31+ Plants Under Pine Tree: It Doesn’t Have to be a Struggle!

Pine trees are the unsung evergreen heroes of the seasons!

Not all plants can live underneath a pine tree, but there are certainly species that can live well within such area
Not all plants can live underneath a pine tree, but there are certainly species that can live well within such area

I often feel like pine trees and other evergreens are underrated for their ability to create interest (color and foliage) during the colder months.

Pine trees can also offer a beautiful open space beneath their branches and if you’re like me, any open space in your garden is just calling out for something to be planted there.

But so many gardeners have a hard time finding plants that will survive in this space!

The fact is that most plants don’t love to call the space under a pine tree “home.”

That’s because it’s quite shady and pine tree roots are shallow, so they compete for nutrients. The soil also has a tendency to have a lower pH than what most plants prefer due to the acidity in the fallen pine needles.

This doesn’t mean everything you plant there will die – you just have to know what plants can withstand these conditions.

In this article, I’ll list off MANY plants that will survive and grow under pine trees, plus pictures and facts about my favorites!

But before we get into that, here are my big tips as you get ready to plant under your pine trees:

Tips for Growing Plants Under Pine Trees

In fact, there are dozens of plants you can consider for landscaping with your pine tree
In fact, there are dozens of plants you can consider for landscaping with your pine tree
  • “Limb up” the pine tree to provide more light and moisture to the area. This just means that the bottom branches of the pine tree are cut to provide more height between the ground and where the branches start.
  • Choose plants that are shade-tolerant, have a shallow root system and don’t require a lot of water once established.
  • Don’t go through massive efforts to change the pH in your soil. This is only going to create more work for you in the long run. Instead, choose plants that will be happy in the acidic soil underneath your pine tree.

Now that you know the basics, let’s crack into it.

What to Plant Under Pine Trees

In general, look for plants that:

  • Prefer acidic soil
  • Don’t need too much sun
  • Can tolerate dry conditions
  • Can survive and thrive, even while competing with the root system of a mature tree

As examples, I have selected plants with varied blooming times, foliage colors, and textures.

Here’s a versatile garden plan for continuous color throughout the seasons:

Plants that can live under a pine tree should have the following characteristic
Plants that can live under a pine tree should have the following characteristic:

Spring:

  1. Daffodils (Narcissus): Plant these early bloomers in clusters for a burst of yellow and white in early spring.
  2. Tulips (Tulipa): Choose various tulip varieties to extend the spring color palette. Opt for early, mid, and late-blooming types.
  3. Crocuses (Crocus): These small, early bloomers add delicate hues of purple, white, and yellow.

Summer:

  1. Hostas (Hosta): With a variety of leaf colors and textures, hostas thrive in partial shade and provide lush foliage throughout summer.
  2. Astilbe (Astilbe): Elegant plumes of flowers in shades of pink, red, and white bloom in mid-summer, complementing the pine canopy.
Here are several plants in clockwise order: Tulips - Crocuses - Hostas - Astilbe
Here are several plants in clockwise order: Tulips – Crocuses – Hostas – Astilbe

Fall:

  1. Autumn Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora): This fern’s coppery fronds add warmth to the fall garden.
  2. Toad Lily (Tricyrtis): Delicate orchid-like flowers bloom in late summer to fall, providing unique and exotic beauty.

Winter:

  1. Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens): With its red berries and evergreen leaves, wintergreen adds interest to the winter garden.
  2. Hellebores (Helleborus): Known as the Christmas or Lenten rose, hellebores bloom in late winter, offering early color.
Autumn Fern - Toad Lily - Wintergreen - Hellebores
Autumn Fern – Toad Lily – Wintergreen – Hellebores

Additional Considerations:

  • Ground Covers: Consider adding ground covers like Vinca minor or Pachysandra terminalis for year-round greenery.
  • Ornamental Grasses: Incorporate ornamental grasses like Hakonechloa or Carex for textural interest.
  • Evergreen Shrubs: Plant evergreen shrubs like Rhododendrons or Pieris for structure and winter interest.
  • Seasonal Planters: Place seasonal planters with annuals like pansies in spring, impatiens in summer, chrysanthemums in fall, and winter-friendly options in colder months.
Groundcover - Hakonechloa - Rhododendrons - Pansies
Groundcover – Hakonechloa – Rhododendrons – Pansies

Ensure proper spacing, soil preparation, and watering based on the specific needs of each plant.

