Landscaping Around Trees

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As you begin to create a landscaping plan for your yard, you need to think about how everything is going to go together. Decorative plants, rocks, and shrubs need to complement each other in order to look organic.

Some landscapes are overdone to the point where they look too intentional and not at all natural.

Landscaping Around Trees

Use the plants and other features in your yard that are already there naturally to your advantage, including trees. Rather than taking out trees and replacing them with better-looking ones, add some interesting plants or rock around the base of the tree to upscale what is already there.

You can go about landscaping around trees in many different ways. You can put a ring of rocks around the tree, and that’s it, or you can add a whole combination of decorative rock, mulch, and plants for a more detailed appearance.

Trees that are simple and straightforward with no awry branches could use a little more detail around them, but it’s best to leave more complicated trees alone since these are a beauty all on their own.

Beware of Tree Roots

The species of tree you’re dealing with is important. Before making any rash decisions about decoration and the tree landscaping, use the internet or an encyclopedia to find out what type of tree it is. Read all about its needs and most importantly, read about its roots.

Some trees have roots that extend all around the tree at a very shallow level in the ground and sometimes even show aboveground.

Other trees have a big bulb-like shape of roots, and then yet others have roots that extend almost straight downward. The shape of its roots should have an enormous impact on your decision making.

Dealing with Shallow Tree Roots

Landscaping Around Trees

Trees with shallow roots are the worst for landscaping  especially if you were planning on planting flowers. As you go to dig holes for planting, you would most likely hit at least one or a few roots.

It wouldn’t take much digging either since the roots are just below the surface of the ground. When you strike a tree root with a shovel, part of that outreach dies and is no longer able to soak in nutrients and water to give to the tree.

It can sometimes result in the entire tree to die. This is why you have to be careful.

There are a few ways to deal with shallow tree roots. For one, you can avoid planting flowers at all and just stick with some basic decorative rock or gravel around the tree.

The second option would be to go ahead with planting, but just being cautious of roots and planting only a few flowers or other plants.

If you are digging and you feel the spade hit a root, stop digging and move to another spot. Don’t try to force your way around that root.

Tree Preparation

Before you begin designing a landscape around your tree, you might need to get a couple of things done to ensure tree and plant growth as well as to prevent weeds. What all you have to do beforehand will depend on the type and number of decorations you have planned.

For placing rocks, pebbles, or mulch, you might want to lay down a piece of landscape fabric to help prevent weeds from sprouting and to keep the area neat.

How to Install Landscape Fabric?

  1. Use a garden hoe to scrape the ground free of any grass, debris, or weeds
  2. Level the ground using your garden tools to break up any big clumps and remove small rocks
  3. Lay down a piece of porous landscape fabric, facing downward
  4. Pin down the edges of the fabric sheet to keep it secure (this is optional if you are placing large boulders on top since those would hold the fabric down)
  5. Place the rocks or other decorations on top of the sheet. For plants, use a knife or sharp trowel to cut a hole in the sheet and place the plant there

How to Choose Landscape Fabric?

Landscaping Around Trees

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Landscape fabric can come in a solid plastic sheet or a material that is much more porous and natural. Many gardeners say it is unwise to use a solid sheet since it suffocates the tree roots and soil that is underneath.

Porous, organic landscape fabrics are better for the environment. They may let a few weeds come through here and there, but it still makes a significant improvement to your landscape.

Porous materials are also good for landscaping around trees because it is less likely to cause tree rot; thick plastic holds in too much moisture.

What is Tree Rot, and How Do I Avoid It?

Tree rot is a severe complication. It’s also called “Heart rot” because the fungal disease started from within the heart of the tree and worked its way to the outside.

Tree rot in landscaping can be caused by placing a layer of soil or mulch around the tree that is too thick. It also occurs when a raised plant bed is placed directly around the tree, without extra space in-between.

The excess material builds up moisture on the bark and can cause an open wound to form on the outside. The wound is what causes the tree to develop the fungus.

Tree rot is detectable and treatable.

The first step is diagnosis.

Too often does tree rot get mistaken for other conditions that have similar symptoms. Sometimes it’s easily noticed because of a visible wound or mushroom-like objects that have begun to grow on the tree, but these aren’t always visible right away.

If you’re unsure, you can try reaching out to a local tree nursery or getting in contact with a tree expert to help you figure out what exactly is wrong. But, before you talk to anyone, try looking for the following symptoms.

