Growing a garden under a pine tree may seem like a landscaping nightmare. Competition for moisture and nutrients, as well as lack of sunlight and acidic soil, limit the possibilities of a garden. However there are plants that tolerate and even enjoy these conditions. With the right plants and a little bit of planning, you can grow a healthy garden under any pine tree.
A pine tree's canopy sheds rain, keeping necessary water from any plants growing underneath it. Flowers planted under pine trees have to compete for moisture and nutrients with the tree itself. Old pine trees often have impressive root structures that will hoard water, so finding plants that tolerate a dry environment is beneficial.
Pine trees create an environment of high acidity, which affects plant growth. When pine trees drop their needles and the needles begin to decay, the soil absorbs the resulting acid. The acid created by the decomposing pine needles acts as a defence mechanism to prevent other plants from growing near the pine tree and competing for nutrients. If you are concerned about the acidity level of your soil, test the pH. Adding ground agricultural limestone will make the soil less acidic and provide more options.
Types of Plants
According to the University of Missouri Extension, azaleas and rhododendrons both require acidic soil and planting them near a pine tree can help protect them from wind. Strawberries like an acidic soil and tolerate shade. A covering of pine needles also acts as a method to keep strawberries off of the ground. Lily-of-the-valley flowers also grow well in shade and acidic soil. Many other plants can thrive in a shady garden under a pine tree. Consider planting hostas, periwinkle, wild ginger, foxglove and geranium, all of which enjoy shade or acidic soil. Plants native to pine woodlands in your area are another option, as they are used to competing with pine trees in their natural environment.
Research types of plants before adding them to any garden. Certain plants may not grow well in your particular area. Because planting under pine trees limits your options, confirm that the flowers you wish to plant will grow in your hardiness zone.
You will likely need to mulch and water soil for plants that do not tolerate dryness well. If tree roots are taking too much moisture or if you are having a hard time finding plants that like acidic soil, try growing shade-loving plants in containers and setting them under your pine tree. You can then fertilise and water them separately.