Planting under a Silver Maple?

connietnMarch 27, 2012

Is there any shrub that will work under a Silver Maple, or am I just out of luck? We have a fairly large one in our side yard. Some forsythias are living, but not really thriving, planted at the edge of the dripline near the street. China Boy Hollys are suffering greatly - I need to pop them up and move them before I lose them.

I'd just as soon get rid of the tree, but it is providing some privacy right now in a key spot...

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Honestly, long term, not much will do well. I have a pink flowering dogwood just about at the edge of the dripline of my silver maple, it's been there probably almost 40 years and does well. So perhaps some of the more shade-tolerant shrub dogwoods MIGHT work.

Honestly, though, I gave up trying to grow anything near mine in-ground. I do containers around and under the tree. I still have to be sure to move them a few inches 3-4 times a season, or the tree roots will latch onto them through the drainage holes.

You may want to try some large containers. Being in TN, you don't have to worry about winter damage to the roots of containerized plants for the most part. As long as the containers themselves are shatterproof against freezing (terra cotta and ceramic are OUT), it should work out fine.

If you don't want to have to MOVE the containers on a regular basis to prevent maple root incursion, you can set them off the ground an inch or so using brick pavers or something similar.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 12:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

the peeps in the hosta forum.. will testify.. that nearly NOTHING will grow with vigor under a maple.. [except for frank .. but you arent frank] ...

if you dig a hole.. you will allow the plants some time to grow.. but sooner.. rather than later.. the maple will fill the hole.. and start invading the new plant ...

i agree.. pots are a great idea.. but you will have to turn or move them.. a couple times a year.. BECAUSE THE MAPLE WILL ALSO INVADE THOSE!!!

you have really.. only two options.. garden elsewhere.. or get rid of the maple ... you can not have both in one place ...


    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 1:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I hadn't thought about containers - that's a good idea. It would also give me a little extra height.

I wonder how long it would take for the roots to no longer be a problem if I cut the tree down?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 2:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Immediately, Connie. Silver maple is not the kind of tree that readily sprouts from the root system. Once cut down, the roots quickly die off.

The responses above are right on. I had the largest silver maple in my city, in my back yard for 30 years. The tree was there much longer, but for 30 years, I was the fool that tried to grow stuff under them. Probably the only plant in my back yard that seemed able to shrug off the intense competition was lily of the valley!


    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 5:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A high canopy will help....

The area under a silver maple has got to rate as one of the driest areas in any temperate garden. If the canopy is high, at least the shrubs will get sufficient light.

That said, shrubs native to the scrubby areas in rain shadow of western states tend to do well as do hardy Mediterranean shrubs.

Try Mahonia aquifolium, Ribes sanguineum & ordoratum, Kerria japonica, and Acanthopanax sieboldiana. Hamamelis virginiana & vernalis might also work well.

1 Like    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 7:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Come to think of it, Virginia creeper (vine) did just fine under my 90 footer. That thing was raised way up.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 10:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Depends what kind of soil you have. If you have a sandy type soil you are out of luck.

If you have more of a clay base the options open up.

I had Hosta, Hydrangea, Hibiscus and Lilac growing under the canopy. Granted the tree was only 17 years old so not sure how that would change as the tree matures. I'd be curious to see if the Hydrangea and Hosta are still growing under there after 5 years now (its my previous home).

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 10:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hostas are completely helpless against a full grown silver. I planted some nice ones, good rich soil, the whole bit...and then watched them manage to get smaller every year thereafter. And like Ken said, you dig a nice big hole, fill it with good stuff, compost, whatever, and the tree's roots have that new spot fully colonized later that same afternoon!

This is not hypothesis but rather, direct experience of both myself and other serious gardeners.

I loved that big tree. We lived with it for 30 years-the tree was probably more like 130 years old-but the safety angle was what eventually got me taking it down. I had numerous leads in excess of 24 inches diameter over my house, my neighbor's house, my other neighbor's get the picture. This was a truly huge silver maple.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 10:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

puke, honeysuckle. Don't plant honeysuckle, it will live and take over.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 2:14AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Cher(6 SW OH)

Nothing grows well under them. I had one in my clay soil and the first year things would survive, but each year either not come back or barely come back. I got tired of trying new things and bit the bullet and had the thing cut down and ground out. That was with keeping it trimmed well every two years, didn't matter it still acted like it was the 40 year old tree it was. Plus like they are known to do, it cracked my driveway and a sidewalk panel, which I just had to replace this year. Wish I had done it years earlier and wish all my neighbors would take the hint and do the same so I am not cleaning up hundreds of thousands of maple leaf seeds each Spring.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 5:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well, I hate to lose the privacy it affords, but I would really like to plant something there, and there are much better things for that space that would provide year-round privacy. Maybe I do just need to bite the bullet and lose it.

Mahonia is one of my favorites. Hammamelis - hmmm - I've been eyeing a Jelena this spring. :)

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 10:03AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We moved to our house 2 years ago and had 3 very large silver maples (I really dislike these trees). All 3 were cut down with the intention planting other things there. We have had battle after battle with those roots. They were cut down 2 years ago and it seems like the roots are still alive.

We removed the roots from a Blue Spruce we had cut down. It was a horrible battle (axes, shuffles chainsaws, anything we could think of) I think we've reached the point of giving up on removing the roots from the silver maples.

I've been digging out spots nearby the the stump or where the stump was but I've given up on trying to plant something in the same spot. I guess my point is to make sure you'll be able to plant what you want to plant in its place before you cut it down.

Personally I don't regret having them cut down.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 11:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"We have had battle after battle with those roots. They were cut down 2 years ago and it seems like the roots are still alive."

