How to Landscape Under Pine Trees

How do you beautify the ground under your pine trees? The area may not be the most conducive to growing plants, but there are tolerant plants you can use for your landscaping project.

There are many ways of landscaping under a pine tree besides growing plants. Mulching and using rocks are cost-effective ways that add nutrients to the soil, prevent soil erosion, and require less maintenance. 

Challenges of Landscaping Under Pine Trees

Several conditions under a pine tree make it challenging to landscape using plants.

Pine trees have a dense shade that doesn’t allow sunlight to reach the ground, which can be challenging for plants that need sunlight to thrive.

The soil under a pine tree is more acidic than in other areas, far from the ideal pH level required by common yard plants.

Due to the pine trees’ shallow lateral roots, other plants can’t get enough water and minerals because the pine tree sucks them up.

Read more of these challenges in our detailed guide about pine trees in lawns.

Despite the challenges, you can use tolerant plants that can withstand harsh conditions under the pine tree or other landscaping methods that don’t require plants.

Methods of Landscaping Under Pine Trees

Below are ways of landscaping under pine trees.

Use Tolerant Plants

Tolerant plants are those that:

  • Require less sunlight – Examples are wild ginger, hosta, ferns, and moneywort.
  • Withstand acidic soil – Acid-loving plants include azaleas, hydrangeas, camellias, daffodils, and blueberries.
  • Require less water – They include desert roses, lithops, jade, portulaca, zebra cacti, and snake plant.

But how do you plant under pine trees? Here are the steps to follow:

  • Rake well to remove pine needles, rocks, and other pieces of debris.
  • Cut any weeds, then identify where you want the plants to grow.
  • Lay down landscaping fabric to suppress future weeds.
  • Plant your ground cover plants such as sweet woodruff and bugleweed. They act like outdoor carpets.
  • Add slightly taller plants and flowers that can withstand conditions under the pine tree.
  • Plant larger bushes like hydrangea, which add height to the landscape.
  • Trim the pine tree’s lower branches to allow sunlight and give the taller plant bushes room to grow.

Be careful not to cut the pine tree roots when digging holes for your plants. Pine tree lateral roots are shallow and can be easily damaged.

Use Mulch

Landscaping under a pine tree using mulch creates a good ground cover. You can use various types of mulch, including wood chips, shredded hardwood, pine needles, or straw.

These materials improve the landscape under a pine tree. They come in various colors like brown, yellow, red-orange, and dark shades. They’re also available in different textures.

But can you landscape using two types of mulch?

It’s possible to landscape the ground under a pine tree with two types of mulch. You can put pine cones over wood chippings or vice versa. Any color or texture combination provides an appealing landscape.

Mulch benefits your pine tree and soil in the following ways:

  • It insulates the soil by keeping it cool in summer and warm in winter, so the roots don’t suffer from extreme weather
  • It prevents the soil from being swept away by heavy rain or strong wind
  • Beneficial microbes in the decaying mulch eliminate pests and pathogens
  • Reduces evaporation so you won’t need to water plants consistently
  • Prevents the growth of weeds by as much as 50%

Although you can use mulch alone to landscape under pine trees, combining plants and mulch makes your landscape more visually enticing.

Too much mulch is not recommended because it sucks moisture from the soil. You should not put a thick layer. 2-3 inches of mulch is enough. Also, do not pile it up against the tree like a volcano, as that will attract pests and disease.

You’ll need to replace your mulch every one to four years, which makes mulching a cost-effective way of landscaping under your pine trees.

Use Rocks

Rocks are an alternative to mulching or using plants for landscaping under your pine tree. They’re low cost and low maintenance.

Landscaping rocks come in the form of:

Pebbles – Pebbles can be used as ground cover under the pine tree. You can opt for pea gravel, river rock, brick chips, or marble chips to transform the ground under your pine.

Boulders – A single boulder or two small ones are sufficient, so the area doesn’t look overcrowded. You can use glacier boulders or limestone boulders. Boulders with moss are ideal for bringing out a jungle look. 

Bricks – You can use bricks to outline the edge of the pine tree area. Homeowners favor red bricks, but light brown, white, and gray bricks are also popular.

Although landscaping under a pine tree using rock doesn’t benefit your pine tree nutritionally, rocks prevent soil erosion, kill weeds and regulate soil temperature when placed close together.

Leave 8 -10 inches between the trees and rocks when landscaping so that the tree receives oxygen. Space also prevents excess moisture build-up, which can cause rotting and disease.

As with mulching, using pebbles, boulders, and bricks for landscaping brings out the best look when combined with plants.

Accentuate the Landscape Under Pine Trees

Mulch, plants, and rocks are ways you can landscape under your pine tree, but it doesn’t end there. How can you highlight the landscape under pine trees?

To make the landscape a focal point, you can build a short picket fence around the perimeter of the pine tree and paint it a bright color.

You can also accentuate the landscape under pine trees by using garden lights to create a beautiful effect at night.

Do this by hanging several lights on the branches, facing downwards. The lights illuminate the landscape under, giving it a unique soft glow.

Final Thoughts

Pine trees create conditions unsuitable for plants to grow under, but there are tolerant plants you can use to landscape the area.

You can also use mulch, pebbles, bricks, and boulders to make your pine tree area more pleasing.

Landscaping under a pine tree includes accentuating it with lights at night or building a picket fence around it to highlight it.

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