QUESTION #9: Plants under thirsty maple trees
Does anyone have any great success stories on what really grows well under those
thirsty maple trees?
-- Portia for the Louisville (KY) Show Me Tell Me group.
Iíve planted Blood Root, but that died out. Mayapples didnít last. What has moved
in on itís own is baneberry. It is reseeding itself and seems to be thriving.
Ė Dorothy of Cedarburg, WI
I'm not much of an expert on most growing things since I have gotten into this
hobby recently - 4 years. What I repeatedly see and hear is pick plants according
to the light and soil conditions. You will have less to fight with than if you put
something in a place that is not compatible to its needs. So, I know maple trees
can get very dense, hence little light. My father used to try to grow grass under
a big maple tree.... little success. I don't know how much moisture a maple tree
uses, but you might think about plants which don't use much moisture. Good luck
and have fun.
-- Leon of Manitowoc, WI
I have violets, sweet woodruff, forget-me-nots and creeping phlox under my maples;
they all seem to be doing fine, also crocus but I don't think they blossomed this
year. The forget-me-nots need trimming after they bloom; otherwise, they get rather
unsightly. Note from WO Hostess: Forget-me-nots, creeping phlox and crocus are
not native and in some areas considered invasive.
Any woods wildflowers should do well. I do not put trillium there because my trees
are close to the sidewalk. Bloodroot would probably do well but the leaves tend to
be unsightly eventually.
-- Dorothy of Oshkosh, WI
The best thing under trees is wood chip mulch (or other mulch), in a donut shape
ring, not touching the trunk, as far out as possible---to the drip line if possible
or beyond. The next best thing is groundcover/perennials PLANTED AT THE SAME TIME
AS THE TREE. If you plant perennial
groundcover (or annuals for that matter) after the tree has matured you risk
injuring the essential root system of the tree.
Bulbs are OK, but again plant them AT THE SAME TIME AS THE TREE.
-- Diane of Chicago, IL
To best answer the question, the species of maples needs to be identified. If the maple
is the non-native Norway Maple, it is almost impossible to grow much under it, due to
its heavy shade. Sugar maples also cast heavy shade, but a little less so than Norway's.
It can be difficult to distinguish Norway Maple from Sugar Maple, but here are several
1. Break a leaf off and see if the leaf stem has whitish sap. This is typical of Norway
maple, but I have heard that you cannot always depend on this.
2. Samaras (Seeds) are wide-spreading unlike sugar maples whose samaras are only
3. Norway Maple leaves are broader in relation to their length than those of Sugar Maple.
Obviously, it's easier to ID the Norway Maple when you can compare with a Sugar Maple.
You'll need to refer to guides.
-- Mariette of East Troy, WI
I'd like to know the answer to this question , too. My maple is about 25 feet tall with
no branches up to 6'. Two clumps of red maple have bracken (fern) and Queen Anne's Lace
under them. However, I'm looking for a more "finished" look out in the middle of my
"no chemicals" lawn.
-- Sylvia of Grand Haven, MI
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Updated: Oct 19, 2006.