Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

How to Plant Under a Cedar Tree

By Laura Wallace Henderson ; Updated September 21, 2017
Planting flowers and ground covers beneath cedar trees requires careful consideration.
Red Cedar at Picton castle April 2008 image by David Stirrup from Fotolia.com

Cedar trees thrive in various climates across the United States. These evergreen trees add ornamental value to many landscape designs. Planted in rows, these trees provide dense barriers to block wind and mark property lines. The thick boughs of cedar trees often kill plants growing beneath their heavy branches. Like many trees, cedars compete with nearby plants for soil nutrients. Knowing what types of plants to grow and following proper planting techniques ensures the health of your cedar tree and the health of the nearby plants.

Test the soil under your cedar tree. Purchase a soil test kit to determine the health of your existing soil. Cedar trees often pull valuable nutrients out of the soil, creating a need for soil amendments. Consult the results of your soil test and purchase any recommended soil nutrients.

Cut the lowest branches of your cedar tree. Use a branch saw to cleanly remove the bottom boughs and increase the amount of sunlight to the soil under your tree.

Remove any existing weeds or other plant growth in the area beneath your cedar tree. Lightly loosen the surface of the soil with a garden rake. Avoid disturbing the roots by carefully working around any surface roots. Loosen just the top few inches of soil.

Add your soil amendments by sprinkling them over the surface and raking them into the existing soil. Avoid placing mulches or other soil amendments directly over exposed roots. Covering these roots can shock and damage healthy trees.

Select shade tolerant varieties of plants to place under your cedar tree. Choose ground covers, such as sweet woodruff, periwinkle and bugleweed. Include some woodland perennials like plantain lilies, bleeding heart plants and primroses.

Place your selected plants into the soil beneath your cedar tree. Plant each variety to the depth recommended on the accompanying instructions. Tamp down the soil after planting to remove any air pockets near the roots of your new plants.

Water the plants beneath your cedar tree. Check the soil for moisture near the plants’ roots. Shade tolerant plants often require moist soil conditions to thrive. Keep the soil slightly moist to encourage healthy plant growth.

Fertilize your soil regularly to provide necessary nutrients. Replace soil nutrients lost to your cedar tree’s hungry roots. Apply a slow-release, nitrogen fertilizer once each year. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when applying commercial fertilizers.


Things You Will Need

  • Soil test kit
  • Branch saw
  • Rake
  • Soil amendments
  • Plants
  • Nitrogen fertilizer


  • Keep in mind that your cedar tree's large boughs block the soil underneath from falling water during rainfalls. Continue to check the moisture in the soil under your cedar tree in rainy seasons.

About the Author


Laura Wallace Henderson, a professional freelance writer, began writing in 1989. Her articles appear online at Biz Mojo, Walden University and various other websites. She has served as the co-editor for "Kansas Women: Focus on Health." She continues to empower and encourage women everywhere by promoting health, career growth and business management skills.