This plan provides a balanced mix of colors, textures, and seasonal interest for a vibrant garden under your pine trees throughout the year.

Adjustments can be made based on your preferences and local climate conditions.

Note: Keep in mind – to grow these plants properly, you may need to test pH level, fertilize and/or improve the soil quality.

You should always make sure your plants are getting the proper amount of sunlight to thrive.

Below, we’ll go even deeper into the best plants that thrive under pine trees.

Best Bulbs to Plant Under Pine Trees

Hardy Cyclamen
Hardy Cyclamen

Bulb plants are plants that store their life cycles in an underground bud or bulb (like an onion).

Bulbs that thrive under pine trees can be hard to come by, but here are some that grow in these conditions:

  • Daffodil
  • Grape Hyacinth
  • Lilies
  • Snowdrops
  • Crocus
  • Hardy cyclamen

Let’s go a little more in-depth about my personal favorite bulbs for under pine trees…

Scented Daffodil Mix

Daffodil
Daffodil

Zones 5-9. Full sun, partial sun 1-1.5’ H

Blooming Time: Mid to late spring, for 6 weeks to 6 months (depending on geographic location)

Planting Time and Depth: Fall, 2” deeper than bulb height

Growth Rate: Medium

Why this plant?

This is a beautiful combination of multi-colored daffodils that will welcome spring with a mixture of yellow blooms.

The fragrance of daffodils varies, but expect to pick up spicy, musky, vanilla and even Jasmine-like scents in the air with this mix.

They are native to northern Africa, Europe, Afghanistan, China and Japan.

‘Vanguard’ Crocus

‘Vanguard’ Crocus
‘Vanguard’ Crocus

Zones 4-8 Full sun, partial sun 5” H

Blooming Time: Early spring, for 3 weeks

Planting Time and Depth: Fall, 2-3” deep

Growth Rate: Medium

Why this plant?

Crocus will perennialize to fill a large area in just a few years. The ‘Vanguard’ variety has pale purple petals surrounding an inner layer of deeper purple petals, making it a really striking addition to any early spring garden. They also look beautiful in bud vase arrangements.

Crocus vernus is native to the Alps, the Pyrenees and the Balkans.

Grape Hyacinth

Grape Hyacinth
Grape Hyacinth

Zones 3-8 Full sun, partial sun 1-1.75’ H

Blooming Time: Early spring, for 3 weeks

Planting Time and Depth: Fall, 3-4” deep

Growth Rate: Medium

Why this plant?

Hyacinths are one of the first flowers you’ll see to welcome spring. If you’d like to welcome spring with a highly fragrant smell that’s sweet, robust and earthy in a petite purple package, grape hyacinth may be right for you!

Native to southeastern Europe.

Lily Looks ‘Tiny Double You’ Asiatic Lily

Asiatic Lily
Asiatic Lily

Zones 3-9 – Full sun, partial sun 1-1.25’ H

Blooming Time: Mid-summer, for 3 to 4 weeks

Planting Time and Depth: Early fall, 6” deep

Growth Rate: Medium

Why this plant?

The bright orange blooms of ‘Tiny Double You’ Asiatic Lily will ‘pop’ in the shade and make this particular lily stand out under your pine tree!

Asiatic Lilies are native to Asia. This variety was specially bred in the Netherlands as a dwarf lily.

Best Perennials to Plant Under Pine Trees

As for perennials, we have Bleeding Hearts
As for perennials, we have Bleeding Hearts

Perennials are plants that come back every year. Who doesn’t want that?!

These perennials can withstand the environment under pine trees:

  • Coral bells
  • Columbines
  • Wild geraniums (cranesbill)
  • Jacob’s Ladder
  • Hostas
  • Foxgloves
  • Woodland Sunflowers
  • Ferns
  • Bleeding Hearts
  • Astilbes

Here’s a few specific perennials you can try under your pines:

Ostrich Fern

Ostrich Fern
Ostrich Fern

Zones 3-7. Full shade, partial shade 3-6’ H x 5-7’ W

Blooming Time: Early spring

Growth Rate: Medium

Why this plant?

Ferns are a great option if you have a moist area under your pine tree, which can sometimes happen.

I love using the Ostrich Fern under pine trees that are “limbed up.”

This just means that the bottom branches of the pine tree are cut to provide more height between the ground and where the branches start.

