Deep shade under Norway Maple

sugar_magnolia(z6 Hamilton, NJ)February 5, 2006

Big beautiful old tree but yikes it's so dense and sucks all the water and nutrients out of the ground. I have such difficulty getting anything to grow. Nandina seems to be doing well. What can I plant under the base of the tree? What about under the canopy? Thanks!

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Hi there, I feel your pain. I have a norway maple street tree that I have been battling for 10 years. The traditional answer to your question is "flagstones." The deep shade is the worst problem. If you have any spots with light shade, you can grow some tough plants at the outer perimeter of the drip line, especially native plants. See my journal page for things that have worked for me, but only in sun and light shade. If you have nandina there, you must have at least bright shade. I've never had any luck growing any closer than the drip line.

Also, consider growing in containers. This revolutionized my gardening. In some cases I hacked a hole in the ground (takes a jackhammer in some cases--what roots these trees have!) and placed the pot in it. Then I put other containers around plus some interesting rocks. If you put low shrubby things in the pot, like heucheras and hostas, it looks like the plant is growing in the ground. One caveat: you must remove the pot for the winter because eventually roots will grow up into it, plus the freezing action will split the pot.

You could also trim out some limbs to let in light.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2006 at 12:05PM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

I once got Liatris spicata established around the base of a silver maple, a tree almost as bad as Norway maples.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2006 at 7:44AM
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duffy(zone5, Pa.)

In 20+ years of struggling to grow anything under a Norway maple, my suggestion is: pathways and containers.

I'm going to be putting those around and under my Norway maple this spring. I give up on everything else.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2006 at 12:44PM
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Things I have growing under a 30-year old silver maple,
right up against the trunk: berberis (the common barberry
can take the shade), Christmas fern, vinca minor, nandina,
epimedium, aegopodium, liriope, and aralia. Just a couple
feet away, on the brighest partial-shade side, but still contending with roots, there are: ilex verticillata, azaleas, callicarpa, carex, sweet woodruff, erica, hemero-
callis, heucara. Granted, some of them get VERY attentive
watering in the summer, but by and large, the trick that's worked for me, is digging a hole as deep and wide as possible (usually down amongst thick roots), packing it
with great soil, mulching heavily and watering a lot -
unless it's barberry, nandina or vinca: they've NEVER been

    Bookmark   March 2, 2006 at 11:21PM
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We have two big old maple trees about 10' apart along the edge of our back yard. I'm not sure what varieties, but they seem to be different. Roots everywhere, deep shade. A few plants seem to thrive under them: there's a Japanese holly (ilex crenata - don't remember the variety) growing between the two trunks. It's probably 25-30 years old and absolutely thriving. It gets no care except to cut it back a bit now and then. It's about 5' tall and 8' wide. Hosta (the plain old-fashioned green kind) thrive and bloom at the base of one of the trunks. And English ivy fills all the space we'll let it, and climbs the tree trunks and fence--but is easy enough to clip back or pull up where we don't want it. It has never tried to invade the mowed lawn (if you can call it that). Grass does NOT do well under the trees in my yard, but does well in my mother's yard, which is also dominated by maple trees, but she waters and fertilizes; we don't.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 11:56AM
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In addition to being greedy for light, air, nutrition and water, Norway Maple is also alleopathic (and invasive). This tree will always pose a challenge to gardeners in North America. The suggestions above look as reasonable as any. Good luck.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2006 at 9:34AM
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I have had luck with sweet woodruff. It creeped over from a nearby, moister area with a lot of leaf mulch, but has been doing fine under the maple.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2006 at 7:39AM
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