While we may be accustomed to seeing trees standing all by themselves in yards across neighborhoods, it’s actually better tree care to grow other plants and flowers around trees. But how many of us actually consider how to landscape trees when we create our yard design? Not many at all! Most people don’t even know that you can landscape trees under their trunks and roots. In this blog, we will share how to landscape around trees for beautiful, impressive aesthetics and optimal tree care.
The first step to consider when landscaping around trees is to ensure your trees don’t pose any safety risk to your property before investing in them. You can do this by assessing how healthy the tree is and then making appropriate tree care decisions, like pruning, trimming, or removing (our blog on winterizing trees may help you with this step).
The first step to landscape around trees is to prepare the soil.
This is especially important for more mature trees in your yard, as their soil is usually dry and the roots are more shallow. In order to prevent shallow trees roots from suffocating, be sure to only use two to three inches of new soil and carefully work it in with the soil that is already there. If you dump a pile of new soil on top of these shallow roots, they certainly won’t be able to absorb or transport nutrients. You also do not need to place soil on the trunk when you landscape trees.
How Often to Water Trees
Next, consider your watering plan. During the first few summers, you’ll need to water newly planted trees and shrubs deeply to ensure proper hydration (of course being mindful of rain patterns). Young trees are more susceptible to become drought stressed with dry weather because their root systems are not yet established. Use a soaker hose to water deeply so the top 12 inches of soil and surrounding soil are saturated. This may need to be done every day or every other day for a few months until the roots start growing.
Established trees will need water weekly if they are not getting water from rainfall outside. This will vary between growing seasons and the climate that you live in. Dryer climates will require more frequent watering. In general, trees will need several gallons of water per week. Apply water in the morning or evening.
You do not need fertilizer for tree care until after the first year; this gives the roots time to establish and organically begin the growth process.
How to Mulch Around Trees
Next, consider what kind of organic matter you want to landscape trees in your yard with. The easiest organic material is mulch — and it’s safe for pretty much any tree. Even if you plan to plant, it’s important to spread a thin layer of mulch around the base. It’s also an excellent choice for shade tree care, as mulching trees has many benefits.
For example, organic mulch insulates the soil, which protects the tree roots from extreme temperatures. It also holds moisture so the roots stay moist, and it prevents the roots from having to compete with growing weed allowing for more root growth. Mulch will also help decrease soil erosion when planting around your tree roots and helps keep safe trees.
There are several options for applying mulch to landscape trees, including pine straw, bark nuggets, wood chips, or even shredded leaves. Remember though, if you’re placing mulch around the trunk, proper tree care is to leave a few inches of space between the base of the trunk and the mulch. Adding mulch too close to the tree trunk could kill the tree or cause disease. At least 2-3 inches of mulch is recommended for your trees to help retain moisture.
Mulch absorbs water and nutrients to the soil. The type of mulch can also affect your large plants and trees differently too. For example: pine needles from pine trees are extremely acidic and may raise the pH levels of the soil you are adding it to.
Planting Flowers and Plants Around Trees
If you choose to grow other plants or flowers around your trees, you’ll need to do a little bit of research to know what combinations grow well together.
You’ll definitely need to choose plants that grow well in shady areas, but your climate and planting zone will determine what type of plant to buy.
Some care tip research you should look into is how extensive the root systems of these plants are. You do not want to plant shrubs or flowers with deep root systems that will compete with the tree’s roots.
Shrubs will shallow root systems grow best under trees. Examples of small plants that grow well under shade trees are azaleas or hostas. Ground covers such as Asiatic jasmine or spreading yew will also do well. All of these options are shade loving shrubs that can grow under large trees. Other options for growing plants beneath trees: bleeding heart vine, lily of the valley, or wild ginger.
If landscaping under deciduous trees, be prepared to rake up the tree leaves every fall or winter when the tree goes dormant.
If the roots are becoming disturbed at the base of the tree, you can move your landscaping plants into raised beds where they can grow undisturbed.
Tree gardens are becoming more popular as the landscaping and horticulture industry grows
We’d love to help your landscape trees and support optimal tree care; contact us with your questions below in the comments!