While they need a bit more height under the pine tree, their vase shape and unique foliage will really add interest to your shady garden bed.

Native to temperate regions of North America, Europe and northern Asia.

Jacob’s Ladder

Jacob’s Ladder
Jacob’s Ladder

Zones 3-8. Full sun, partial shade 1-3’ H x 1-2’ W

Blooming Time: Late spring to early summer, for 2 to 4 weeks

Growth Rate: Medium

Why this plant?

The small blue flowers and fern-like foliage give your landscape a picture-perfect look.

Anytime you can rely on foliage instead of just the flower bloom, it means you have a winning plant choice on your hands!

In fact, this is a huge focus in my Design Your 4-Season Garden course!

I teach all about how to combine foliage and texture together for a garden that looks great in every single season, not just the short amount of time that most flowers will bloom.

Jacob’s ladder is native to Quebec, eastern Ontario and most of the eastern US, west to Minnesota, Oklahoma and Mississippi.

Wild Geranium

Wild Geranium
Wild Geranium

Zones 3-8. Full sun, partial shade 1.25-2’ H x 1-1.25’ W

Blooming time: Late spring to early summer, for 4 weeks

Growth Rate: Medium

Why this plant?

Wild geranium is a real workhorse in the garden that requires very little care and will spread to cover the area under your pine tree without being too aggressive.

It tolerates a wide range of conditions, making it a great problem-solver, especially for under pine trees.

In the spring, you’ll be rewarded with pink to lilac blooms that will attract pollinators looking for an early season source of nectar!

Wild geranium is native to the woodlands of eastern North America, from southern Ontario to Georgia and west to eastern Oklahoma and the eastern part of the Dakotas.

Wild Columbine

Wild Columbine
Wild Columbine

Zones 3-8. Full sun, partial shade 2-3’ H x 1-1.5’ W

Blooming Time: Spring through early summer, for 4 to 6 weeks

Growth Rate: Medium

Why This Plant?

For a touch of magic in your landscape, use the beautiful Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), a native North American woodland plant.

You’ll love its fancy, drooping spurred red and yellow flowers.

Unlike common columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris) which is Native to Europe and has escaped cultivation in parts of North America, Eastern red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is a native to eastern North America.

‘Wild Rose’ Coral Bells

‘Wild Rose’ Coral Bells
‘Wild Rose’ Coral Bells

Zones 4-9. Full shade, partial shade 8-10” H x 18-20” W

Blooming Time: Mid-summer, for 4 to 6 weeks

Growth Rate: Medium

Why this plant?

‘Wild Rose’ is one of my favorite heuchera varieties to grow under pine trees because the berry colored foliage will stand out against the lighter colored pine needles.

In the summer, you’ll also be blessed with small, pale pink flowers.

Any light colored bloom like this will really shine under the shade of your pine tree.

Wild Rose is a cultivar of heuchera, which is native from southern Ontario to Georgia and west from Nebraska to Louisiana.

‘Nikko’ Slender Deutzia

‘Nikko’ Slender Deutzia
‘Nikko’ Slender Deutzia

Zones 5-8. Full sun, partial shade 1.5-2’ H x 3.5’ W

Blooming Time: Late spring to early summer, for 1 to 2 weeks

Growth Rate: Medium

Why this plant?

There’s something really special about using bright whites in a shady area of your garden and ‘Nikko’ Slender snowdrops are no exception.

The bluish-green leaves provide a dark backdrop that makes the white flowers pop.

The blooms also have a delicate honeyed/almond scent.

And in the fall, you’ll be rewarded by deep burgundy foliage, making it a great option for multi-season interest in your landscape.

Native to Central and Southern Japan.

Best Ground covers to Plant Under Pine Trees

For ground cover species, there is Bunchberry
For ground cover species, there is Bunchberry

Ground covers can create a lush carpet of foliage on the ground of your garden – but a lot of groundcovers need full sun.

Here are some ground covers that will still grow under the shade of a pine tree:

  • Creeping Phlox
  • Sweet Woodruff
  • Persian Violet
  • Barren Strawberry
  • Bearberry
  • Wild Ginger
  • Bugleweed
  • USA Pachysandra
  • Bunchberry

Here’s some more info on my favorite ground cover plants that do well under pine trees:

Allegheny Spurge

Allegheny Spurge
Allegheny Spurge

Zones 3-8. Full shade, partial shade 8-12” H x 12” W

Blooming Time: Early spring, for 3 to 4 weeks

Growth Rate: Slow

Why this plant?

