Typically found in the Northern Hemisphere, birch trees are ornamental tall, slender, and beautiful-looking trees that can add immense beauty to any landscape. One of the biggest reasons Birch trees are chosen as landscape trees you may ask? Well, they’re paper-thin and sometimes used for shredding bark!
Birch trees are a great addition to your yard, but they look even better with plants that accompany them. Birch trees can be grown with various companion plants, including: Plantain Lily, Foamflower, Lilyturf, Bugleweed, Allegheny Spurge, Hellebores, Snowdrops, Daffodils and Bluebells.
Birch trees are a sight to see in the forest! In fact, in open forest areas, you might notice that birch trees are one of the first colonizer trees. They add texture and color to landscapes throughout the year – and today, we’re talking about the best plants to plant under them as an accent to your yard at home! Keep reading to find out more!
Can You Grow Plants Under A Birch Tree?
It’s the prime question of the hour here! And the answer is – YES, you can!
Planting under a birch tree isn’t impossible. In fact, due to their fabulous yet elegant winter display, birch trees are a prime landscape feature that will look even better with companion plants.
However, always be careful when considering plants to plant under your birch tree. You should avoid planting trees all together, because each tree will them compete for nutrients and water, making one tree flourish while the other to deteriorate.
If you’re also thinking about planting a birch tree be sure to check out our article – 9 Best Places To Plant A Birch Tree And Where They Grow Best!
How To Pick The Right Plants To Grow Under A Birch Tree
When it comes to choosing the right companion plant for your birch tree you must keep several things in mind! Let’s talk about them below.
Firstly, you must make sure that the plant doesn’t take away from the nutrients or water that the birch tree will need to grow and flourish – if a new plant drinks all the water, then you’re not going to have a flourishing birch tree!
Secondly, consider the soil needs and root structure of the birch trees before choosing a plant. Birch trees have shallow root structures that will have to accommodate a plant that doesn’t overshadow the Birch tree root system.
Thirdly, you should consider the amount of light that is available under the birch tree. You will have to find a plant that prefers partial shade.
If a plant needs full sun, planting under a birch tree may not be the best idea, since a birch tree offers so much shade. However, birch trees need a lot of sun to grow, for more information check out our article on the reasons why birch trees cant grow in the shade.
6 Best Plants to Plant Under Your Birch Tree
There are ton of amazing plants to plant under your birch tree – and today, we’re talking about all of them!
Plantain Lily Are Great For Under Your Birch Tree
Part of the Hosta genus, plantain lilies are perennials that love the shade and provide an attractive sight to any garden. Conveniently they are low-maintenance and although they tolerate the sun, they thrive in shady areas -which makes them perfect for growing under a birch tree!
Plantain Lilies come in many gorgeous colors – emerald, green, greenish, gold, gray and blue, white, lavender, and purple. They can grow 6 inches up to 3 feet tall.
Their foliage grows in early summer. They generally require rich, moist, and well-draining soils.
Tiarella cordifolia – Foamflowers are one of the most beautiful wildflowers that are typically found in Eastern United States woodlands and forests.
Foamflowers are known for their beautiful starry white flowers that have a light pink hue. Although Foamflowers stay beautiful throughout the summer, during the fall season the plant can turn gorgeous hues of bronze and red-orange.
These shrubs love nutrient-rich, well-draining, moist soil. According to Clemson Cooperative Extension Home & Garden Information Center, they also prefer a soil pH of 4.5 – 7.0 which will allow the shrubs to grow healthy – which is perfect for growing under a birch tree!
Also, another good thing about Foamflowers is that they are generally left alone by your regular garden pests (deer or rabbits). Except in winter – if your pests have nothing else to eat, they will munch on your Foamflowers.
A quick tip: If you are looking for a good way to measure your soil pH, you can try this iPower soil pH meter. Using a soil meter is important as soil pH can determine the soil’s health and whether any changes need to be made for the plants to grow healthy.
The Liriope genus have these beautiful ground-covering shrubs which have flowers that may remind you of lavender.
These ever-green shrubs prefer partial sun/shade. And get this – one of the benefits of having Lilyturf in your garden is that they suppress the growth of weeds. They prefer growing in partial sun/shade with well-draining soil consistent with clay and gravel.
These shrubs are easy to take care of and require moderate amounts of water. They wouldn’t be a bad idea to plant around your Birch trees as they WON’T absorb all the water which would leave the Birch tree high-and-dry.
The cool thing about these shrubs is that they can thrive in a variety of conditions such as: heat, cold, dry weather, and humidity. It’s also important to note that once these shrubs are established, they are drought tolerant. You also wouldn’t have to worry about diseases and pests, as these shrubs are resistant to those too!
