under a maple

sugar_magnolia(z6 Hamilton, NJ)October 2, 2005

i have a really tough time getting anything to grow under the deep shade of this big old maple tree in my yard. any suggestions from folks who've successfully planted under the maple? what plants worked well for you?

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miss_rumphius_rules(z6 NJ)

If it's a Norway maple (Acer platanoides) you'll have a tough time. They create dense shade and have shallow roots. Consider having the canopy thinned to allow some light below. You can try the following--plant a trailing groundcover like Vinca minor around the outer perimeter of the shade line and train it in towards the tree's trunk--this is the opposite way most people plant things. Epimedium varieties do well under these trees if you can get it established. Pachysandra will also grow although it's never my first choice. You need to find shade tolerant plants that will also like it dry. It's a toughie.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2005 at 5:57PM
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Loretta NJ Z6

How about a nice moss garden? You like to weed grass a lot?
We have two large Norway maples on property. I only planted under one of them directly. The other I have planted under its canopy but not up to the trunk. Actually, we do have moss growing under that one but I don't like to weed so it grows between whatever grass is left there. Penstemon digitalas has even self sown here.
The other one is a bit smaller and younger but still a big tree. The previous owner planted a hedge of yews going right up to it. It does very well. I have a rock ring about 3-4 feet out from the trunk where I put down a few inches of top soil, peat, or whatever over the years. No its not a volcano, the flair of the trunk is still visible but it was very hard to dig close to the trunk. Other than the yew hedge, nothing does fantastic there. Plants that I have gotten to live within 3 feet of the trunk are variegated pachysandra (my favorite so far), hosta, epimedium (but lost most of those) lily of the valley finally started to spread a little, a small patch of ivy that hasn't spread, vinca, and ditch lillies - I have the doubled type. Even a violet called Freckles that was planted by an ant or something. Although all these plants are spreaders, so far nothing has been aggressive in this spot.
A little outside of that 3-4 foot ring I've gotten epimedium Lillafee to do very well, sweet woodruff (though it scorched this dry year), autumn bride heuchera (regular heuchera barely makes it so close), hosta, vinca (Gertrude Jekyll - a white flowered form), coleus, tuberous begonias, then I fill in with container plants. I like to use the pattern leaf begonias here or even tropical houseplants as they don't mind dry shade. They always go on sale after Christmas. Anyway, nothing seems to get real big. The same plants in other parts of the garden may be twice as big or more with the exception of the Lilafee epimedium. I have not been brave enough to try bishop's weed or lamium here.
You can also use bulbs here but don't expect them to survive well after the first year. Some may live a few years, but the plants and flowers got smaller and smaller till they all disappeared.
Once I start getting 15 or more feet away, it gets much easier. I may still be planting under the shade of the tree but the ground is easier to work and more types of plants survive.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2005 at 9:15PM
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sugar_magnolia(z6 Hamilton, NJ)

I am not sure what type of maple it is, maybe a Norway because the shade is dense -- I can sit under it in the rain and not get wet-- and despite what a pain in the pants it is to try to get plants to live under it, I wouldn't cut it down as some folks have suggested. It really is a magnificient old thing and it provides alot of privacy.

So far, under the maple, I have gotten a few hydrangeas to survive (lost a few, too); it seems the nearer to the trunk the more chanllenging survival is. Pachysandra did just fine and right next to the trunk, too, but it was boring the way I had it so I torn it out. Astilbe have been doing OK since last year but they are approx 10' from the trunk. New this year are privet and 2 nandina and they all seem to be doing great. I also just put in japonica and hostas last weekend. Two azalea are struggling that I put in this year and three others died.

We shall see how these plants survive the year. I'd like to try fern right around the base of the trunk.
I'd like to get the branches thinned out in the Spring.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2005 at 11:36PM
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joolz(z6 NJ)

Hi. You can tell if it's a Norway by breaking off a leaf. If the substance that comes out of the leaf stem is milky white, literally like milk, then it's a Norway maple. If it's clear, then it's some other kind of maple. If the leaf stems are red, it's likely to be a red maple.

I agree, it's pretty hard to get anything pretty to grow under a Norway! Can you prune some of the lowest branches? That might help to get some sunlight.

Happy rain day! Woo Hoo!

    Bookmark   October 10, 2005 at 9:40PM
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Beacon1123(z5 Detroit MI)

When I moved to a new home a year ago, small lamb's ear plants were growing about 3 feet away from the trunk of one of our maple trees. I moved them closer to the trunk last fall, and this year they thrived, flowered and seeded. I was surprised to find out later that lamb's ear requires full sun, because these are in dense shade. Maybe because lamb's ear is drought tolerant, the maple's thirsty roots aren't a problem.

I also successfully transplanted Spotted Dead Nettle 'Beacon Silver' (Lamium maculatum) from my old home to the base of a different maple tree. These plants are also doing well, lived through a harsh winter and are spreading happily.

Sorry, I don't know exactly what type of maple trees I have.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2005 at 1:57AM
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