Pine trees create a unique microclimate that provides both headaches and opportunities for gardeners. Pine needles are acidic and, over time, acidify the soil beneath the tree. The pine canopy partially blocks the sun from reaching the plants below. This limits gardeners to plants that love acid soil and don't mind full or partial shade. Fortunately, nature has provided shrubs, foliage plants and small trees that thrive under these conditions.
Shrubs That Grow Under Pines
Azaleas and rhododendrons are beautiful spring-flowering shrubs that are often paired with pine trees. Both require acidic soil and bloom well in partial shade. There are many cultivars available in different colours and heights. Camellias produce beautiful roselike flowers throughout winter in Southern gardens. They also prefer acidic soil and partial shade. Many cultivars exist in a wide variety of colours and bloom types. Blueberries, with white spring flowers, grow well in the acidic soil under pines, but position them to get at least partial sun to maximise the harvest. Hydrangeas have a remarkable response to soil acidity--in the acid soil beneath pines, the flowers are blue, while in neutral or basic soil they are pink.
Foliage Plants That Grow Under Pines
Ferns are well adapted to the shady, acidic conditions under pines and are available in a variety of types from the feathery asparagus fern to the thick-leaved staghorn fern. They create a nice backdrop for flowers. Pachysandra, or spurge, is one of the few broadleaved groundcovers that do well under pines. The plant grows five to nine inches tall with leaves five inches across. The foliage is tinged with pink. There are several cultivars available with dark, glossy leaves or variegated leaves. Pachysandra thrives even in dense shade.
Small Trees That Grow Under Pines
The dogwood tree, a spring favourite in northern landscapes, does well under pine trees. Dogwoods bloom before leafing out making a spectacular spring display. They generally don't surpass 20 feet in height. Bayberry is another tree under 25 feet tall that thrives beneath pines. Bayberry has fragrant leaves and clusters of waxy berries (female plant only) that attract wildlife. The evergreen holly tree with bright red berries in winter also thrives in acidic soil beneath pines.