Before buying plants to go under your maple tree, find out if the plants you want thrive under the same growing conditions as the tree. Many species of maple trees exist. Does your tree require frequent watering? If it does, buy plants that require frequent watering. Do the plants need a lot of sunshine? The canopy of the maple tree may shade the plants for a good portion of the day. Avoid planting mistakes by taking several points into consideration.
According to Kelsey Sparks and Mary Meyer of the University of Minnesota, 90 percent of a tree's roots lie in the top 3 feet of soil and 50 to 75 percent are in the top 1 foot of soil. The extensive delicate surface root system of maple trees make it imperative to take care when planting beneath them. Choose plants that can tolerate a variety of cultural conditions such as dry soil, shade, root competition, and changing moisture and light conditions. Choose native plants as your best chance for planting success.
Examples of Plants
Choose young, small plants that require less digging to plant. Geraniums and hostas do well under trees. If you like groundcovers, try geranium sanguieneum for the beautiful pink flowers. Azaleas and rhododendron grow naturally as under-story tree plants. Bulb plants such as tulips, muscari, daffodils and hyacinths also do well under trees.
Ferns thrive remarkably well beneath maple trees. The deciduous ferns go dormant in the winter, which makes them ideal for areas that reach extreme low temperatures. The evergreen ferns exist well in the warmer regions. Ferns escape major insect or disease problems. Once established, you can leave these plants to fend for themselves. Ferns thrive best in one to four hours of direct, morning sun or dappled light, which makes them good candidates for under maple trees. Consistently moist soil keeps most ferns healthy.
Hostas join ferns as hardy, low-maintenance, shade-loving plants. Hostas can take morning sun and dappled sunlight, so planting beneath a maple tree that provides it won't pose a problem. An estimated 70 species and more than 4,000 cultivars of hostas exist. If the gardening center in your area doesn't sell the one you want, try any of the online gardening sites.
There are hundreds of species and cultivars of maple trees. Researching your specific tree before planting beneath it helps you to choose the right under-story plant companions for it. The following planting rules apply when planting beneath all trees: Start planting 1 foot away from the tree trunk and plant outward. When encountering a root 1 1/2 to 2 inches or more in diameter, move to one side and dig. Add some organic matter such as compost to the hole. Water plants thoroughly after planting and add an organic mulch such as compost or leaf mulch. Keep the mulch away from the bark of the tree. Monitor the moisture until plants are well-established. If it appears that the trees are getting too much moisture, water each plant separately instead of watering the entire area.