Updated: July 8, 2017
Leaving the base of the tree bare can often look unkempt or out of place since it’s not easy to mow right up to the edge of a tree or to even weed-eat around it carefully. Plantings or mulching around the base of the tree trunk can not only help protect roots from the mower’s blades, but also make your existing trees a part of the landscape design and reduce the amount of weed-eating that is necessary. Here are some of my favorite ideas I have come across.
Option 1: Mulching around the base
While this method reduces the amount of weeds at the base of the tree, you still have the problem of weed-eating at the edge of the mulch to create a nice clean edge. And besides, it’s not that interesting.
***Based on a comment from a reader, I am including this brief information on mulching around the base of a tree: Mulch should not be deeper than 2-4 inches and should not touch the base of the tree. For more information on properly mulching around the base of a tree, visit: http://www.atchison.ksu.edu/doc39465.ashx
Option 2: Plantings encircling the trunk
I like this option – but it won’t work if there isn’t enough soil around the base of your tree or enough water. Consider the amount of water that will be available when you select your plants. If you put something that requires moderate water levels, you may want to incorporate a watering system.
I really like these hostas (below), but you would have to add some soil to make this work. The daylilies are very nice as well. They’re pretty hardy but require several hours of sun. Recently, I have fallen for cast iron plant. It is hardy, usually staying green throughout the winter, and looks so classic.
You can also plant things a little further from the trunk of the tree and mulch in between the plants and the tree trunk. This will reduce the competition for water between the plants and the tree roots while also controlling weeds around the tree base.
Option 3: Groundcover plantings
Be careful when using groundcover around the base of your trees – some can be quite aggressive and aren’t a good idea when there are other plantings around (liriope). However, the thick groundcover makes a nice smooth transition from trunk to ground.
Option 4: Enclose it in a bed
In some spots, it only makes sense to incorporate the tree into a fully planted flower bed. Here are some photos from my yard and a yard I saw in Pennsylvania.
In this area in my yard, there are so many trees clustered in one spot that there was always bare ground and leaves. I decided to put in a nice path and bench and create a shade garden full of azaleas and hydrangeas to make it a nice sitting area. Because hydrangeas require moist soil, I incorporated a sprinkler system in to the beds.
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