Perennials for under trees with shallow roots?

dirtslinger2(6)August 14, 2011

I'm looking for something to plant under an older aspen tree that can handle shade, but also can handle the horrible root system from the aspens. Any ideas?

Previously there were groundcovers (Cotoneaster/Arctostaphylos)but it is now to shady for them.

It is irrigated...

Thanks for any ideas!

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laceyvail(6A, WV)

Pretty difficult conditions. I'd try Geranium maccrorhizum--Bigroot Geranium. A really tough plant. If it can't make it, I don't know what would.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 6:11AM
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Vinca minor?

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 6:25AM
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squirejohn zone4 VT

I've heard Epimedium and Lilly-of-the-Valley might work but have no first hand experience with either.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 6:49AM
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Vinca/periwinkle grows anywhere--it's growing here in full sun, full shade & everything in between, under hydrangea & euonymus, on all four sides of my house--north, south, east & west. The lily-of-the-valley used to grow same as the vinca but I've been yanking that out relentlessly for years and even had one area of it removed with a backhoe. If those won't grow under your aspen tree, I can't think of anything that would. Neither drought nor wet have any effect on them that I've observed.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 8:38AM
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Solomon's seal should do okay. The variegated kind is very pretty.

Epimediums should also do okay. I find them mostly boring though except when they are in bloom, then they are charming. Maybe I don't have the right kind. Many people love them.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 9:30AM
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You'll hear multiple screams of protest about this suggestion, but under
my silver maples (with notorious root systems), I have some beautiful
stands of Aegopodium (Goutweed, Bishop's Weed). The foliage is a lovely
green-and-white, flowers in early summer resemble Queen Anne's Lace;
when it starts looking a little ratty in August, I literally mow it down, and lush
new foliage returns for the rest of the season. Yes, you DO have to keep an
eye on it because it likes to run, but mine has been growing atop that root system for 15 years now and timely editing has kept it in check.

Other successes under maples: Liriope, Gallium odoratum (Sweet Woodruff), Epimedium, Stylophrum (Celadine Poppy), Vinca, Polystichum acrostichoides
(Christmas Fern), Polygonatum. . .and in the shrub department, the "hands down" winner in my garden for beating root competition has to be Nandina !


    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 11:32AM
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Thanks for all the ideas! Can't believe at the speed they came in, much appreciated!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 12:16PM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

"Biokovo" geranium should do well.

Chasmanthium might work.

Keep in mind anything you plant, even if tolerant of dry soil, will need some "babying" during the establishment period.

Re: Solomon's Seal: The variegated variety doesn't seem to handle tough, dry conditions as well as the plain 'ol green variety - at least not in my yard.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 3:45PM
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Planted under my large established maple tree are hostas, Lady In Red lady fern, Japanese painted fern, variegated Solomon's Seal, Tiarella, heuchera, brunnera, and dicentra. I do water during droughts.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 10:27PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Whatever you decide to plant, you'll probably find it easier if you get very small plants and scratch the holes with one of those bent-fork things instead of trying to dig. If you encounter a large root, give up on that spot, move a few inches in another direction.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 12:18PM
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SusanC(9b/10a Sunset 17)

I have had good luck with Lamium galeobdolon, yellow archangel, and Japanese anemones in a similar situation. Both can be very aggressive/invasive under good garden conditions, but they behave beautifully in dry rooty shade.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 1:35PM
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terrene(5b MA)

A couple of native Asters will grow under these conditions - Symphyotrichum cordifolium - Blue wood aster, and S. divaricatum, White wood Aster. They both grow and bloom quite well in the dry shade under maples. Beautiful clouds of blooms in the fall.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 8:59AM
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tepelus(6a SW MI)

I've read that the Gillenias will grow underneath trees with thick roots. I want to get some for myself; pretty flowers in the spring, great fall color, and best of all, they're native.


Here is a link that might be useful: Gillenia trifoliata

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 4:32PM
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