Appropriate shrub under large beech tree, with southern exposure

Asked April 24, 2018, 8:46 AM EDT

I have a 6x6 area that would benefit from a specimen shrub. It is situated under a very large mature beech tree, about 7-10x trunk diameter distance, closer in than the drip line. It receives dappled shade in the summer and full sun from early fall to mid spring. Soil pH is 7, high clay content. The area previously supported a large colony of hemerocallis fulva. The spot also is exposed to winter winds, and deer pressure is moderate.

I’m looking for suggestions as to what to plant in such a location. Evergreen would be preferred but is not mandatory. The dimensions can’t exceed 6 ft in width due to a nearby vegetable bed, height can exceed 10 ft and more but doesn’t need to. The neighbor has some deciduous azaleas growing in the same general area. I think they’re overused.

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Montgomery County Maryland

1 Response

Beeches are shallow rooted, native and like native mycorrhizae in their soil.Also they have dense shade which makes it a challenging environment beneath them.

A native evergreen which tolerates dry shade is Mountain Laurel. Get the regular species, not a fancy cultivar (leaf spot tendencies).
Another exciting possibility would be native azaleas (not evergreen) but summer blooming and very fragrant! Pinxterbloom azalea and mountain azalea (Rhododendron prinophyllum) will both tolerated dry shade.

A deciduous shrub that is native, summer blooming and attracts butterflies would be Summersweet (Clethra) . Again, we'd recommend the species, not a cultivar, for the most vigorous growth.

No matter what you plant, be sure to water during dry spells, including spring and fall, for at least the first 2 years so that roots can get established. With the beech root competition, this will be even more important.

ECN