11 Plants To Put Under Your Aspen Tree (& How To Plant Them)

Wall of aspens trees.

As you begin to plant and take care of your trees, it may become apparent that they look weak or even bare underneath. In most cases, this is often how it appears because the soil below is bare. With this comes the question, “What plants can I put under my aspen tree?” 

Some of the most common examples of plants that you can put under your aspen tree include cosmos, bachelor’s buttons, and zinnias, which require fewer nutrients than typical flowers. Low crawling herbs such as soapwort, sedum, thyme, mint, and catnip will also grow well under your aspen tree.

Read on to learn more about what Aspens need/want to grow and what plants you can grow around them to improve looks and even the health of your tree!

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Basic Aspen Tree Growth 

To understand what plants you can grow near your Aspen, it is first important to know how your Aspen grows, as you don’t want to accidentally impede its growth through planting competition. 

As for growth rate, Aspens can grow up to (or often more than) 24 inches per year. This is astonishing when compared to other slow-growing plants. This is also good to keep in mind as you don’t want to plant any sun-loving ground covers. Your growing Aspen could easily shade them out!

Compared to other trees, Aspens have fairly shallow root systems. On average, most Aspen roots only grow down about 12 inches; however, they all tend to sprawl and spread outward very quickly. 

In addition to the vigorous spreading of roots, Aspens tend to propagate and root quickly. This is important to know if you plan on growing other things near them, as they do pose some risk of propagating and shading/competing with your other plants. 

Not exactly a team player, these Aspens!

Requirements For Healthy Aspen Trees

Fall color of aspen trees.
Fall color of Aspen trees.

Aspens have a few basic requirements for healthy, strong growth. For the most part, however, they can be pretty adaptable and strong in most areas. 

Aspens have some standard requirements (among most species) that revolve around things such as soil qualities and water retention, making them pretty easy to adapt to and care for. 

To start, Aspen trees want their soil to be well-drainingThis means that they want a soil that is looser/has more particulates, such as sand, compost, and other organic material. 

Along the same line, Aspens require well-draining environments, meaning they want less water than other plants. This is important to think about when incorporating other plants, as some of their requirements may be the opposite of your Aspen’s. 

In addition to this, Aspen trees also like their soil to be slightly acidic. This can be accomplished through using things like “acid-lovers mix” or pine straw mulch. This is also a good aspect to think about, as it may also interfere with the growth of other plants you wish to pair with your Aspen. 

Pairing Aspens With Different Plants

When choosing additional plants to grow around your Aspens, it is important to think of the requirements of both. In doing so, you can ensure that both your plants and tree will be happy and healthy. 

In general, planting things with opposite or complementary requirements to your Aspen tree will lead to the most success. For example, planting something that prefers shade underneath your tree would most likely work great, as your tree can get full sun while providing the plant with proper shade. 

As they say, opposites attract!

Pairing Shade Requirements For Plants Under Aspen Trees

Upper view of the aspen trees in the fall season.
Upper view of the Aspen trees in the fall season.

One of the most important things you need to pair is the shade requirements of your Aspen tree and companion plants. As sunlight is one of the most important factors a plant needs, getting the incorrect levels can easily lead to one of your plants becoming weak. 

Going along with this, it is normally best to pair a plant that tolerates, or even likes, shade with your full trees.

This is because, in most cases, the tree will tend to be way larger and cast a large area of shade. For most plants, this can be harmful; however, if you preemptively plan by putting shade-loving plants, you will have completed companion planting.

Pairing Water Requirements For Plants Under Aspen Trees

Similar to shade, water is another requirement that is the limiting factor to pairing plants and Aspen trees together. If two plants near each other have vastly different water needs, one of them is bound to not be in its optimal conditions and will most likely suffer from it. 

Instead, if you put plants with similar water requirements to Aspens near your tree, both will most likely flourish and grow strong and healthy together. 

Pairing Soil Requirements For Plants Under Aspen Trees

Although less important than water and sun, soil can be another factor that limits plant pairings. With soil comes lots of other factors such as pH, nutrients, etc. These can have many positive or negative effects on plants and trees. 

With this, if you plant companion plants near your Aspens that have similar soil, pH, nutrient, and other similar requirements, both will most likely enjoy their environment and grow well together! 

Will Plants Under Aspen Trees Harm The Tree?

Another important factor to look at is safety with plants. This doesn’t refer to your safety but instead refers to the safety of your Aspen tree itself. With this, some companion plants can compete with your Aspen, or in worse cases, even kill it. 

Going along with this, what are some concerns that should be thought of when putting companion plants near your aspens? 

