Planting flowers at the base of a tree
Is it bad for a tree's feeder roots to have flowers and bulbs planted in a ring around its base?
Adams County Colorado
Hello, thanks for asking this question. Sorry for the delay in a response.
It would be helpful to know what kind of tree you would like to plant flowers around. Could you send a picture of the area in question?
Generally speaking, if you are interested in planting flowers beneath a conifer, like a spruce or a pine, we don't recommend it. The fibrous root system of these trees will out compete your flowers for water and sun. Even grass does not thrive beneath a conifer. We would recommend just having a tree ring with mulch beneath conifers.
Planting beneath a deciduous tree is possible, however we recommend against building up a flower bed by adding soil around the trunk of the tree. This may encourage the development of circling tree roots. It's best to make sure that the trunk flare is exposed to avoid this possibility. As you mentioned, the roots of the tree could be affected by other plants. If you plant near the tree and accidentally injure or cut a tree root, it could negatively affect the tree growth. Bulbs are often planted six to eight inches deep, and you could encounter tree roots as you dig the hole. This is all highly dependent on the age of the tree.
We would recommend creating a tree ring of four to six feet just around the trunk with mulch and then create a flower bed just outside that area. Depending on the size of the tree and the shade it produces, choosing shade loving plants would be more successful. Planting annuals around the tree can be quite successful. The shallow roots produced over a growing season don't impact the tree roots significantly.
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to reach out, and do send a picture of the area in question. Thanks!