Ajuga Reptans can be an interesting ground-covering species as it can suppress the growth of other weeds. This fast-growing, luscious perennial has shiny, emerald-colored leaves with beautiful blue, purple, and sometimes violet flowers – and will look amazing under your birch tree!
It’s also a natural weed suppressant since it’s such a good, natural ground cover.
Typically, Bugleweed is planted in early summer late spring so you can give it enough time to bloom from May to June. These species do best in USDA zones 4 to 9 and prefer moist, well-draining soil pH of 6.5.
A gentle note to readers: Bugleweed is also known to be an aggressive spreading plant if not contained properly. Be careful not to let Bugleweed spread into turf grass areas as it will try to take over!
You Must Be Wondering, So What Are Bugleweeds Even Good For?
- Bugleweeds are good at filling large, shaded areas where lawn turf is difficult to cultivate and grow
- Bugleweeds work wonders on slopes, around trees and shrubs (especially around and within rock attractions)
- They are great for erosion control! Bugleweeds extensive root system and above-ground system create a dense mat that will displace weeds and prevent soil erosion!
Furthermore, these shrubs can tolerate full sun to partial shade areas in your garden. So they’re versatile!
Bugleweeds Offer Beautiful Colors
Before you decide on the specific species, make sure you explore the general color scheme for your garden and the rest of your garden plants so that it accentuates your birch tree, luckily Bugleweeds offer beautiful colors that you will love!
If you are looking for great colors in their foliage, that grow well in the shade of a birch tree, Bugleweeds will work wonders. With newly planted bugleweed, you need to make sure the soil is moist and well-watered until the plant establishes itself. They love 1-2 inches of water a week (this includes rainfall).
That means, don’t overwater if you have a rainy month after you plant your bugleweed.
Allegheny Spurge Is Great For Under Birch Trees
Pachysandra procumbens is in fact a very popular groundcover plants that are found under trees.
This herbaceous perennial, ground covering shrubs spread across a landscape with rhizomes. They grow up to 12 inches in height, but their width is determined by how much it spreads. It requires adequate water initially when the plant getting established.
Allegheny Spurge are great for growing under birch trees – and once it’s established, it’s a very strong plant that will do well in low maintenance. These plants are drought-tolerant so you don’t have to worry about it after its established itself in your garden.
Although they can tolerate various soil conditions, they prefer acidic soil, that’s well-draining and rich in moisture and organic matter. These shrubs can survive in USDA zones 5 – 9.
Allegheny Spurge prefer partial to full shade in terms of sunlight, and are generally low maintenance shrubs. And a really cool fact about them is that if you want to share a bit of your Allegheny spurge shrub, you can propagate by root division and cuttings, so no worries!
Bulbous Flowering Plants Are Perfect For Under Your Birch Tree
There are a bunch of bulbous plants that would work perfectly under your birch tree – let’s talk about them below!
These evergreen flowering plants are lovingly also called “winter rose”, “Christmas rose” and sometimes “Lenten rose”. While they originated in Europe and Asia, these can now be found in landscape gardens, and are perfect for under your birch tree!
Hellebores can grow in USDA zones 5-8. They are specifically interesting for gardeners due to their late winter and early spring flowering. They also make good flowering plants because their flowers are frost resistant.
These evergreen plants love well-drained and adequately watered soil and partial shade in the garden – perfect for under your birch tree.
Be careful about having pets wander around these plants. Their flowers can be toxic. Luckily, due to their toxicity these plants are resistant to deer and other critters.
This group of beautiful perennial plants are part of the Galanthus genus. Snowdrops are known to have linear leaves and small white drooping flowers that look like bells and will look amazing under your birch tree.
Surprisingly, these plants flower generally in the winter, early spring, and sometimes late fall. If you look at these plants in a garden, you will notice that they look like a beautiful carpet of white flowers. It almost blends into the snow! Perfect for winter snowfall.
Not surprising based on their name, snowdrop plants prefer colder climates over warmer winters. If you live in any of the warmer areas like Texas, California, or even in Florida, Snowdrop plants may not be the best option for your garden.
Tips For Caring For Snowdrops
Before buying your snowdrops, make sure to assess how you want to develop your garden around the birch tree.
Snowdrop plants don’t reproduce from seeds in gardens, they often grow with offsets from growing from the original planted bulb. Once the bulbs have been planted and you wait for a couple of years, you will notice that the original bulb has a dense cluster of bulbs around it.
Snowdrops prefer well-draining and moist soil around or under your birch tree. If you plan to make a beautiful display around your birch tree, consider planting your snowdrops in a bunch of up to 20 bulbs.
