Recommended Plants Under 10 Year Old Oak Tree

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I have a medium sized 10 yr. old oak tree in my back yard that I'm having problems growing plants under. I've planted a few azaleas 2 yrs. ago, but they have grown very slow and haven't bloomed yet. I've planted several gardenia's but they die every year in the winter. I spoke with Brent Willson and he seems to think that the oak tree is sucking up all the nutrients which is starving the plants.

I have two photos uploaded in My Garden called "Bank Under Oak Tree". I have selected some plants in my garden that I'm interested in, but nothing is set in stone. I'm open to any suggestions on what plants can withstand living under this tree. The camera is pointed toward the West and the left side of the picture is South. The plants get morning sun and afternoon shade. I'd guess the plants would get around ~5-6 hrs of sun. I have clay based soil and there isn't much nutrients in the ground. The pine straw area is about 18ft x 16ft with a ~2ft slope.

Will the plants I've selected work? Do you have any suggestions?

Thanks in advance!

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Answer #1 ·'s Answer · Hi Ryan,

The oak tree is mid-size now and will only grow larger...much larger in the future. Got to keep this in mind when making plant selections for the long term. The way it appears now, and considering the sun exposure, I would think that azaleas and camellias should have done okay. It's making me think that the soil could be too alkaline. That being said, neither azaleas or gardenias would be good choices for the long term under the tree. Large trees just soak up too much water and rob nutrients from the soil.

Here's a list of plants that would work well for the long term. I have all of these growing under large trees in my landscape.


Vinca minor (Evergreen Perennial Periwinkle)
Mondo Grass
Dwarf Mondo Grass
Big Blue Liriope and other Liriope
Ivy (Hedera)


Nandina 'Flirt' or 'Harbour Dwarf' or 'Compacta'
Creeping Japanese Plum Yew
Laceleaf Japanese Maple - towards the perimeter (east side) of the bed as a focal point specimen
Needle Palm
Pixie Loropetalum - I have these growing in mostly shade for several years under a large elm and doing fine
Winter Daphne


Autumn Fern
Japanese Painted Fern
Cast Iron Plant
Climbing Hydrangea (To climb tree trunk)
Lamiastrum / Yellow Archangel
Glechoma / Variegated Creeping Charlie

Hope this list was helpful. Don't hesistate to ask if you have any further questions.

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