Pine trees and other conifers add interest to your landscape by staying green all year round, and they also provide an excellent windbreak during the cold winter months, and are a great source of shade when it's hot out. However, that dense shade can make it a challenge to plot out any nearby gardens, and fallen pine needles make the soil too acidic for most plants to thrive. Although your choices are limited, you do have some options when it comes to planting around pines.
Trim the bottom branches of the pines with a saw or pair of pruners. If your pine trees aren't planted too close together, this will let in more light and give you a few more options. Take care not to trim too much off, though--songbirds and other wildlife depend on the dense foliage of pines and other conifers for shelter, and they appreciate having hiding places close to the ground.
Avoid planting too close to the tree trunk--leave 1 foot to allow for air circulation and to give the tree room to grow. Also, dig slowly and carefully when planting near trees to avoid severing roots. Broken or damaged roots could kill or sicken a pine tree.
Choose shade-tolerant plants. Some shade-tolerant plants that perform under pine trees include hostas, lily of the valley and perennial vinca vine.
Grow plants that will thrive in the high acid soil found under pine trees. Azaleas and rhododendrons like acidic soil, as do many berries, including blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. However, berries often require high light conditions, so plant accordingly.
Take inspiration from nature and grow native plants. Go for a hike in a local park or nature reserve to see what grows under pines and other conifers in the wild. In Minnesota, for instance, you might find bunchberry, wintergreen and various ferns growing in the vicinity of pine trees.
Amend your soil with lime to reduce the acidity of your soil. You may also need to add some compost or topsoil, if your soil is of poor quality. Regularly raking up the pine needles will also help regulate the pH of the soil.
Place potted plants under the pines, if the earth under your pine trees won't support any plants. Growing flowers, ferns and other plants in containers allows you to choose your soil, and you can move the containers around as needed to catch the sunlight.
Things You Will Need
- Saw or pruners
- Shade plants
- Acid-tolerant plants
- Native plants
- Potted plants
- Compost or topsoil
- If all else fails, use the space under your pines for other garden elements, such as bird feeders, sculpture or benches.