What Plants Will Grow Under Evergreen Trees?

Planting Under Those Problematic Pine Trees

Eastern white pines (image) are magnificent in the wild. They can be problematic in the yard.
Eastern white pines are splendid in the wild. David Beaulieu

Question: What Plants Will Grow Under Evergreen Trees?

Reader, Kim Packa writes, "I have a 50-60 foot tall evergreen tree in my yard and all my grass is dead in my yard because of it. I thought about reseeding my yard this spring, but don't want to lose it every year."


Planting under evergreen trees is challenging due to soil acidity and competition for water; add shade into the equation and you're looking at a real battle!

It's difficult to find plants that will grow under evergreen trees, but it can be even more difficult to grow grass under large evergreen trees. I think you're right to give up on planting grass; instead, I would seek ground cover alternatives.

Currently, I'm experimenting with growing sweet woodruff under a large evergreen tree, a plant that is reputed to perform well under such conditions. So far, this ground cover is doing just fine. Check back in for updates.

A plant that I know grows well under large eastern white pine trees is vinca vine.


Reader, Carolyn adds:

"I have found that hostas grow well under evergreen trees, as do wild violets. I have two evergreen trees in my front yard, side by side. When I moved in, there was mostly a thick pile of needles. Now I have a lovely display of many varieties of hostas covering the whole area, complemented by wild violets. The violets are very prolific, so, they need to be thinned out regularly, or they will swallow up the smaller hosta plants.

Plant the taller hostas in the back and the shorter varieties in front. Or, if your evergreens can be seen from more than one side, put the taller hostas in the center, and plant the shorter ones around the outside.

"I also have some Liriope planted next to the taller hostas on one end, to add variety, under my evergreens.

I have the yellow edge with green center variety, with purple poker like flowers and the white edge with green center variety, with white poker like flowers. My garden, around the side by side evergreens, is shaped like a figure "8", sideways, with the trunk of an evergreen tree growing from the center of each circle.

"Remember, some varieties of hostas love shade and some are hybrids, developed for sunny locations. Be sure to read the tags before you purchase each plant. Liriope does well in both sun and shade and is almost as prolific as the wild violets. Don't forget, also, that hostas have to be divided when they become big, so, their centers won't die from lack of moisture and food, which have been cut off by the outside portion of the plant."