• Planting around an oak tree can be challenging due to the tree’s large size and extensive root system.
  • It is important to choose plants that are compatible with the oak tree’s specific growing conditions, such as soil type and amount of sunlight.
  • Avoid planting shallow-rooted plants or those that require frequent watering, as they may compete with the oak tree for resources.
  • Native plants are often a good choice for planting around oak trees, as they are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions.
  • Groundcovers such as ferns, wildflowers, and grasses can provide a low-maintenance option for planting around an oak tree.
  • Avoid using herbicides or other chemicals near the oak tree, as they can harm both the tree and surrounding plants.

Are you looking for the perfect addition to your yard? Have you considered planting around that majestic oak tree in your garden? Oak trees are not only beautiful and iconic, but they also provide a natural habitat for various wildlife. However, finding the right plants to complement them can be challenging.
Many people struggle with deciding what to plant around oak trees, as the soil conditions and shade levels can vary greatly. Not only that, but some plants may actually harm the tree or struggle to grow due to competition from its roots.
In this article, we will explore the best options for planting around an oak tree and provide tips for ensuring their success. Whether you’re looking for colorful flowers or lush foliage, we’ve got you covered. So grab a shovel and get ready to transform your yard into a stunning oasis!

The Quick Answer:

When selecting plants to grow around an oak tree, it’s important to consider factors such as location and climate, maintenance level, growth rate and size. Avoid planting non-native species, plants with shallow roots, and those that require full sun since they may compete with the oak tree for nutrients and water.

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Factors to Consider When Choosing Plants to Grow Around an Oak Tree

Location and Climate

When selecting plants to grow around an oak tree, it’s important to consider the climate of your location. Some plants may not thrive in certain temperatures or weather conditions. Additionally, you should also take note of the amount of sunlight that your oak tree receives each day. This will determine which types of plants will be most suitable for growing in that area.

Maintenance Level

Another factor to keep in mind when choosing plants is their maintenance level. Some plants require more frequent watering or pruning than others, and this can be a significant factor in determining which ones are right for your space. If you’re looking for low-maintenance options, consider selecting native plant species or drought-tolerant varieties.

Growth Rate and Size

It’s also essential to consider the growth rate and size of the plants you choose. Selecting fast-growing plants may seem like a good idea at first, but they could quickly become invasive and overtake your garden space. Similarly, choosing large shrubs or trees could block out too much sunlight from reaching other areas of your yard.

Plants to Avoid When Planting Near an Oak Tree

Non-Native Plants

When planting near an oak tree, it’s best to avoid non-native plant species since they can potentially introduce pests or diseases that could harm both the oak tree and other nearby vegetation. Non-native species may also compete with the oak tree for nutrients and water.

Plants with Shallow Roots

Oak trees have deep roots that can extend up to 50 feet underground, so it’s essential to avoid planting anything with shallow roots around them. Plants with shallow roots might struggle to access enough water and nutrients from the soil due to competition with the oak tree’s roots.

Plants That Require Full Sun

Since oak trees typically cast a lot of shade, it’s best to avoid planting anything that needs full sun. This includes plants like roses or vegetables that need at least six hours of sunlight each day.

Types of Plants That Thrive in the Shade Provided by an Oak Tree

Native Ferns

Ferns are a popular choice for shady areas since they don’t require much sunlight to thrive. Some native species, such as maidenhair fern and ostrich fern, can add a touch of elegance and texture to your garden space.


There are many wildflower species that can thrive in the shade provided by an oak tree. Consider planting native species like Virginia bluebells or columbine for a pop of color in your garden.

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Shade-Tolerant Shrubs

Some shrubs like azaleas, hydrangeas, and rhododendrons can tolerate shade and add beautiful blooms to your garden space. However, it’s important to choose varieties that won’t compete with the oak tree for water or nutrients.

How Much Space Should You Leave Between the Oak Tree and Other Plants?

The Dripline Rule

To ensure that other plants don’t overcrowd the oak tree or compete too much for resources, it’s generally recommended to leave at least three to five feet between the dripline (the outermost perimeter of the tree branches) and other plants. This ensures that other vegetation doesn’t intrude into the area where most of the water and nutrients are absorbed by the tree roots.


