Landscaping Idea: What Plants & Grass Grow Under Pine Trees

Landscaping with plants, ferns, and grasses is one of the most artistic ways to utilize any open area under pine trees in your garden. Instead of using stones, bricks, or rubber mulch, you can add some vibrancy to the place with flowering plants and shrubs that improve the entire surrounding.

Select plants and grasses that grow well in:

  • Partial to full shade conditions
  • Acidic soils
  • Relatively arid conditions with less water

14 Perennial Evergreen Ground Cover Plants to Grow Under Pines

1) Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)

Lily of the Valley For Landscaping Under Pine Trees

These shrubs can root rapidly under the dense shades of deciduous pine trees. Moreover, they are deer-resistant coming up in lovely pristine funnel-shaped white-colored blossoms somewhat arching towards the stems. The leaves are green oblong-shaped, coming up in pairs. Flowering time is from mid to late spring season.

Height/Width (cm): 15-30/22-30

USDA Zones: 2-7

Companion Plant: ‘Patriot’ Hosta

2) Spotted Cranesbill (Geranium Maculatum)

Spotted Cranesbill for Landscaping Under Pine Trees

These sturdy drought-tolerant geranium shrubs flock with flowers proliferating to provide evergreen foliages. They grow well withstanding extreme temperature conditions. The flowers are faded pink-lavender, disc-shaped forming in clusters. The blossoming season is from late spring to early summer.

Height/Width (cm): 30-60/30-60

USDA Zones: 3-8

Companion Plant: Wild Blue Phlox

3) Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)

Landscaping Under Pine Trees of Sweet Woodruff

These plants form a dense carpet-like ground cover, requiring quite little maintenance. Resistant to deer and rabbits, it produces tiny-sepaled fragrant white blooms, with lovely scented star-forming lime-green leaves. The flowering season starts from late spring and ends in the early summer months.

Height/Width (cm): 12-15/25-30

USDA Zones: 4-8

Companion Plant: ‘Patriot’ Hosta

4) American Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

American Wintergreen Plants Under Pine

These creeping plants require a continuous flow of moisture, so you should give them water at least once a week. The flowers are shiny funnel-shaped and white, while the leaves are rubbery textured oval-shaped deep green, turning into tones of magenta in the autumn season. Blossoming time starts from late spring and continues till early summer.

Height/Width (cm): 10-15/15-30

USDA Zones: 3-9

Companion Plant: Rhododendron

5) Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)

Creeping Phlox of Plants Under Pine

It is one of the most colorful varieties of plants, adding vivid colors to the landscape. Many hybrids available, its vibrant blooms come up in shades of pink, lavender, violet, red, and white in clusters, forming a mat-like appearance. The flowering season is from mid to late spring.

Height/Width (cm): 10-15/30-60

USDA Zones: 3-9

Companion Plant: Bugleweed

6) Carpet Bugle (Ajuga reptans)

Landscaping Under Pine Trees of Carpet Bugle

Also known as Bugleweed, this plant grows into a low carpet-like appearance. These plants can defy the dry soil conditions. Besides, the blossoms spiral up in tiny white flowers, apart from lavender to magenta and pink shades. The flowering season is from mid to late spring.

Height/Width (cm): 10-20/15-60

USDA Zones: 3-10

Companion Plant: ‘Patriot’ Hosta

7) Red Columbine (Aquilegia Canadensis)

Red Columbine for Landscaping Under Pine Trees

These plants produce flowers in light pink to cherry, and the stamens are in yellow to red colors. The flowers come up from attractive fern-type foliages. The blooming season starts from late spring and early summer months.

Height/Width (cm): 60-90/30-60

USDA Zones: 3-8

Companion Plant: ‘Patriot’ Hosta

8) Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium caeruleum)

Jacob’s Ladder for Plants Under Pine

This plant is also known as Greek valerian and is an upright herb generating fuzzy fern-kind of green foliage. Clumps of bell-shaped cobalt-blue blossoms appear from early spring to summer. The plant requires sandy to loamy to clay type, moist soil.

