Bluebells, Trillium. A bulb that will do it's thing before the maple wakes up. Or understory plants like ferns or holly.

    Be very careful about covering a tree's roots with dirt. It can suffocate them.

  • edlincoln

    Daffodils, grape hyacinth, Virginia Bluebells, Trillium. A bulb that will do it's thing before the maple wakes up. Or understory plants like ferns or holly.

    Be very careful about covering a tree's roots with dirt. It can suffocate them.

  • Bela Sethi

    I have three red maples

    and I have planted some hydrangeas azalea and viburnums

    let's see how they do

    in fall I plan to put some heuchera

    i am excited but reading the forum makes me feel that I am in for some challenges

    I had to water them quite a bit

    since we had a very dry summer

    I did add compost to all my new planting

    and come spring will do it again !

  • Karen Grieve Tomblin

    Our maple is an old one in the city and I have a love hate relationship with it. I can't cut it down even if it is the messiest tree I have ever had, because it is my summer shade and a privacy screen from all the surrounding apartments. I liked the question about what to plant that can be raked over because I usually have a good six inches of leaves in the fall. We have wind and dry soil, and the whole back yard is dark and in shade from the maple so the gravel idea was my back up plan. I still would like some hardy flowers or greenery ideas for along the fence and edges of the yard (and if they were white flowers I'd be thrilled)

  • emerogork

    White Sedum grows well in the shade and has a long fall bloom time.

    As for Maple leaves. I too have large 60 year old maples and I stopped raking the lawn 5 years ago. I use a leaf blower to clean out the gardens then use a lawn mower to chop the leaves. For the most part, the leaf chips disappear almost as much as grass clippings. What remains gets blown back into the gardens later in the fall.

    I can chop mid-calf height leaves into almost nothing. It is amazing. Nothing special about the lawn mower other than to close all vents and do not use the bag.

  • almosthooked zone5

    who ever said that hosta are good under a maple tree are full of beans. The hair like roots get tangled into the hosta roots and eventually will choke them out and they die. Never plant them under or anywhere near those damn trees. Now I am digging up what is left of the plants I bought and trying to nurse them back to health. They obviously never grow hosta grrrr

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