It’s also important to keep in mind how much space each individual plant will need to grow to its full size. Some plants may require more space than others, so it’s essential to research specific plant varieties before planting them near your oak tree.

Planting Flowers and Shrubs Around an Oak Tree to Support Local Wildlife

Native Plants

Planting native species around your oak tree is a great way to support local wildlife. Native plants provide food and shelter for many types of birds, insects, and other animals that are crucial to the local ecosystem. Consider selecting plants like black-eyed susans or coneflowers that attract pollinators like bees and butterflies.

Berries and Fruits

If you’re looking to attract birds or other wildlife, consider planting shrubs or trees that produce berries or fruits. Species like blueberries, elderberries, and serviceberries can provide a reliable source of food for many species of birds throughout the year.

Soil Requirements for Planting Around an Oak Tree

Acidic Soil

Oak trees prefer acidic soil with a pH between 6.0-6.5. If the soil in your garden isn’t naturally acidic enough, you can amend it using organic matter like peat moss or compost.

Avoid Compacting Soil

It’s important not to compact the soil around your oak tree since this can damage the roots or prevent water from reaching them. Avoid walking on the soil around your oak tree as much as possible and use mulch instead of grass if you plan on having anything planted there.

Ensuring Your Chosen Plants Won’t Compete with the Oak Tree for Nutrients or Water

Select Appropriate Plant Spacing

As mentioned earlier, leaving enough space between other plants and your oak tree is crucial in ensuring that they don’t compete for water or nutrients. Additionally, selecting plants that require similar soil conditions as your oak tree can also help minimize competition.

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Choose Drought-Tolerant Plants

Choosing drought-tolerant plants that require less water than other varieties can also help reduce competition with the oak tree. This is especially important during dry spells when water may be scarce.

Low-Maintenance Plant Options for Growing Around an Oak Tree


Planting groundcovers like creeping phlox or vinca minor around your oak tree can provide a low-maintenance way to add some color and texture to your garden space. Groundcovers are typically easy to care for and require minimal watering or pruning.

Trees and Shrubs

Selecting low-maintenance trees or shrubs like dogwoods or viburnums can also be a great option for adding some greenery around your oak tree. These types of plants typically require little pruning or maintenance beyond occasional watering during dry periods.

In conclusion, planting shade-tolerant species such as ferns, hostas, and wildflowers around an oak tree can enhance its beauty and promote a healthy ecosystem.

Frequently Asked Questions about What Is Best to Plant Around a Oak Tree

What is good to plant around oak trees?
Here are some recommended plants to grow under evergreen or deciduous oak trees: Aquilegia formosa (western columbine) which is a perennial, Ceanothus griseus & its cultivars (Carmel ceanothus) that are medium to large-sized shrubs, Festuca californica (California fescue) that are grasses, Heuchera maxima (coral bells) that are perennials, and various species of iris which are also perennials.

Should I put rocks or mulch under my oak tree?
To maintain healthy soil beneath oak trees, it is recommended to use 2-4 inches of natural leaf litter, wood chips, or gravel as mulch. It is important to avoid placing the mulch directly against the tree trunk. Using organic mulch will enhance the quality of the soil by improving its structure and providing essential minerals as it decomposes.

Should you put mulch around oak trees?
Calcium, magnesium, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and sulfur are essential nutrients for the growth of oak trees. The use of mulch can help promote soil aeration and support the health of their absorbing roots.

What is the best mulch for oak trees?
For mulching around trees, the ideal option is hardwood chips obtained from an arborist’s truck, followed by pine chips with needles and a mix of wood chips and leaves for oak trees. While pine bark chips and pine straw are easily accessible and spreadable, they are not the most suitable mulch for trees.

Are coffee grounds good for oak trees?
Yes, there is a program in Austin, Texas called Ground to Ground that aims to divert coffee grounds from landfills and use them in gardening. The program suggests adding coffee grounds to garden soil, up to 25% volume.

Can you add soil around an oak tree?
An oak tree gets most of its water from the area directly surrounding it, which is also important for exchanging gases. Modifying the soil level within 6 to 10 feet of the tree trunk can harm the tree, so no soil should be added or removed from this area.

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