How To Garden Around a Tree

When it comes to plants in your garden, a tree tends to be the center stage for the layout of your yard, but how do you garden around a tree?

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When it comes to plants in your garden, a tree tends to be the center stage for the layout of your yard, but how do you garden around a tree?

To garden around a tree, you can implement a number of different tactics such as planting a flower bed underneath it, building a tree deck at its base, laying out a rock patch around its trunk, or you can scatter tanbark (or mulch) around the entire tree area.

Having a beautiful tree planted on your property is a must for any home gardener but these beautiful plants tend to dominate their surroundings, which often leaves the areas underneath it feeling a bit barren. To avoid this from happening, you can utilize some methods and tactics to garden around your tree to have a more complete aesthetic in your yard. You want to approach this with careful consideration, as you do not want to plant anything next to your tree that is going to compete with it. To help you understand this further, we are going to take a closer look at how to garden around a tree.

After years of maintaining a home garden, I have had a lot of experience planting around the various trees that I have on my property. My experience has taught me that the best way to garden around a tree is to choose plants and methods that are not going sabotage the aesthetic of your yard.

Table of Contents

Gardening Around A Tree

If the tree in your yard keeps catching your eye and you just can’t help but feel that something is missing from your garden, you are not alone.

This can result in the aesthetic of your outdoor space feeling imbalanced and fulfilled, which some well-orchestrated additions to your garden can remedy. Luckily, there are some great approaches that you can utilize to complete this aspect of your garden.

With that being said, you do not want to just plant anything around your garden tree. Since the tree in your yard is such a dominant force in your garden, you want to plant following the environment that your tree has created. Trees create a substantial amount of shade, which means that whatever you plant underneath it will not be getting as much sunlight compared to other open parts of your yard, which can be problematic for some gardens and regions.

In addition, you also want to consider the specific types of trees that you have in your garden. Some trees are actually invasive to surrounding plants and they can prevent healthy growth cycles from their neighbors by releasing chemicals into their roots. These are plants such as Walnut Trees and Pine Trees. If you have a tree like this in your garden, then you are going to want to be wary of the methods that you choose and the plants that you plant!

Flower Bed

There is just something enchanting and fairytale-like about a bed of flowers beneath a garden tree and this can be a perfect approach for gardening around a tree.

Most flowers do not grow too tall from the ground and they can add a brilliant aesthetic to your garden tree - without being invasive. In fact, this can be one of the most complimentary and easy ways of gardening around a tree.

Now, before you go planting just any type of flowers around your tree, you first want to consider a couple of different factors - the type of tree that you have and the types of flowers that you want to plant.

If you have a tree that casts a lot of shade near its trunk, then you should consider that not every type of flower is going to grow well in this kind of environment. In this case, you are going to want to plant flowers that are tolerant to shade. There are plenty of gorgeous flowers that will thrive in shady areas that are perfect for gardening around a tree:

  • Siberian Iris
  • Lambs Ears
  • Foxglove
  • Jacobs Ladder

Any of the above-mentioned flowers are quite resilient when it comes to shade and they should grow just fine in most regions around the United States. However, to confirm this, you should always double-check the climate zone of your area to check that the flowers that you end up choosing are suitable for your area.

With that being, if you happen to live in a stable climate and have a tree that does not cast a lot of shade, you can be much more flexible with the flowers that you select to garden around your tree.

Tree Deck

Sometimes, the best way to garden around your tree is to think outside of the box and control the planting environment to your liking.

One of the best ways to achieve this is to build a tree deck. A tree deck is exactly what it sounds like, a wooden deck that surrounds your tree, which is built around its base/trunk. There are a couple of different ways that you can go about this, the first is to build a small, isolated, modest-sized deck that simply surrounds your tree.

However, many gardeners opt for extending their already built deck to reach their tree or decide to build one from scratch to create this aesthetic. No matter how you decide to approach it, this is one of the best ways to create a beautiful aesthetic around your tree.

Once you have your tree deck in place, you can utilize the space underneath your tree in whichever way you see fit. If you like the idea of having plants underneath your tree, you can put out some potted ones to surround it. This is a particularly useful tactic for trees that can be invasive to surrounding plants, as they have their own soil and nourishment outside of the ground soil.

In addition, this is a great way to have plants underneath your tree that you can change with a lot of flexibility and versatility. Given that potted plants are so easy to move around, you can swap plants in and out based on the season of your outdoor climate. This is great for gardeners that live in regions with adverse weather conditions.

While having potted plants under your tree deck is great, many gardeners love the simplicity of leaving their tree deck bare, as the wooden aesthetic of the deck already provides a nice touch. You can then utilize this space for outdoor lounging and reading.

Rock Patch

Creating a rock patch that surrounds your tree is a great tactic for adding a lovely aesthetic to your garden.

You can get creative with the rocks or that you choose for this but, ultimately, the idea behind it is very simple. Find some rocks that you like the look of and lay them out underneath the base of your tree.

Stones have a beautiful look to them and you can choose ones that you think compliment the look and feel of your yard. You can shop for stones if you really want to find something that is unique and provides a specific type of character.

However, if you are on a budget and have a hard time coping with the idea of buying rocks, you will find that these natural items are widely available for free! You can find rocks in lots of different parks or on some beaches and you can implement them into your garden around your tree. Just be sure not to take them from protected areas.

With that being said, you should keep in mind that stones may interfere with some trees’ health. Stones will tend to absorb heat. So, if you have a tree that needs a lot of watering and you already live in a warmer region, you may want to think of a different strategy.

On the other hand, if you have a tree that is resilient to heat, a rock patch is a perfect way to garden around it. In addition, you can grow some other heat-tolerant plants in between the stones to add an even better aesthetic to your rock patch - such as cacti species.


If you are on the fence about what to do with the space underneath your tree, one of the best go-to options is to simply lay some tanbark around it.

Tanbark adds a nice aesthetic to your garden and it is incredibly easy to maintain. This wood material essentially acts as mulch for your tree, which has a lot of additional benefits outside of simply looking good.

Natural mulch materials like tanbark help provide your tree with balanced moisture. The mulch holds water and keeps moisture constant within your soil. This is a great gardening strategy, as it means that you can water your tree less.

Tanbark is especially useful in places that have dry and hot climates. The soil in these areas is subject to drying out much quicker, which means that you have to water your plants and trees constantly. The tanbark will allow you to water moderately without worrying about your tree being unhealthy.

However, tanbark also helps stabilize soil temperature for hot and cold climates. If you live in a region that has colder weather, you need to plant with consideration, as not all trees are suitable for this kind of climate. Tanbark can help your tree’s health in extreme winters - especially if your tree is sensitive to the cold.

Furthermore, natural mulch materials like tanbark also add nutrients to your soil. Given that tanbark is natural, it will slowly break down and decompose. While this does mean that you will need to replace it from time to time, it also means that this natural decomposition will add vital nutrients to your soil and benefit the health of your tree. All in all, the use of tanbark to garden around your tree, is a great way to enhance to look of your yard but also nourish your tree.

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