The pachysandra you are probably most familiar with is native to Japan (Pachysandra terminalis) and is very invasive.

But this little known gem, Pachysandra Procumbens (aka Allegheny Spurge, Mountain Spurge), is actually a North American native plant that’s much less aggressive.

You can expect it to stay evergreen all winter in warmer climates (Zone 6 and up).

If you can get your hands on it, you’ll enjoy a wildlife and eco-friendly groundcover for under your pine tree.

In the early-mid spring, it blooms with bottlebrush-shaped creamy flowers with a tinge of pink, which are found on the stems below the leaves. and give off a lovely cinnamon-clove scent.

Native to woodlands in the Southern Appalachian region, ranging as far north as Southern Indiana but mostly found in Kentucky, Tennessee & North Carolina, south to Mississippi and Georgia.

Wild Ginger: Best Ground Cover for Shade

Wild Ginger
Wild Ginger

Zones 3-8. Full shade, partial shade 1’ H x 1-2’ W

Blooming Time: Early to late spring, for 3 to 4 weeks

Growth Rate: Medium

Why this plant?

There are not many plants that actually prefer acidic soils in heavy shade… but wild ginger is one of them!

Wild Ginger keeps its beautiful heart-shaped foliage throughout the season, making it a good companion to spring ephemerals that go dormant after they bloom.

Its spreading habit is particularly great for fending off other invasives like garlic mustard.

Please note that Wild Ginger tends to prefer soil with heavy moisture.

This may mean extra watering since the soil around pine trees is typically very dry.

Native throughout the eastern half of the United States.

‘Massachusetts’ Kinnikinnick: Best Ground Cover for Zone 2

‘Massachusetts’ Kinnikinnick
‘Massachusetts’ Kinnikinnick

Zones 2-6. Full sun, partial shade 1’ H x 8-10’ W

Blooming Time: Flowers in summer for 4 to 6 weeks, berries in late summer to mid-winter

Growth Rate: Medium

Why this plant?

This is a broadleaf evergreen ground cover that’s extremely cold hardy (to Zone 2).

In the spring, you’ll get pretty pink flowers with glossy, yellow-green foliage. In the fall, the foliage turns reddish purple and red berries begin to grow and attract birds!

And, because it’s evergreen, you’ll even have a carpet of foliage to look at through the cold winter months.

The berries also tend to last through the cold months and provide food to wildlife during the scarcest time of the year.

This ground cover has interest for every single season!

‘Massachusets’ Kinnikinnick doesn’t like fertilizer and is drought tolerant once established, so it will do very well in the harsh conditions under a pine tree.

It’s native in North America south to the mountains of Virginia, California, Arizona and New Mexico, with isolated populations in the mountains of Guatemala in Central America.

Sweet Woodruff

Sweet Woodruff
Sweet Woodruff

Zones 4-9 Full shade, partial shade 6-12” H x 6-12” W

Blooming Time: Late spring to early summer, for 3 to 4 weeks

Growth Rate: Medium

Why this plant?

Anytime you can add white blooms to a shady area, you have a winning plant on your hands.

The softness of tiny white flowers under the shade of a pine is so elegant and charming!

Sweet woodruff is a beautiful groundcover to place under pine trees.

In my experience, this ground cover stays well-controlled when in a shady area.

It also has beautiful, bright green foliage that will stand out in the shade.

Native to northern and central Europe and North Africa.

‘Rocky Road Magenta’ Creeping Phlox

‘Rocky Road Magenta’ Creeping Phlox
‘Rocky Road Magenta’ Creeping Phlox

Zones 4-8. Full Sun 0.5’ H x 2-3’ W

Blooming Time: Spring, for 3 to 4 weeks

Growth Rate: Medium

Why this plant?

This North American native spreads quickly and covers the area under your pine tree.

I love the rich, deep pink blooms of Rocky Road Magenta – they would contrast so nicely with a carpet of light brown pine needles.

While it doesn’t bloom for an extensive amount of time, you’ll look forward to this lush carpet of blooms under your pine tree each spring.

Native to the eastern United States in Maine and Vermont and from New York west to Ohio and south to Alabama.

Best Shrubs to Plant Under Pine Trees

And if you are thinking of shrubs, we have Lily of The Valley
And if you are thinking of shrubs, we have Lily of The Valley

Shrubs are woody perennials that almost look like short trees (or tall bushes).

