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Garden Obstacles: Under the Pines

Updated: Mar 6, 2022

Gardening under Pine trees (Oaks and other acidic loving trees) can be a daunting task to take on but alas you have many choices! The conditions are dry and well drained and may be full shade or partially shaded with more sun on the edges. The following are native plants that will thrive under these conditions.

Arctostaphyllos uva-ursi - Bearberry

An adorable ground cover shrub growing 6-12" tall and 15” wide with white flowers in April-May followed by red berries. Great for erosion control. Host plant to the hoary elfin and the brown elfin butterflies.

Aquilegia canadensis - Wild Columbine

Lovely red and yellow bicolor flowers in May-June. Blooms attract hummingbirds, bees, butterflies and hawk moths. The seeds are eaten by finches and buntings. Grows 24-30" tall by 18” wide in partial to full shade. Moderately deer resistant. Host plant for the columbine duskywing butterfly. Foliage may get a little ragged looking, if it does just cut it back to the ground. Will self sow readily in the garden.

Aster cordifolius - Blue Wood Aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium)

Adorable pale lavender flowers with yellow centers in September-November. Grows 24-36" tall by 24-36” wide. Grows best in the sunnier spots under the pine trees. Great value to native bees. Cut back by ½ to ⅔ no later than July 4th for a tidier and more floriferous plant. Great in a planter. Will self sow readily in the garden. Supposed to be deer resistant.

Aster divaricatus - White Wood Aster (Eurybia divaricata)

Masses of white flowers with red to pink centers in September - October. Grows 24-36” tall by 24-36” wide. Cut back by ½ to ⅔ no later than July 4th for a tidier and more floriferous plant. Great in a planter. Will self sow readily in the garden and can be quite aggressive even in full shade. Supposed to be deer and rabbit resistant.

Carex appalachica - Appalachian Sedge

Clump forming sedge 12" tall by 8” wide with a lovely ‘flowing’ habit. Makes a great lawn alternative in shaded areas of the garden. Great in a planter. Deer resistant.

Carex pensylvanica - Oak Sedge

Fine textured foliage growing 8" tall by 12+” wide. Makes a great lawn alternative as it will form a colony by rhizomatous spread and it will self sow. Birds use the spent foliage for nesting material. Great in a planter. Deer resistant.

Mounding shrub 24-48” tall by 48-96” wide. Insignificant flowers in spring give way to burr-like nutlet. Foliage is very fragrant. Common name comes from its fern-like foliage. Once established it is great for erosion control. Host plant to the Gray Hairstreak butterfly larvae.

Gaultheria procumbens - Wintergreen

Slow spreading ground cover with white flowers in June - July followed by edible red fruit. Grows 3-6” tall by 6-12” wide. The berries are an excellent winter food source for pheasant, grouse, squirrels, chipmunks and deer. Not the easiest to grow but worth it if it’s happy.

Showy lavender-pink flowers in May-June held above 12-24" tall and 12-18’ wide plants. In the height of summer the foliage may deteriorate. At this time give the plants a light shearing to rejuvenate the foliage. Great for native pollinators. Not Deer resistant but tolerates some rabbit browse. Grows rapidly to form an attractive ground cover.

Clumping evergreen fern growing 12-24" by 24” wide. Deer and rabbit resistant. Great for erosion control.

Solidago flexicaulis - Zig-Zag Goldenrod

Yellow zig-zag flowers on slender stems in August - September growing 24-48” tall by 24-36” wide. High value to native bees and butterflies. Deer resistant. Goldenrods do not cause hay fever as they are not windblown pollinated like ragweed.

Solidago odora - Sweet Goldenrod

Yellow flower in August - October on 24-48” tall by 12-24” wide plants. Will self sow in the garden but is easy to contain. The fragrant foliage may be used in teas. Deer resistant. Goldenrods do not cause hay fever as they are not windblown pollinated like ragweed.

Uvularia grandiflora - Bellwort

Fragrant bell-shaped yellow flowers in May on 18-24" tall by 24” wide plants. Does go dormant in the summer so it is best planted with ferns and other woodland natives so the space will not look empty.

Vaccinium angustifolium - Lowbush Blueberry

Small bell-shaped flowers in May followed by deliciously sweet small blueberries in summer. Plants are 6-24" tall by 12” wide plants. Excellent fall color being maroon-purple. The flowers are very important to our native bees, especially the bumble bees and carpenter bees. Fruit is attractive to birds and mammals.

Waldsteinia fragarioides - Barren Strawberry

Great evergreen, woodland ground cover with yellow flowers in April - May on 3-6" tall by 6-12” wide plants. Deer resistant and salt resistant. Foliage turns a bronzy red in the fall.

Xanthorhiza simplicissima - Yellowroot

This deciduous, suckering shrub has large clusters of tiny purple flowers in April - May on 12-30” tall by 72-144” wide plants. Great for erosion control. Fall color is a bronzy yellow. The root can be used to make yellow dye. This plant does need a lot of room so be sure to think of this before planting.

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