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How to Do Shade Gardening Under Pine Trees

By Amrita Chuasiriporn ; Updated September 21, 2017
Growing under a pine tree is challenging.
Pine cone image by matko from Fotolia.com

Shade gardening requires plants that thrive in full or partial shade. Growing under pine trees requires plants that prefer a highly acidic soil. For best results, choose plants that benefit from having automatic pine needle mulch applied whenever the pine sheds. While the selection of plants that grow in both conditions is somewhat limited, there are a few options that will thrive in this environment.

Trim any branches on your pine tree that are low to the ground. Even shade and acid-loving plants require some headroom, unless you will only be growing ground covers.

Dig compost into the soil around the base of the pine tree. This will benefit both your new plants and your pine.

Plant azaleas, hostas, astilbe or ferns underneath the pine tree. All of these plants love shade and acid, and have foliage that will provide visual interest.

Plant shade-loving ground covers, such as English ivy, lily-of-the-valley, or periwinkle. Both lily-of-the-valley and periwinkle produce striking flowers.

Dig holes that are twice as deep and wide as the root balls of the transplants as you plant them. This will give the roots room to establish themselves and grow healthy.


Things You Will Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Shovel
  • Compost


  • Use transplants whenever possible. Because growing conditions are difficult, it is best to give plants that you will place under a pine tree as much advantage as you can.
  • If drought is a problem in your area, know that pines are thirsty. You will likely need to water any plants that you are growing underneath them more frequently than you might think.


  • Trying to neutralize the acidity level of the soil around your pine tree will not work. If anything, it may harm your pine tree. Do not attempt to dig soil amendments in with hopes that you can alter the soil enough that you can grow other shade-loving plants.
  • Be careful about rainfall. In lots or parcels of land that are comparatively low, pine trees have a tendency to form ponds when there are heavy rains. Very few plants tolerate being flooded. You may want to observe your pine first to make sure that this is not a problem for you. You can try some plants, such as English Ivy, but flooding makes growth in that area incredibly tricky.

About the Author


Amrita Chuasiriporn is a professional cook, baker and writer who has written for several online publications, including Chef's Blade, CraftyCrafty and others. Additionally, Chuasiriporn is a regular contributor to online automotive enthusiast publication CarEnvy.ca. Chuasiriporn holds an A.A.S. in culinary arts, as well as a B.A. in Spanish language and literature.