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Landscaping Ideas Under Oak Trees

February 8, 2022 Jill Raver
Filed in: Shade Trees
oak tree - landscaping ideas under oak trees

For landscaping under oak trees, choose plants that enjoy shade and are drought tolerant. Most grasses will not be suitable for this task. Creating an understory bed of perennials or small shrubs is your best bet. Avoid planting too close to your oak tree’s trunk unless you are using very small or shallow rooted plants. Even with smaller plants, be sure that you dig gently to ensure you aren't hitting your tree’s roots. Let’s beautify gently! Be sure not damage any roots when planting. 

Landscaping Ideas Under Oak Trees: Top Picks

Plants That Can Be Planted Closer To The Trunk

Brilliance Autumn Fern. Landscaping Ideas Under Oak Trees

Brilliance Autumn Fern

Growing Zones: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

This colorful fern has dramatic foliage and great texture. It will become drought tolerant once it is established.

Blue Zinger Sedge

Growing Zones: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

This small grass-like plant has cool blue leaf blades and is easy to grow. 

Chocolate Chip Ajuga

Chocolate Chip Ajuga

Growing Zones: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

This cold hardy evergreen ground-cover is tough and fast growing. The dark leaves have a burgundy-chocolate hue. Enjoy blue flowers in spring

Evergold Carex

Growing Zones: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

This variegated sedge easily grows in shade. Carex is perfect for group plantings and borders. 

Heuchera (Coral Bells)

Heuchera (Coral Bells)

Growing Zones: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Heuchera plants are fabulous shade loving perennials that deer leave alone. They are small and colorful with unique leaves. The Obsidian Coral Bells plant offers amazing purple color. 

Liriope (Lilyturf, Monkey Grass)

Growing Zones: 5 and/or 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Liriope plants are great for borders or mass plantings and they enjoy shade, especially in warmer regions. Check out our amazing frosted white monkey grass, Liriope Muscari ‘Okina’ for a different look.

Snow and Summer Asiatic Jasmine

Snow and Summer Asiatic Jasmine

Growing Zones: 7, 8, 9

This is probably the most unique ground-cover available! The phenomenal leaves are variegated with white, green and pink coloring.

Variegated English Ivy

Growing Zones: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

This classy ground-cover thrives with no care at all. English Ivy is incredibly adaptable to different climates and soils.


Plant These Plants At Least A Few Feet From The Trunk


azaleas for landscaping under oak trees

Growing Zones: Varies, some are cold hardy as zone 5 and some are heat tolerant to zone 10

Choose some beautiful azaleas for under your oak tree. These flowering bushes are evergreen so they don’t just look attractive when they are flowering. 


Growing Zones: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

These shade plants come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. The Patriot hosta offers rich contrast with its dark green leaves highlighted with white margins. For a classic hosta, look to the Big Daddy Hosta.

Mountain Snow Pieris
Mountain Snow Pieris

Growing Zones: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

This amazing and unique dwarf pieris puts on a show all year long. Enjoy white bell blooms in spring and copper to green leaves throughout the year. 


Landscaping Ideas For Around Oak Trees (At The Dripline)

If you will consider going out to the dripline of your oak tree for planning your understory planting you can choose plants that prefer more sun. This also almost completely eliminates the risk of hitting and damaging the oak’s roots when planting. This area is ideal for small or medium size shrubs or perennials. Encore Azaleas or any small flowering and/or evergreen shrubs look great in a ring around your oak tree. They can be grown together like a hedge or planted far enough apart to have space between each plant. They can be staggered or straight. Any of these options looks nice. It is just a matter of preference. In this category the options are endless because you can plant shrubs that like sunny conditions. 


Best Oaks to Landscape Under

Oak trees are beautiful shade trees. They grow quickly, live long, and are incredibly low maintenance. Many oak trees are native to the United States, including the following 3 species. These trees are adaptable to different soil types. 

Quercus rubra

Northern Red Oak

Growing Zones: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

The Northern Red Oak is a hardy native tree with gorgeous, fiery red fall foliage. 

Buy a Northern Red Oak online here

Quercus shumardii

Growing Zones: 5, 6 ,7, 8, 9

The Shumard Oak is a fast growing oak tree that is adaptable and resilient. This oak tree is an exceptional choice for the southern United States. Find Shumard Oak trees for sale here.

Quercus phellos

Willow Oak

Growing Zones: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

The Willow Oak tree stands out because of its unique narrow leaves that resemble willow leaves. Order a Willow Oak tree here and have it delivered to your home.




You can find more landscaping ideas for under oak trees by searching for pictures of landscaping around trees. This can help you determine the arrangement and assortment combos that you like by offering a wide variety of options. You can mix and match with the plants I have suggested or stick to one type of plant. It is totally up to you and your landscape style! Now, go out and landscape under or around your oak tree and enjoy the sunshine! Happy planting! 

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