Plant suggestions for under this maple tree?

heidizMarch 26, 2012


As you can see I have several hostas planted around this tree. I would like to a improve the way this looks. The maple is centered in our front yard. Over the years I have planted impatiens but that has always looked weak. I've considered adding more hostas and liriope ... Any suggestions are welcome... Thanks!

March 26, 2012
From March 26, 2012

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Oh Virginia a tuff planting area. Maples are shallow rooted trees and will pull most water from the soil if you don't add water to the bed around the tree. I have a large maple and raised the soil level around it by putting a stone row around the bed. I then added soil to give me around 10 inches of depth. And since they are so shallow rooted there usually isn't much soil to begin with. If you have easy access to stone this is my recommendation if not you can add soil to the area to form a cone higher towards the tree and less deep towards the edge of the bed. Cut an edge out for the bed-a spade works best, and go down about 4 inches and remove what comes up in the spade-you can just add it to the bed. If you were to look at this from the side it would look like an L with the bottom being the bed and the upper part were the grass stops. This is called English edging and will keep the soil in the bed and stop the grass from growing into the bed since roots won't grow into the air. Add mulch on top it will help reduce moisture loss and looks nice under the plants.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 5:27PM
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I think the best solutions for these difficult spots is to use a groundcover that is vining so that the plant roots when it touches the ground. For example, vinca minor. (I don't know if it grows where you are.) Then you only need to edge the bed periodically (which so many people do as a byproduct of lawn mowing) and keep the vine from growing up the tree if it's a kind that will do that. Though it's deciduous, Virginia Creeper actually works very well for this. It's tough as nails and usually you can find some nearby to root for free. Other than to carve out a few spots just for the starts, it's not necessary to dig up the soil.

You should remove some of the lower branches on the tree before they grow bigger if you want to avoid some major work and expense not too far down the road.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 8:15PM
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I don't know beans about maples, but I know that heaping dirt around the bark of a live oak will cause it to rot, killing the tree.

All the turf grasses I'm familiar with will go right through and over mulch. An inexpensive steel edging would stop such infiltration, and make it easy to clean the grass up with a weedeater.

Some selective,low pruning might restore the "bushiness" of your hedge.

Just looking at Virginia Creeper makes me break out in a rash. Liriope or Purple Heart might look attractive, if they're sufficiently cold tolerant for your area.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 10:13PM
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Raising the soil 6 to 8 inches around a maple is generally not a problem since they prefer and pull so much moisture from the soil. Yardvaark's recommendations are perfectly workable as well unless you prefer more visual interest with plants.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 1:17PM
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Thanks for the suggestions. I appreciate all of the input. I have heard others warn about the "dangers" of coning the mulch too high around the base of a tree. I will try the English edging as I like the way it looks and perhaps a few more hostas and liriope near the edge (away from the trunk). Yaardvark, what work and expense are you referring to when you suggest that i should remove the lower branches of the tree? I had the tree significantly pruned 2 years ago, because I didn't want it to get too large. Thanks, Heidi

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 2:24PM
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As to raised beds around oaks, I'm just repeating what I was told by the County Extension Service of Texas A&M. The issue isn't available moisture, but deterioration of the bark. He indicated that it could take a long time for the damage to become apparent. He recommended putting a collar around the tree to prevent contact between the bark and soil. May have zero relevance to maples.

That tree would look much better if the lower branches were removed up to where the trunk divides into 3 smaller trunks. Electric pole saws are quite inexpensive, and very useful.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 3:16PM
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I feel you pain with the Maple roots.

Personally I'd englarge the bed around the tree, possibly tripling the width. Perhaps having the tree 1/3 of the way in, with 2/3 toward the edge of the lot. IMO it would give the tree more "balance". With widening the area, plants are also likely to grow better. I"m planting hydrangeas also under mine.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 2:32PM
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normally, there is not issue with a large tree out in the middle of an open lawn becoming too large so we don't care how big it gets. But as it grows taller, we usually want the bottom of its canopy to act like a ceiling, providing shade and the sense of shelter. However, if that "ceiling" is too low, it becomes not an advantage, but a disadvantage. Does a person look better with a lot of hair covering their face. Usually not. The same is true for a house. When viewed from the street, if lower tree branches cover too much of the view of the house, it doesn't look good. Also, one must always be cognizant of the ultimate size of the tree. When it's 100 feet tall, would one want branches that are 6' off the ground? Another common problem with branches that are too low is that as they grow, they hang further down and become obstructive to actually using or maintaining the yard. Also, too many branches that are too low produce oppressive, gloomy shade... especially when trees are grouped together. Yet another factor is that high ceilings not only feel better in houses, but also outdoors. A low hanging canopy just does not feel as good as a raised one. I don't have enough space or time to convince anyone here in a short message, but start observing and you'll see it's true. I notice that almost everyone prunes trees in REACTION to how they are right now. Never in ANTICIPATION of what they'll be in 3 months or later. It is this reactionary pruning that is a bigger job and costs more.

A limb that's 10" in diameter was at one time only 1" in diameter. At 1", it could be safely and easily removed by anyone. At 10" in diameter, it could only be removed by a professional. Just to make the same single cut (to remove the branch) requires about 75 or 80 times the amount of actual cutting work as when the branch was only 1". The limb structure on trees "opens" as it grows because branches grow longer, heavier and they end up hanging down. The same thing will happen with your tree. The branches that begin at 5' ht. on the trunk and now aim up, will eventually hang down. And they will be a whole lot fatter and heavier by then. When that time comes you'll surely want them removed because then they will be obliterating the view of your house, obstructing the use of your yard and producing oppressive shade where grass (or barely anything) could grow. But then the cost of removing them then will be exponentially higher. Today, you could do it yourself with a home depot pole pruner. In ten years, It will cost several hundred dollars for a professional to do it. Then, the cuts that need to heal over will be massive and maybe even look disfiguring. Today, they would be small and heal quickly.

Removing branches a little early (in anticipation of what's to come) might at first make it seem like too much trunk is showing relative to the canopy. But in a rapidly short time, as pruning will do, it just causes the tree to grow faster in all the areas that remain... which is mainly the top of the tree. So very quickly, things look back in perfect order again.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 5:29PM
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Very well said yardvaark!

Long ago we carried that to an extreme and cut off the lower branches of a very young tree. They ended up too top heavy. At the age of the OP's tree though, I would have cut long ago...I sure wouldn't wait any longer. I've seen so many trees in front of houses that the tree is only 1/2 the size it will get and it's already an eyesore.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 8:39PM
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I've mentioned before and should have mentioned again, for any average tree it's a safe bet that you can limb it up to half it's height. A very short time later, it will have have resumed the 2/3 top to 1/3 clear trunk.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 12:31AM
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