Snowdrops are best when planted in early fall. Snowdrops can remain dormant through late spring and summer. Be careful not to start digging around your birch tree. You might damage the bulbs.
Once bought, the snowdrop bulbs prefer to be immediately planted. Do not buy the snowdrop plant bulbs and wait for a longer time to plant them. If you have pets – you may want to reconsider planting snowdrops and make sure to do your research on pet friendly plants for under your birch tree before planting!
When you see these pretty flowers under your birch tree, you will have created a beautiful picture spot. Narcissus spp., generally bloom in early spring and are generally hardy, easy-growing perennial flowers.
Just like snowdrops, these are fall-planted bulbs as they bloom in your winter or early spring climate and prefer full or partial sun.
These hardy plants can generally tolerate many types of soils but grow best in well-draining, moist soil. They grow best in USDA zones 3-8. These are great additions to the area around your birch tree and can be planted by the dozens if you wanted.
Note: Be careful to make sure the soil is well-drained as these plants are susceptible to root rot because of too much water.
You can buy great these Mixed Daffodil Bulbs with yellow, white, and variations!
Hyacinthoides are these gorgeous-looking, delicate, flowers. Like all the other flowers mentioned above, these are also bulbous plants. They prefer to grow in USDA zones 4-9. These will look amazing under your birch tree!
The Bluebell flowers grow together in clumps. Because of the weight, you will notice that once they have grown, they droop over.
Thus, the dainty-looking flower. Bluebells love moist, well-draining, yet fertilized soil. Once you have gotten a chance to plant your bluebell bulbs, make sure to properly water them.
A Few Tips To Follow When Planting Bulbs Under Your Birch Tree
- Try to make sure there are 2-4 inches of organic matter in the soil
- Ensure the soil does not have any weeds
- Use tools to free the soil and dig holes like this 3 Piece Garden Set!
- Check it before you click it! Be extra careful about the websites that claim they are selling the best bulbs. Read reviews.
Do some careful research before committing to any seller. Not all sellers are out there with genuine ideas of what they are selling.
- Make sure you are checking the depth at which you are planting those bulbs. It’s almost like goldilocks of plants. But too deep or too shallow and you might damage your lovely bulbs.
- If you are planting outside, make sure the soil has no history of big pest infestations. If so, make sure you clear the soil first and then add the bulbs.
- Make sure you plant in an area with minimal potential of standing water. Bulbs do not like standing water. Be careful during rainy periods & watch out for pools of water!
- Depending on the bulb species, make sure you are fertilizing them properly (especially during their spring growth period). It may not be necessary to fertilize them when you plant them but watch your calendars!
Shredded Mulch Is An Alternative To Plants For Under Your Birch Tree
Of course, everyone wants to plant beautiful flowering shrubs and foliage. However, in situations where you are not able to find appropriate shrubs or flowering plants, you can consider a money-saving alternative, mulch, for under your birch tree!
It’s also quite expensive to find the appropriate flowering plant or shrub to plant around your birch tree. If you find yourself in any of these situations, you can buy Pine Bark Mulch.
According to the North Dakota State University, shredded mulch might be better for your birch tree than rock mulch. Shredded mulch can help by moderating temperatures, improving soil structure, and conserving soil moisture (among other things).
Further, mulching can provide stable soil structure for soils that lack organic matter (especially in urban areas). Mulch can also protect your birch tree roots from exposure to extreme heat or cold and provide stable soil moisture.
General Care Tips for Birch Trees
- Due to their shallow root system, they prefer soil is moist and cool (not too wet). For more information about birch tree roots check out our article on how far birch tree roots spread.
- According to Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, birch trees typically prefer mostly acidic soil (pH < 6.8).
- Although they can prefer wide range of soil types, they prefer slightly lower pH levels
- In terms of fertilizers, your best bet is the low-nitrogen ones (i.e., 11-22-22 formulas)
- Since birch trees don’t have dense foliage, these are excellent candidates to have additional companion plants below their branches.
Planting birch trees in your garden can provide a beautiful, picturesque view, but companion plants beneath your birches can be an eye-catcher! When it comes to companion plants, make sure that they don’t take away your birch spotlight.
Due to their shallow root system, make sure to take all of this into consideration before you finalize your species!
If for any reason you feel uncomfortable taking care of your birch tree, don’t hesitate to reach out to local horticulturists and arborists! Try your local plant store.
Clausen, Knud E.; Godman, Richard M. 1967. Selecting superior yellow birch trees; a preliminary guide. Research Paper NC-20. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station
Herbaceous Perennial Plants: A Treatise on their Identification, Culture, and Garden Attributes.3 rd Ed. A. Armitage. 2008. Stipes Publishing, IL