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What shrubs grow under trees? Ideas for underplanting for shade

Trees are an important design element in the home garden. They provide cool shade, set accents and protect the garden from prying eyes. However, the area under the tree is in full shade and can therefore appear drab and bare. It is not easy to find the right underplanting for every woody plant. We have already summarized different variants for flowers and foliage ornamental perennials. Now we also take a closer look at the question: “What shrubs grow under trees”.

Shrubs under trees: what should you consider when planting?

Planting shrubs under trees hydrangeas purple white and blue

The area under a tall tree presents a challenge to the amateur gardener. The conditions are unfavorable for most plants because:

  • The area is in the shade and does not get midday sun.
  • Weeds are difficult to remove because the area under the tree is often difficult to access.
  • There is root competition, especially with trees that form shallow roots.
  • In the fall, deciduous trees shed their leaves and the fall leaves cover the underplanting. This prevents the plants from getting enough sunlight during the winter months.

Plant shrubs under trees: Useful tips

Planting shrub peonies under trees yellow flowering perennials for shade

Which shrubs are best for planting under shade areas under trees? Play it safe and opt for shrubs that also thrive in nature in the shade of a tall plant. They are usually true survivors and can handle even a dry, nutrient-poor soil and a shady location.

It is best to plant the shrubs together with the young trees. If that is not possible, then you can plant saplings around the tree. Large shrubs can damage the tree roots.

You can additionally include an irrigation system for the root zones of the trees and shrubs. This will ensure that the tree and shrubs get adequate water and nutrients, even during hot spells in the summer.

You can cut low branches so that you have access to the zone under the tree.

Dig a hole for each plant and provide the roots with compost.

Below we explain which shrubs are best suited for the shade area.

Flowering shrubs for shade that you can plant under trees.

Planting hydrangeas under pine tree Shrubs for shade

There are several shrubs for shade that you can plant under trees. The flowering shrubs such as the azalea, hydrangea, camellia or common mahonia are suitable for planting in the tree area. The evergreen shrubs such as barberry, oil willow and European holly please the eye all year round.

Flowering shrubs that grow under trees: the azalea and rhododendron.

flowering shrubs under trees purple rhododendron for shade variety Dandy


The azalea and the rhododendron are confusingly similar. Both plants are flowering shrubs that do well in partial shade. They are perfect as underplanting for deciduous trees, because their flowering period begins as early as April and ends in May. It is during this period that the tree begins to sprout, so the azalea is in light shade and can enjoy sunlight for several hours a day.

Plant flowering shrubs for shade under trees: The hydrangea

Shrubs under trees pink hydrangeas

Hydrangea is also very suitable for planting under trees. It thrives easily in light shade, partial shade and even full shade, depending on the variety. However, the shrub needs water. Therefore, you should either install an irrigation system or water the hydrangea regularly. In order for the flowering shrub to develop its full flowering glory, plant it under tall trees or conifers such as thuja or yew.

What flowering shrub under tree? The perennial peony

Planting shrubs for shade under trees shrub peony


The perennial peony is a real eye-catcher with its large flowers. The shrub grows around 2 meters high and forms pink, red or pink flowers. Perennial peonies prefer a location in light shade and need 4-5 hours of direct sunlight daily. The plant gets along with very little care. If necessary, you can fertilize it before flowering and then water it on particularly hot days.

Flowering shrubs for shade: The mountain laurel

Plant mountain laurel under trees choose shrubs for shade

Mountain laurel is an evergreen shrub that can be planted in groups under shady deciduous trees. It defies heat and cold, rain and drought, and does not require pruning. Deciduous trees provide the best possible conditions that promote its rapid growth. This is because the autumn leaves protect the plant from frost and fertilize the soil. Then, in June, mountain laurel forms numerous white flower buds. If the summer is very hot and temperatures exceed the 30-degree mark, you can water the shrub.

Flowering shrubs as underplanting for trees: the mahonia

Shrubs growing under trees common mahonia

Mahonia is a yellow flowering shrub, which is well suited for underplanting trees. The mahonia does not mind root competition with shallow roots, it can easily tolerate root pressure and copes with a dry and nutrient-poor soil.

Evergreen underplanting for trees

Evergreen underplanting for trees planting European holly

European holly is an evergreen shrub that can reach a maximum height of five meters. Therefore, it is suitable as an underplanting of tall trees with dense canopies. For example, the copper beech. However, in order for the two woody plants to thrive, it is best to plant them together.

Evergreen shrubs under trees: barberry

Evergreen under planting for trees barberry

Barberry is an evergreen shrub with thorns, leaves with a serrated edge, yellow to orange flowers and orange to fiery red berries. The bold colors brighten even a drab corner or niche under the tree. Barberry is multi-talented, growing in both sun and shade. The plant is also undemanding when it comes to soil. It thrives in a dry and nutrient-poor soil. In summer, you can additionally water the soil around the plant roots and fertilize it with compost.

Evergreen underplanting for trees: the oil willow

Evergreen under planting for trees_ The olive willow

With its golden-green leaves, the olive willow brings a Mediterranean touch to the garden. The plant is suitable both as a soloist and for group planting. The drought-resistant shrub can thrive even in soil that is very low in nutrients and high in salt. The wild plant is a true sun worshipper. However, there are now cultivars that prefer partial shade. One such is the evergreen oil willow.

Finding the right shrub for each tree

What shrubs grow under oaks

Finding the right shrub for each tree is no easy task. Here come several suggestions for underplanting for trees that are considered true classics in the home garden.

What shrubs will grow under oaks?

What shrubs grow under oaks alpine currant and dog rose and tufted rose and snow

Wild roses are popular partners to the tall oak. A dog rose or a cluster rose will catch everyone’s eye both as soloists and in combination with a snowball. If the oak is located on the property line, then it can be combined together with hedge plants such as alpine currant.

What shrubs grow under beech trees?

What shrubs grow under beeches spindle bush snowball honeysuckle

Beech trees can also be underplanted with a little prior knowledge. The plants that come into question depend closely on the soil conditions and the light conditions. They can vary greatly from tree to tree. As a rule, however, the beech is a heart-rooter, i.e. it forms both shallow and deep roots. Well suited are the spindle bush, some varieties of snowball and honeysuckle.

What shrubs grow under fir, spruce and other conifers?

What shrubs grow under fir trees under spruce trees

The following shrubs are suitable for planting in areas under conifers such as firs and spruces:

  • Finger aralia
  • Trendy berry
  • White dogwood
  • Dierwille

What shrubs grow under the walnut tree?

Underplant the walnut tree is a very difficult task. Firstly, its leaves and roots release inhibitors that act as weed killers and increase the acidity of the soil. For another, its crown is spreading and casts a thick shadow. Only a few survivalists can cope with it. Even they don’t stand a chance, however, if they are not watered regularly.

  • Wood Anemone
  • Bergenia
  • Azalea