Deep shade, and maple roots: Help!

PurdueDavid(z5 IN)July 19, 2004

I have a crimson king maple in my front yard. Large heavy leaves, and the east is shaded by the house, and the west is shaded by oaks. I have a 18' circle bed under the maple with hostas, and "soon to be dead" other plants. I have killed alchemilla vulgaris "ladies mantle", pulmonaria "lungwort", and have Japanese painted ferns that are on year 3, but getting smaller each year. The bed is filled with excellent soil, and I water there more than anywhere else. but the solid mass of maple roots seem to be very daunting. Any ideas?

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joepyeweed(5b IL)

cut down the tree ;-)

    Bookmark   July 20, 2004 at 10:46AM
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Don't give up. I have a north facing shade garden with a Norway maple and thanks to the advice I got on this forum it's doing really well. The old thread is still around titled 'Struggling, dying vinca, multiple fatalites' if you want to read the detailed advice. I aerated the soil and amended with humus, fertilizer and pine bark mulch. I think the biggest thing was installing soaker hoses. The sustained slow watering is much more effective than overhead watering. I have thriving hostas, hydrangea, heuchera, astilbe, azalea, pachysandra, etc, etc. I moved the shrinking fern to a shady place in the back garden and it has taken off but that was before the aerating and hoses and I haven't tried again. I move a couple of indoor ferns out there for the summer. The soil is so difficult to dig in to that I also gave up on annuals and went to window boxes and pots for summer color. My entire garden is 10'x25' with the maple about in the middle so almost everything I have is planted as close to the maple as you are. I don't know if a crimson king maple has a different effect than the Norway.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2004 at 6:53PM
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PurdueDavid(z5 IN)

No Joe! The tree stays :o)

Thanks for the advice Jude. I think my soil is pretty good in this bed. I mounded about 8" of peat/humus when I first installed the bed, and have added 3" of ground leaves the last two falls. Maybe I'll try the soaker hoses; although, I personally think most of this soaker hose advice originated from soaker hose salesmen. My experience hasn't been that good with soakers. I have two 8+ year beds with 25' soakers. The water supply end gets WAY more water than the far end. I had read the other thread before, but reread it. 250' before the soaker loses effectiveness??? Like I said 25' gives me problems. And for all you soaker fans; should I use an umbrella when it rains? ;o) I think a good 1" per week soaking works regardless. I would gladly take 1" rain per week.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2004 at 10:48PM
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All I can tell you is that I never got anything to grow under a silver maple. I finally gave up and planted ivy 7 years ago. So far the ivy has grown less than 6 inches. I'm just going to mulch it and use containers. If ivy won't grow, what will?

    Bookmark   July 21, 2004 at 7:51PM
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Yes,you can grow under a maple Here are a few pictures from under my maple I hope this link works. It's my first time posting pictures. The pictures are from late spring 2003, I did not take any this year. The garden is more lush this year. Hosta's are bigger. Epimedium are filling in nicely as are the solomon seal. I have added dryopteris and autumn fern both are doing great. I just keep adding more of what works.

Here is a link that might be useful: Under the Maple

    Bookmark   July 21, 2004 at 9:15PM
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PurdueDavid(z5 IN)

Thanks to all who have responded. I will try the epimedium. Thx freebird.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2004 at 10:12PM
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flora2b(z6a bc)

I seen a garden recently, with conditions similiar to yours and she cut large holes around the roots of the tree with an axe and shovel and sunk in large containers which were then planted with hostas, ferns etc. The roots of the maple could not steal the nutrition nor the moisture from the soil - Wow, did it ever look great. Good luck. Shel

    Bookmark   July 26, 2004 at 2:15AM
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gardenfanatic(MO zone5b)

Never had any luck with growing anything around a maple tree (including grass) except more helicopters sprouting. With the shallow roots, they pretty much suck up all the water and nutrients around them.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2004 at 2:53AM
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liatris52(Cdn z6b)

We moved into a house last fall. The garden is deeply shaded by Manitoba Maples. Only one small corner gets much light.

Our soil is about one inch of humus, enriched with compost, and under that sand. We are living on a sandbar in a postglacial lake.

What is doing well includes:

ostrich fern
Solomon's seal
Wood poppy
Violets (several spp.)
Goutweed (too well)


    Bookmark   July 27, 2004 at 6:53AM
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Sunny_Sky(Zone 4 - Desert Climate)

I also have a struggling perennial bed under a maple tree. I've amended the soil 3 times already this summer with compost and manure. I keep it mulched and watered. The tree keeps getting bigger and greener.

Today, as I was out watering this garden again, I thought about taking all the plants out and dig out the soil maybe 2 feet deep. Then, I would put some type of barrier which would keep the maple roots away from the plants, then filling with soil, manure, compost, etc...sort of a modified raised bed. I wonder how sheet metal would work as the barrier? Or maybe a plastic liner? I just started brainstorming this idea a little while ago.

I think it could work.

PS: I have hosta, astilbe, galium, epidmedium, lamium, ostrich fern, japanese painted fern, sensitive fern, pink turtlehead, perennial ageratum. It is nice looking, but never gets that lush and healthy look.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2004 at 7:41PM
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PurdueDavid(z5 IN)

Thanx all for the helpful hints. My crimson king maple is a beautiful hard maple so I don't want to do anything to harm it. I already have galium growing under one of the oaks near the maple bed, and lamium growing way too many places already (I just hate to kill anything :o)), but I will definitely try some of these plant suggestions. Thanx again.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2004 at 10:32PM
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Rjustice_mi(Zone 5 Midwest)

My fringed bleeding heart grows with the epimedium under my huge, huge maple. Hosta grows but doesn't thrive. I've tried lots of the others mentioned and lost them or had to resue them to another area. Astilbe, japanese painted fern - no way under my tree.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2004 at 11:36AM
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I have an old Silver Maple in my front yard. My hostas under it are on year 2 and look great. I do make sure they get a lot more water than the rest of my gardens. I also never fertilize - do not want to attract more tree roots.

There is a person in the Hosta forum who has great success with hostas grown in sunken pots around their tree. They just periodically check the containers & remove any tree roots. They also said that they can rearrange their garden easily which might be a nice characteristic.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2004 at 1:25PM
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I grow Geranium macrorrhizum and Epimedium x rubrum without any problems under my Norway maple, both of them increase steadily. I also have a Tiarella, probably 'Running Tapestry', which now is thriving, it took a couple of years before it finally took off this year. Carex 'Ice Dance' also does well for me in dark and dry shade.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2004 at 9:59AM
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billy_beezer(Zone 6 - N. J.)

I have a Norway Maple that was planted 30 years ago. I tried planting pachysandra under it. That didn't work, they kept dying. Then I tried periwinkle. Everything I read about periwinkle said it needs soil at least 6" deep, and that you can't grow it around a Norway Maple. Well, the periwinkle filled in quickly and is growing great.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2004 at 12:45AM
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