Are there any perennial plants that will survive under an evergreen tree?

Asked July 12, 2014, 12:22 PM EDT

Are there any perennial plants that will survive under an evergreen tree? The lowest branches on the tree are about six feet above the ground. Thank you.

El Paso County Colorado

3 Responses

Thank you for your question.

Plants for shade - Many shrubs and small trees naturally grow in the shade of large trees in forests. These plants are useful to consider in urban yards where light may be limited.

  • Suggestions include serviceberry; arrowwood, burkwood and leatherleaf viburnums; highbush cranberry; redosier dogwood; Oregon grapeholly; and spreading euonymous.
  • There are also a variety of groundcovers and shade tolerant perennial flowers to plant in shady situations.
  • Groundcovers for shady areas are carpet bugle, periwinkle, English ivy (does extremely well under evergreens, but is a slow grower), mock strawberry, plumbago, sweet woodruff, woodbine, wintercreeper euonymous and dead nettle.
  • Perennials are coral bells, bellflower, pigsqueak bergenia, astilbe, bleedingheart, bugloss, cranesbill geranium, lady's mantle and the European type daylilies.
  • Don't forget ornamental grasses such as maiden grass and tufted hairgrass.

Thank you for your response. My concern wasn't because there is only partial sun. I have friends who tell me that nothing they have tried to plant under an evergreen survives. Something about the pH of the soil from the evergreen needles. I thought there might be plants that didn't mind the change in pH. Kathy


Thank you for the follow up.

I beg your pardon. I did not realize you had full sun under your evergreens? Please let your friends know the following:

  • Fallen needles may SLOWLY change the pH of calcareous soils – but for the better.
• El Paso County soils tend to have free lime, which neutralizes any acid, including pine needles or coffee grounds.

• It takes decades to change pH and will not decrease by more than .5 units.

If you are still a skeptic you can get your soil tested, for a fee, by Colorado State University. The test includes an analysis of your pH. Here is the link for more information.