Symptoms of Tree Rot

  • The tree begins to lean to one side more than usual
  • Small growths begin to form on the exterior of the tree, which look like mushrooms or fungus
  • The tree’s overall growth has slowed down or has stopped altogether
  • There is an excess of leaves on the ground around the tree because of abnormal wilting
  • Branches on the tree have died

Treatment for Tree Rot

Treatment isn’t always possible, and if the tree isn’t removed, it could spread the fungus to other trees nearby. However, sometimes, it can be stopped before fatality.

Dig up most of the soil directly around the base of the tree trunk. Also, remove any added mulch or wood chips. This will eliminate a big chunk of the moisture that originally caused the tree to rot.

Let the area dry out for a bit and then fertilize it with a high-phosphorous fertilizer, which will help more roots grow.

If treatment is possible, you should try it because some trees are expensive to replace.

Best Flowers for Landscaping Around Trees

Your tree landscape wouldn’t be complete without some accent flowers or plants. To choose the best flowers, consider the amount of shade that your tree provides to the area around it.

If it casts a big diameter of thick shade, that means you’ll need to purchase flowers or plants that require partial to full shade.

Some trees create only a small shadow, if any at all; for these, get plants that need either full sun or part shade. You’ll find this information labeled on the plant when you buy it.

If it’s not labeled, all the information is available online as well.

1. Primrose

Landscaping Around Trees

Primrose flowers are small beauties that thrive with very little maintenance.

The petals on the primrose are usually yellow and orange or red and pink, surrounded by small green leaves. They can survive in planting containers but also love bordered areas like in a garden or under a tree. It is a perennial flower that needs light shade.

2. Periwinkle

Landscaping Around Trees

Like the primrose, the periwinkle is leafy with the occasional small flower. It’s a ground cover plant, so if it’s placed under a tree, it will multiply itself and spread around the area.

Make sure to contain them with some type of border, like with rock or stone. Its petals are bright blue, and the flower is known for keeping weeds from growing. Partial shade is preferred.

3. Daffodils

Landscaping Around Trees

Daffodil flowers are common for landscaping around trees. They are very easy to care for and will bloom beautiful bright yellow flowers in the springtime.

When planting daffodils around trees, give 6 inches to a foot of space between the daffodil plant and the tree trunk.

4. Coral Bells

Landscaping Around Trees

This is a perennial plant.

Its flowers are very tiny and are shaped like little bells, hence the name.

It looks good around trees because of the many green leaves and tall flower stems that sprout out from in between them. Coral bells prefer filtered sun or some shade, so plant them around a tree that lets some sunlight through, but not complete sunlight.

Best Foliage Plants for Landscaping Around Trees

Instead of colorful flowers, you can plant small bushes and plants with lots of foliage around trees.

Foliage plants look more professional and simpler. This is the more popular choice for businesses or for people who are looking to create a natural-looking landscape.

1. Hostas

Landscaping Around Trees

Hostas are a perennial plant that grows well in most parts of the US. Their leaves are green with light green centers.

Sunlight and shade requirements can vary with the type of hosta, but many of them need either partial or full shade. These plants need lots of room to grow, so they’re not best for under trees that have shallow roots.

2. Autumn Fern

Landscaping Around Trees

Ferns have long stems that grow many narrow leaves protruding to the sides.

The autumn fern is best for under trees since they prefer lots of shade and damp soil. It also changes colors throughout different times of the year, so it will add some variety and color to its neighboring tree.


Landscaping Around Trees

This foliage plant likes shade but mostly thrives in hot climates. Their leaves are colorful and can include shades of purple or green.

Throughout the year, small white and blue flowers bloom from the Coleus plant but are not present all the time.


Landscaping Around Trees

Brandywine is a type of Caladium plant. It has large heart-shaped leaves that are purple with a green outline.

The leaves can grow up to almost a foot and half long. Partial sunlight is best, with mostly shade. Since it is a bigger foliage plant, give it lots of extra space between the plant and the tree, as well as space between the plant and an outer border of stones.


Landscaping around trees doesn’t have to be difficult. Preparation is always the key to successfully creating a landscape that will thrive throughout the entire year.

Your biggest concern should be the health of the tree and the plants surrounding it since they will constantly be competing for water, sunlight, and nutrients.

Give each plant room to grow and thrive. Landscaping fabric is a good idea to help prevent weeds from trying to butt into the ecosystem around the tree but remember that a thick fabric will begin to suffocate the tree and possibly kill it.

Design the setup of plants, foliage, and rocks based on the needs of each, their complimentary colors, and varying heights. Keep the overall look interesting but don’t crowd too many features and decorations together in one small area because they’ll drown each other out.

Use your best judgment when it comes to landscaping around trees and don’t be afraid to consult a gardening expert.

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