Height/Width (cm): 30-60/30-60

USDA Zones: 4-9

Companion Plant: ‘Patriot’ Hosta

9) Japanese Pieris ‘Prelude’ (Pieris japonica ‘Prelude’)

Japanese Pieris Prelude for Landscaping Under Pine Trees

These evergreen deer-resistant plants can be grown in areas surrounding pines for creating a contrasting landscape almost all year-round. The low-maintenance shrub showcases the landscape in small heaped-shaped, producing clusters of white bell-shaped blooms.

Height/Width (cm): 45-60/60-90

USDA Zones: 4-9

Companion Plant: Mophead Hydrangea ‘Altona’

10) Barrenwor (Epimedium leptorrhizum)

Barrenwort for Plants Under Pine

These plants produce big scarlet-pink drooping flowers among veinlike leaves. The blossoming season starts from mid-spring, continuing to summer and ending in the autumn season. Grows well in sandy to loamy to clay-type moist soils.

Height/Width (cm): 15-30/15-30

USDA Zones: 5-8

Companion Plant: ‘Patriot’ Hosta

11) Common Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

Common Bearberry for Plants Under Pine

These are creeping shrubs with glossy, elliptical deep green leaves. Blossoms form in attractive clusters on torch-shaped white-shaded pink colors from small red stalks. Flowering season is from early spring, continuing through summer and autumn, and ending in the winter months. Soil preferred by the plant is sandy to loamy to rocky type.

Height/Width (cm): 15-30/90-180

USDA Zones: 2-6

Companion Plant: Sweet Woodruff

12) Sweet Azalea (Rhododendron arborescens)

Sweet Azalea for Landscaping Under Pine Trees

The plant produces highly fragrant blossoms in bell-shaped milky-white flowers with pink colored stamens. The flowers are formed in small attractive clumps of 3 to 7 in number. Besides, the ovate-shaped leaves are shiny green in color, turning into crimson to lilac in the autumn season. Soil preferred by this plant is sandy to loamy and moist type.

Height/Width (cm): 150-180/150-180

USDA Zones: 5-9

Companion Plant: Mophead Hydrangea ‘Altona’

13) Patriot Hosta (Hosta ‘Patriot’)

Patriot Hosta for Plants Under Pine
It is a cluster forming varicolored shrub for shady areas. Elliptical deep green leaves with faded variable borders adorn the ground creating a mound-like appearance. Bluish-lavender blossoms appear above the foliages in a pipe-shaped structure. It grows in sandy to loamy to clay-type moist soil.

Height/Width (cm): 30-60/120-150

USDA Zones: 3-8

Companion Plant: Mophead Hydrangea ‘Altona’

14) Mophead Hydrangea ‘Altona’ (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Altona’)

Mophead Hydrangea Altona for Landscaping Under Pine Trees
It is a small shrub with expanded, deep green, spiked leaves. Flowers come up in small clusters of yellow or green, turning into bright pink or in case the adjoining soil is acidic, into blue-violet. Again, the flower bleaches into red color in the autumn season. Blossoming time starts from early summer and continues till early autumn. Soil requirements are sandy, loamy, or clay-type moist variety.

Height/Width (cm): 120-150/120-150

USDA Zones: 6-9

Companion Plant: ‘Patriot’ Hosta

4 Ferns to Plant Under Pines

1. Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis)

Royal Fern for Plants Under Pine

It is a deciduous fern producing broad leaves that turns into brown from yellow in the autumn season. Blossoms rise from hairy stalks with tarnished brown color in arching bulbs, and hence it is also known as the Flowering Fern. The blooming season starts from mid-spring and continuous through summer and ending in the autumn. Soil requirements are sandy to loamy to clay-type and moist variety.

Height/Width (cm): 60-180/60-90

USDA Zones: 3-9

Companion Plant: Sweet Azalea

2. Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina)

Lady Fern for Landscaping Under Pine Trees

These leaves are delicate and pointed-shaped, with green in color. They are a fast-growing variety acting as fillers in between shrubs. The season for its growth in mid to late spring, early to end of summer, and the autumn time.