These are a few shrubs that do well under pine trees:

  • Weigela
  • Heathers
  • Hydrangea
  • Azalea
  • Rhododendron
  • Northern Blueberries
  • Holly
  • Gardenia
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Dogwood
  • Camellia

Here’s a little more about some of my favorite shrubs that will grow under pine trees:

Wine & Roses Weigela

Wine & Roses Weigela
Wine & Roses Weigela

Zones 4-8. Full sun4-5’ H x 4-5’ W

Blooming Time: Spring, for 8 weeks

Growth Rate: Medium

Why this plant?

Wine & Roses Weigela has reddish-burgundy foliage and vibrant pink flowers that bloom all spring (and again in summer).

This shrub also attracts butterflies and hummingbirds and has a beautiful mounding habit. What’s not to love?

Weigela florida ‘Alexandra’ is native to northern China, Korea and Japan.

‘Soft Touch’ Japanese Holly: Fastest Evergreen Ground cover

Ilex crenata 'Soft Touch' Japanese Holly
Ilex crenata ‘Soft Touch’ Japanese Holly

Zones 5-9. Full sun 2-3’ H x 2-3’ W

Blooming Time: Year-round green foliage with berries in from mid-fall through winter

Growth Rate: Fast

Why this plant?

Soft touch is an evergreen holly shrub that’s a great alternative to the boxwood.

These hollies will do well in the acidic soil under your pine tree, while providing a stunning backdrop to some of the other flowering plants on this list.

This is a cultivar of Ilex Crenata, Japanese Holly, which is native to Japan and east Asia.

White Rhododendron

White Rhododendron
White Rhododendron

Zones 4-8. Full sun, partial sun 4-5’ H x 4-5’ W

Blooming Time: Summer, for 3 to 7 months (depending on geographic location)

Growth Rate: Medium

Why this plant?

This rhododendron is a broadleaf evergreen with white flowers that will give your garden bed a classic, traditional style.

Incorporating white blooms to a shady area of your landscape will always brighten up the space and this is no exception.

Plus, the evergreen foliage (very cold-hardy to Zone 4) will form a nice backdrop for other flowering plants.

Native to the Northern Hemisphere with high concentrations in western China, the Himalayas and Myanmar (Burma).

Autumn Amethyst Encore Azalea

Autumn Amethyst Encore Azalea
Autumn Amethyst Encore Azalea

Zones 6-10. Full sun, partial sun 3-4’ H x 3-4’ W

Blooming Time: Spring, summer and fall, for 4 to 6 months

Growth Rate: Medium

Why this plant?

A nice compact size, beautiful pinkish-purple blooms, Autumn Amethyst is a beautiful evergreen azalea.

It blooms in the spring and continues to bloom through summer and fall.

Its green foliage turns purple in winter for year round color and interest under your pine trees.

It’s also the most cold hardy of the Encore Azalea collection (to zone 6), heat tolerant and disease resistant.

Encore azaleas are evergreen, cultivar shrubs in the Ericaceae (heath) family, which are widespread in North and South America, Eurasia and Africa.

Quick Fire Hydrangea Shrub

Quick Fire Hydrangea Shrub
Quick Fire Hydrangea Shrub

Zones 3-8. Full sun, partial sun 6-10’ H x 4-5’ W

Blooming Time: Spring, summer and early fall, for 3 to 4 months

Growth Rate: Slow

Why this plant?

Quick Fire hydrangea blooms up to one month earlier than other panicle hydrangeas and keeps blooming just as long!

Its lace cap-style blooms change with the seasons from pure white in early summer, to blush pink, to deep rose in fall.

The green foliage also changes in the fall – turning gold and burgundy!

Hydrangea paniculata species is native to southern and eastern China, Korea, Japan and Russia.

If you’re looking for a hydrangea variety native to North America, try Hydrangea quercifolia (the oakleaf hydrangea) and Hydrangea arborescens (the smooth hydrangea).

Wrapping Up

There you have it friends!

A comprehensive list of beautiful bulbs, groundcovers, perennials and shrubs that will survive AND THRIVE under pine trees!

These are plants that can tolerate the acidic soil, the competition for nutrients and the shade provided by the mighty pine.

When designing a garden under pine trees, be sure to select plants that will survive in these conditions.

Consider adding lots of different textures and plant forms to make it an interesting space to look at.