10 Clever Tips for Landscaping Around Trees

Updated: Sep. 26, 2023

Plop a tree in the middle of the yard and it may look out of place at first. But by landscaping around the tree, you make it look more attractive—and more at home.

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Keep it Simple

When you have a beautiful small tree like this Japanese maple, there’s no sense overdoing it when it comes to landscaping. A little goes a long way in terms of companion plants. Notice the beautiful simplicity of the ferns when paired against the burgundy maple.

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Speaking of Simplicity

For a slightly different take on keeping it simple when landscaping around trees, try a groundcover monoculture. This vinca vine, also called periwinkle or myrtle, has beautiful violet blue flowers in spring and easy-care, glossy green foliage all summer long. It spreads easily by underground runners, but is not invasive. Here are 11 more easy-to-grow plants for shade.

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Paint a Scene

The parade of pastels from these cherry trees and the moss phlox groundcover are intentional. The garden features a burst of color in spring, followed by the glossy green foliage of the cherries and mosslike blue-green foliage of the phlox in summer. There’s always the opportunity to plant annuals for more summer color, but when landscaping around trees, it pays to have a peak bloom period.

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Good Day Sunshine

When landscaping around trees, it’s not always about shade, especially when you’re talking about dwarf specimens, as seen here. That’s when sunlight is your friend and you can integrate sun-loving companion plants, such as these junipers. The square bed and the rocky groundcover carry forward the contemporary theme. Meet 8 succulents that would do well in the sunny conditions seen here.

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Stay in the Zone

When landscaping around trees, different lighting conditions are sometimes encountered. Work with the conditions at hand, placing shade-lovers closer to the trees, and sun-lovers farther out along the perimenter. This gives you more color and allows you to use a greater range of plants as well. Meet some other pretty plant combinations.

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Be Bold About It

You’ll notice that well-designed commercial landscapes often feature swatches of just one or two plants. The bold treatment is meant to be noticed from a distance, even from a passing car. It’s called “55 MPH landscaping” and it does get noticed. You can do the same thing on a smaller scale in your home garden. Shown here are pink impatiens and purple Iresine.

This type of landscaping increases curb appeal, if you’re trying to sell your house. Here are 16 additional ways to improve curb appeal for less than $50.

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Mass Appeal

Another idea is to mass just one plant, but mix up the colors, as seen with these pink, white and red begonias. The identical height, habit and leaf texture of the plants makes the bed seem more cohesive. Yet the mix of colors brings more excitement than a monotone color scheme would.

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Monoculture Meets Multistem

A multistem tree is like a sculpture: it deserves a stage. These fresh-looking ferns are a perfect companion because they complement the tree, adding attractive color and texture without overwhelming the eye. And when they turn color in fall, they’ll become a temporary focal point.

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Tried and True

Hostas are a natural when it comes to landscaping around trees. They’re attractive, especially the variegated cultivars, and low maintenance. Plus, hostas love the shade beneath a tree. One caveat: Plant sporadically and let the hostas fill in over time. Too much digging around an established tree can be hazardous, because most of the feeder roots are within the top 18 inches of soil and they would be disturbed. Learn more about using hostas in the home landscape.

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Mix it Up

For the more adventurous, there is the idea of using multiple plants—such as ferns, hostas, ginger and impatiens—when landscaping around trees. Rocks and mulch add some nice texture. Also, notice there is a flat mowing surface to the outside of the rocks to simplify maintenance. Discover some other low-maintenance landscaping tips.