groundcover for under japanese maple?

Discussion in 'Groundcovers' started by mnl, May 5, 2008.

  1. mnl

    mnl Member

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    I have tried to grow a few different things under my large japanese maple without success. I've tried vinca and oxalis (which is doing a bit better this year); neither have spread at all.

    It is not only shady and dry, but because the maple is so shallow rooted it is hard to dig down to plant anything, and I'm worried about injuring the tree.

    I was thinking of adding some light soil--not too much--and trying something else. I think I need a very shallow rooted (and shade/drought tolerant) ground cover.

    Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

    Thanks, Michelle
     
  2. Newt

    Newt Well-Known Member 10 Years

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  3. silver_creek

    silver_creek Active Member

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    We have planted bunchberry, Cornus canadensis, along with the native Trillium, Trillium ovatum and pink fawn lily, Erythronium revolutum under our largest Japanese maple. They provide a spring show before the maple leafs out. Smilacena stellata has also run into this bed and takes over once the fawn lilies and trillium are done.
     

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  4. chimera

    chimera Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Cyclamen hederifolium, C. coum, C. pseudibericum, and snowdrops seem to do well under the small leaved maples also. A small leaved ivy might work if it could be kept within bounds. Nice group of Erythroniums in Silver Creek's photo, wish they would spread as well here.
     
  5. chimera

    chimera Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Agree with Newt, a light bark mulch would likely help anything grown there as you mention it's quite dry.
     
  6. mnl

    mnl Member

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    thanks everyone for your suggestions -- I will be adding some mulch and looking for some of the plants you've named over the coming weeks.

    Michelle
     
  7. kaspian

    kaspian Active Member 10 Years

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    You might try a dwarf bamboo. The challenge here would be to choose the size, color and vigor of the bamboo so that it thrives but doesn't compete too aggressively with the maple.

    Pseudosasa owatarii is the smallest -- barely topping 6 inches here in New England, though in gentler climes it is said to be capable of reaching 18" or so. Pleioblastus viridistriatus is a bright, yellow-green variegated cultivar that remains less than 12" tall for me, and is also available in an all-yellow form. Sasaella masamuniana 'Albo-striata' is of about the same stature, has lovely variable cream stripes in most of the leaves, and tolerates dry soil better than the others, in my experience. Both of the latter look especially striking in contrast to red or purple-leaved cultivars.

    I've never tried Pleioblastus shibuyanus ‘Tsuboi’ but it's a beautiful little plant and perhaps a less agressive spreader.

    All these are running types that will spread by rhizomes, but I've never found them to be a problem and they're easy enough to contain or to yank right out if they grow where you don't want them. You could plant them just outside the maple's root zone, and let the natural spreading habit of the plant take over from there.

    Fallen maple leaves among still-green bamboo is a beautiful sight in autumn.

    In spring, for the sake of tidiness, many people cut the bamboo right down to the ground to make way for fresh new growth. I seldom bother with this.
     
  8. garcan

    garcan Active Member 10 Years

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    I have been growing many different types of perennials under all my Japanese maples (except the weeping cutleaf maples) for many years. These includes primroses, dicentra, corydalis, hosta, helleborus, heuchera, aqualigia, anemone (dwarf varieties that flower and disappear in spring), Japanese painted fern, and polygonatum etc. Some of them may not be overly happy under there but do reasonably well. I have to ripe out over crowding vinca under one of them every couple of years. However, your soil condition is likely a significant contributing factor as you have suspected. Another factor could be you prefer to leave your maple full and thick, and the shading is very heavy under the maple. I prefer to thin out my maple trees to have a more airy look.
     

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