Adding plants under and around a tree can increase the aesthetic appeal of your landscape, but selecting the right plants is essential. You must choose plants that are able to share the underground space with your tree and thrive underneath the shadier foliage. Otherwise, you'll end up with dead, decaying plants rather than lush, thriving ones.
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Before even attempting to plant anything, it's important to set the stage, beginning with the tree itself. While pruning is a necessary part of tree care, it's even more vital when adding new plants to the area. Even though you will be selecting plants suited for the shade, you want to trim and prune lower branches to let in more light, as they still need some light to grow and stay healthy. Before cutting the tree, be sure you understand how to correctly trim and how far up to trim away branches. When cutting, trim the branch itself and not right up against the trunk. Improper pruning can damage and weaken the tree.
Once you've cleared out some space for the new greenery, setting up a proper plant bed around the tree is important. Many mistakenly assume they should make a raised plant bed to lay down more nutrient-rich soil and protect the tree's shallow root system. However, this should be avoided, as it can suffocate the tree, shortening their lifespan. Instead, dig individual holes for each plant around the tree, being careful not to damage the tree's roots. You can then fill these holes with nutrient-rich compost after the plant has been placed. Once the plants have been established, you may then spread a thin layer of mulch (no more than three inches thick) around the plants and the tree's base.
Before you dig your holes, selecting the right type of plants is important. You'll want to avoid large plants and stick to just a few varieties that complement each other. Additionally, selecting at least one plant variety that spreads quickly can help fill the space faster and create a lovely carpet. However, avoid invasive species, ivy, and ribbon grass, as these can quickly overtake your yard. Of course, selecting species that thrive in the shade is key. Popular choices include the following.
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