Planting natives on a wooded lot
Hello, I am trying to plant shade loving native shrubs and flowers on a wooded lot. I have not seen much resource material on this specific subject. I would like to plant rhododendrons, azaleas and native flowers in between large mature trees. The trees are pretty spread out and the canopy is tall. The ground below has been mostly cleared and leaves are left to decompose. My concerns are compact soil which I read is especially detrimental to rhododendrons and the existing tree roots as I do not want to disturb them. Another concern is the leaves that are raked from the yard are pushed under the tree canopy. Is there any resource material or advise working under the mentioned conditions? Thank you.
You'll find That "Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping" is a terrific resource with photos, lists and cultural information. You can find it online now. Write down every shrub that can handle "dry" and "shade" and that's what can handle the dry shade of a woods.
There is no way to plant in a woods without encountering roots. That's okay. Just plant between the bigger roots. You can cut the smaller ones to make a root-free planting hole. The #1 component for success is to keep it well-watered for at least 2 years as your plant's roots get established. Possibly more. It will have to compete with trees and will need your help!
If you let leaves fall and decompose--and adding more from your lawn is fine--it will enrich the soil and increase it's water-holding capacity. All good. The compaction will eventually improve as worms, ants, and other critters tunnel through it.
In order to increase seasonal interest, you might want to consider spice bush, summersweet, itea, American holly and Mountain laurel. All great natives.