Height/Width (cm): 30-90/30-90

USDA Zones: 4-9

Companion Plant: Ivory Sedge

3. Hay-Scented Fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula)

Hay-Scented Fern for Plants Under Pine

These are deciduous ferns having compound leaves in deep green color converting into yellowish-green in the autumn. The leaves are conical-oval shaped with each compound leaves having 15 to 30 pairs of leaflets. Besides, the leaves have a soft fuzzy like texture. A sweet fragrance can be felt  when the leaves are broken down in between fingers.

Height/Width (cm): 45-60/60-90

USDA Zones: 3-9

Companion Plant: ‘Patriot’ Hosta

4. Marginal Wood Fern (Dryopteris marginalis)

Marginal Wood Fern for Landscaping Under Pine Trees

This fern is a typical upright non-spreading variety, forming pitcher-shaped clusters. The leaf is glossy bluish to dusky-green in color situated at the margins or fringes of the entire compound leaves. The plant prefers moist, rocky compost-enriched soil.

Height/Width (cm): 45-60/45-60

USDA Zones: 5-7

Companion Plant: ‘Patriot’ Hosta

2 Types of Grass That Can Grow Under Pines

1. Ivory Sedge (Carex eburnea)

Ivory Sedge for Plants Under Pine

Also known as bristle-leaved sedge, it is one of the shortest grasses to plant in the surrounding area of the pine trees, creating a smooth and soft landscape. This grass produces filamentous green leaves in globular-shaped spine-like clusters. In the spring season, greenish-white flowers appear on the spikes. The fern loves to be in a sandy and moist soil. 

Height/Width (cm): 2-20/0.02-0.09

USDA Zones: 8-9

Companion Plant: Wild Blue Phlox

2. Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)

Northern Sea Oats for Landscaping Under Pine Trees

It is a robust spreading clustered, erect, and decorative grass. This grass is known for its drooping seed heads hanging in lightly arched stalks flapping with the slightest touch. The seed heads appear to be green but turn into purple to copper color by the late summer season. While the vibrant green leaves convert into bronze to deep brown color by the winter season.

Height/Width (cm): 60-150/30-60

USDA Zones: 3-8

Companion Plant: ‘Patriot’ Hosta

Things to Consider Before Planting Anything Under Your Pine

1. Soil

Firstly, contrary to the general belief, fresh pine needles do not drastically change the acidity of the ground. As the falling needles are only slightly acidic, possessing a pH of 3.2 to 3.8, they change the soil, pH only slightly, without proving to be harmful to any surrounding plants. So, it is better to test the soil acidity levels first. Then you may need to consider the following:

  • Adding limestone powder to the soil if you still believe the soil is too acidic for other plants. Apply at a ratio of 25lbs of lime per 1,000 sq ft area, starting about a year before you plant anything in the area.
  • Digging out the acidic soil replacing it with clean surface soil. Make sure not to damage the roots of the pine in any way.

2. Sunlight

As pine’s thick foliage covers the entire area below, it is often quite shaded and damp under pines. Cutting the lower branches of the pine tree allows sunlight to filter down to the adjacent soil, making it more suitable for plant growth. Once you do start growing other plants, it helps them to get enough light.

3. Water

Being evergreen, pine trees absorb a lot of water. It can pose a problem for plants, ferns, and grasses growing beneath, as there is often not enough water left for them to absorb and sustain themselves. Here’s what may be done:

  • Provide extra water for the surrounding plants growing in the same soil for at least the initial years. Once established, they will be able to survive on less water, provided you choose the right plants.
  • Remove any dried up branches, pebbles, and weeds to help the adjoining plants to get their essential moisture from the soil.
  • Prune the pine tree regularly so rainwater may reach down to the very base. It will allow the neighboring plants to take in the excess moisture.

Always keep an eye out for any sign of distress on the plants, even after they get well-established. You may also choose to grow some container plants under the pine tree, so it becomes relatively more comfortable for you to take proper care of them while maintaining an aesthetic landscape instead of leaving the area bare.

by | Updated: December 23, 2019



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