One landscaping challenge we commonly see is that gardeners really want to take advantage of every empty spot in their yards, and this often means planting shrubs or perennials underneath trees. Unfortunately, without proper planning this can cause problems for both the trees and whatever is planted beneath them. One common frustration is the idea that nothing will grow alongside certain trees, but if you choose the right plants, you have much better odds of success.

California Pepper trees. These trees put out a lot of surface roots, which make digging to plant anything else around the tree quite difficult. On top of that, established roots tend to hog all the moisture and nutrients from the soil, so most of the plants you might try to grow will be starved of nutrition. If you’re determined to place something under your California Pepper Tree, choose shade-loving plants that do well in dry soil. Some good choices might include Polypodium, Lamium, Epimedium, Bergenia, Lunaria, Sarcococcoa, Vinca minor, or Dicentra (bleeding heart).

Oak trees. There are many plants that have enjoyed a long association with oak trees, and can grow peacefully alongside them. But many gardeners have made the mistake of trying to grow a lawn, or flowers like pansies and petunias underneath their oak trees. The tree will expend resources trying to exclude the “wrong” plants, and often becomes unhealthy doing so. Rather than harming your tree by trying to force it into a negative association, plant things that are known to grow well underneath oak trees. Good choices include Rhamnus, coffeeberry, redberry, currants, gooseberries, nightshades, California aster, harmony manzanita, yerba buena, mountain balm, giant rye grass, diplacus, toyon, and many more.

Eucalyptus trees. It has long been rumored that eucalyptus trees exude toxic oil into the soil, which prevents anything else from growing nearby. There’s actually no proof of this myth, but eucalyptus trees do indeed pose a challenge to anything you may attempt to grow beneath them. Like the California Pepper tree, dense shade and vigorous roots make conditions less than ideal for most plant life. In addition, eucalyptus trees tend to drop heavy leaves that bury anything planted below them. But some plants are known to do well alongside eucalyptus trees, such as toyon, oleander, juniper, manzanitas, rosemary, fortnight lily, blue star iris, daylilies, geraniums, and many more.

Come visit us at our nursery, and we’ll be happy to help you choose a shade-loving plant that is known to grow well alongside your California Pepper, Oak, or Eucalyptus trees.

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