Planting Under an Oak Tree: Tips and Tricks


Planting under an oak tree can be a challenging task. Oak trees are known for their large root systems that can make it difficult for other plants to grow. However, with the right knowledge and techniques, you can create a beautiful garden under your oak tree without harming the tree or your plants. In this article, we will share some tips and tricks for planting under an oak tree.

Understanding Oak Trees

Before you start planting, it is important to understand the characteristics of oak trees. Oak trees are known for their large root systems that can extend up to three times the height of the tree. These roots can compete with other plants for water and nutrients, making it difficult for them to grow. Additionally, oak trees produce a chemical called juglone which can be toxic to some plants.

However, not all oak trees produce juglone, and some plants are more tolerant of it than others. It is important to research your specific type of oak tree and the plants you want to grow under it to ensure they are compatible.

Choosing the Right Plants

When choosing plants to grow under your oak tree, it is important to select ones that are tolerant of shade, dry soil, and competition from other plants. Some great options include:

  • Hostas
  • Ferns
  • Astilbe
  • Heuchera
  • Liriope
  • Trillium
  • Bleeding Hearts

These plants are all shade-tolerant and can thrive in the dry soil conditions under an oak tree. Additionally, they are not sensitive to juglone and can coexist with the tree’s root system.

Preparing the Soil

Before planting, it is important to prepare the soil. Start by removing any grass, weeds, or debris from the area. Then, loosen the soil with a garden fork, being careful not to damage the tree’s roots. Add a layer of compost or aged manure to the soil to improve its fertility and water-holding capacity.

Planting Techniques

When planting under an oak tree, it is important to follow these tips to avoid damaging the tree’s roots:

  • Do not plant too close to the tree’s trunk. Leave at least a foot of space between the trunk and the new plant.
  • Plant shallow-rooted plants to avoid damaging the tree’s deeper roots.
  • Avoid digging deep holes that could damage the tree’s roots.
  • Water new plants deeply and regularly to help them establish their roots.
  • Mulch around the base of the plant to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.

Caring for Your Plants

Once your plants are established, it is important to care for them properly. Here are some tips:

  • Water deeply and regularly, especially during dry periods.
  • Fertilize in the spring and fall with a balanced fertilizer.
  • Deadhead spent flowers to encourage new growth.
  • Divide plants as needed to prevent overcrowding.


Planting under an oak tree can be a rewarding experience if you follow the right techniques and choose the right plants. By understanding the characteristics of oak trees, choosing shade-tolerant plants, preparing the soil properly, and following planting and care techniques, you can create a beautiful garden that coexists with your tree’s root system.

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