Did you apply concentrate of Roundup or generic version to the exposed cambium layer just under the bark, to kill it, or did you just cut off what you could get at and hope it died?


    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 1:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Springpatch, in what sense does it"seem like the roots are still alive"? That doesn't jibe with my reality! Something from the genus Populus sure, maybe even tree of heaven, but maple?

Now if you simply mean you are struggling with the task of removing the roots with only hand tools and chainsaw, sure, that'd be a lot of work. But that's not the same thing as dealing with a still-living root system.


PS......I'm not always right. Teach me something new!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 6:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The neighbors have 5 on the property line. It's a wet to moist area. The grass grows fast but near the Silver maples, I can barely tell where the grass needs mowed but for a few stray grass blades here and there. I can skip it till next time or longer usually, it's a good bit of area too.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 9:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
terrene(5b MA)

I love Silver maples but their roots are amazing. There is a big 60 year old Silver in the front southwest corner from my house. It has large gnarly surface roots snaking through the yard, which have heaved the sidewalk in two places growing towards the gutter downspout and have invaded the septic tank. When I had the tank pumped two years ago there was a large root encircling the the tank opening. It was unbelievable! Since then I regularly treat the tank with copper sulfate.

Also, my southwest garden is now a "xeric" garden partly due to the Silver maple hogging any water in the vicinity!

There are well-established common Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) growing under the canopy of my tree, along with Vinca minor and some orange ditch lilies. About 4 years ago I planted 5 grey dogwoods (Cornus racemosa) along the property line with the next door neighbor - along the dripline of the tree about 20 feet away. They are doing pretty well, being more shade and drought-tolerant than most shrub dogwoods. A Forsythia is holding its own in a sunnier spot near the dripline too.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 10:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Terrene, your post is an excellent treatise on the very "common" plants that will indeed survive and maybe even thrive under silvers. I love the "orange ditch lilies" comment! My biggie used to have those, Virginia creeper vine, lily of the valley, very poor turf, and yes, an old common lilac under it! But hostas were the dividing line, simply not doing well in this spot.


    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 10:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

About the roots still being alive, my wife was trying to chop out some this March and I looked at one and I swore it was still moist like a living root. I could be wrong but I thought it looked like it was alive.

I've heard people say that when you chop a tree down the roots die and I've heard people say that they do not. Someone even said the best way to kill them (aside from digging them out) is pouring salt on the roots (which will make the ground uninhabitable to virtually all plants for awhile). For this reason I didn't even attempt to kill them with any chemicals.

If anyone would like I could go back and check again to see if they look alive but I distictly remember thinking that they were.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 12:45AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
terrene(5b MA)

Well it's not for no reason all those plants are very popular Tom! They are hard for the average property owner to kill. :)

I have several large gardens and they are generally densely planted with bulbs, perennials, grasses, and some specimen shrubbery. Because my lot was previously heavily wooded (now it's more of an open woodland) all of the gardens have old tree roots running through them, but you would never know it by looking.

At first I tried to wrestle with the roots, and dig them out, and pine roots are pretty easy, but trying to dig out the 2 large oak stumps or roots in the front garden was a totally futile effort! I ended up covering one oak stump with wood chips and a bird bath, the other with stepping stones.

I generally don't bother trying to dig up roots any more, and just garden around them. Eventually those roots will decompose and start to add organic matter to the soil. I hypothesize that they get soft and act like a sponge to absorb and hold moisture in the soil too - and even become beneficial for the soil critters and the roots of the garden plants.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 3:14AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm late to the posting party here but have had success, limited, with gardening under those blasted silver maples. One tool: machete. At least twice per season I root prune around my perennials, at least 20 varieties, to a depth of at least 8 inches. The trees are fine, the plants are happy, and so is the gardener. I have hydrangea and lilac well within the canopy and I score the soil around these shrubs just outside their drip lines. They'll wilt a little in really hot weather here in Chicagoland and I'll water at least weekly. Had I known earlier about the silvers I would have taken them out but they are the only shade/privacy we have on our deck and patio.
Happy New Year!

    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 12:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
terrene(5b MA)

Since this thread was resurrected, I'll add another suggestion - Blue wood aster (Aster cordifolius) is a lovely native woodland wildflower that grows quite well under the Silver maple. It blooms great in dry shade and holds its amongst the Vinca and orange daylilies.

Also we had a droughty period last July and there was a lot of die back on the Grey dogwoods, so they are probably not the best native shrub to plant under or near a Silver maple. However, no die back on the alternate leaf dogwood and Japanese snowbell growing in the same shrub border.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 2:30AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
sherriseden(z6 IL)

Great suggestions! I, too, have a silver maple which I LOVE, but has a 15 foot radius of bare soil under it. Well, OK, a couple of struggling coneflowers and hostas. They will be moved to more hospitable places. Good to hear some things may actually thrive!!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 10:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"Something from the genus Populus sure, maybe even tree of heaven, but maple? "

tree of heaven, or ghetto palm, will survive being cut down to aqn inch above the soil, no matter the caliber of the tree, and will send dfoouble the sprouts the next year

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 11:26PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Number 4 thread of Most successful try @ LIve oak in Pa
Okay, this is the newest thread about the Live Oak...
Who has snow?
Post your snowy garden pics. (Locally, almost none...
Nutmeg Hickory
Anyone here growing this species? I received one that's...
Two trees start blooming in milder climate ...
I know the first is Hong Kong orchid. I forget the...
2015 Midatlantic/SE/New England winter damage thread
I don't mean to exclude the midwest but I think for...
davidrt28 (zone 7)
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™