Vines and Chokers Harm Aspen Growth

Vines and choking plants can be one of the worst things for aspen trees. This category of plants refers to things like morning glory, blackberries, or English ivy. Although they are beautiful, most of them can easily compete with trees and even cause them to struggle with basic things like light and water requirements. 

In most cases, vines and chokers can physically block your Aspen’s roots or trunk and can also crawl upwards and grow around branches, blocking the much-needed light from your Aspen’s leaves. 

Invasive Plants Can Be Bad For Aspen Trees

Another thing to think about is invasive plants. These plants are those that are not usually native to your area, meaning that in some cases, they can easily take over Aspen trees and become rampant, even dominating over some of the other native plant species in the area. 

With this, it is important to research the native and invasive plants in your area before you try to companion plants near your aspen tree! 

6 Best Plants to Put Under Your Aspen Tree

Now that we know what Aspen trees need and what to avoid when companion planting, we can now look at the specific plants that you can (and should!) put under your Aspen tree, as well as how to plant them. 

Sedum Varieties Under Your Aspen Tree

Decorative garden plant sedum prominent (lat. Sedum spectabile. )
Decorative garden plant Sedum prominent (lat. Sedum spectabile.)

Sedum is a great plant to put near your Aspens. It is simple to care for, normally not requiring much. In addition, it has a root system that does not normally compete with your Aspens. 

In addition, creeping varieties are well suited to part-shade, making them excellent to plant with large Aspens that may block out some of the sun.

They also come in lots of shapes, sizes, and colors, which make them great to use in flower and show gardens that may need special looks/themes. 

Thyme Varieties As Aspen Tree Companion Plants

Green background with a twigs of a thyme closeup
Close up of thyme plant.

Thyme is another great option to plant near your Aspen trees or in your garden in general.

Thyme tends to grow lower to the ground as a cover crop, having shallow roots that hold on and retain soil while also not competing with larger organisms such as your Aspen. 

In addition, thyme plants normally don’t require many nutrients or other compounds, so they won’t compete with Aspen trees for any nutrients either. Another benefit of thyme plants as companion plants is that they are very aromatic and lovely for your garden and kitchen. 

Overall, thyme might be a great option for you, especially if you are looking for plants to cover a wider area or for herbs that you can use in your kitchen!

Mint, Catnip, Other Herbs Grow Well Under Aspen Trees

Close up of catnip, green herb growing in a container
Close up of catnip, green herb.

Similar to the idea of thyme, other herbs such as mint, catnip, or rosemary could also be planted near your Aspen trees. They have similar benefits, such as not having rigorous root systems, not requiring too much water, and not competing for vital nutrients. 

In addition, all of these herb options are great for the fact that you can use them in the kitchen as well, possibly maximizing some of the space that you use in the garden. Another benefit of these plants is that they are aromatic, and their flowers can also attract beneficial insects if you are also planting near a vegetable garden. 

One great option for herb varieties is this SEEDRA 12 herb seed variety pack, which can be used to companion plant near your Aspen!

One drawback of some of these plants, mint, in particular, is that they can be vigorous in the speed and size in which they grow.

While they may not compete underground with your Aspen, they do have the ability to spread far and wide very quickly, possibly causing you some trouble or unneeded work with trimming and maintaining the area. 

Cut Flowers Grow Well Under Aspen Trees

Red zinnias in full bloom
Red zinnias in full bloom.

Cut flowers are another great option to add to your companion planting list for Aspen trees. “Cut flowers” refers to the common list of flowers that are grown for arrangements, such as cosmos, bachelor’s buttons, and zinnias. 

All of these options are great because, normally, they do not require lots of water, and they do not have super vigorous root systems that could compete with your Aspen. 

In addition to this, cut flowers do not usually require too much sunlight (although they don’t hate it), or too many nutrients, meaning they won’t compete too much with your Aspen in those regards either. 

Similar to the herbs, cut flowers can also be harvested, cut, and used in arrangements or other home endeavors, making them multifaceted and useful. Another benefit is that they can attract beneficial insects if you are working in or near a garden!

Another pro to cut flowers is that they come in many species, shapes, sizes, colors, scents, etc., making them great for someone who has specific wants/needs with color, size, and use. 

Similar to the herbs, many cut flowers can be found in packs, such as this Botanical Interested Cut Flowers Seed Collection.

Baby’s Breath Plants Under Aspen Trees

Beautiful flowering close-up of alpine gypsophila flower or creeping baby's breath gypsophila repens.
Close-up of Alpine Gypsophila flower or Creeping Baby’s Breath Gypsophila repens.

Baby’s breath is a plant that may not often be thought of; however, it can be very useful in companion planting with Aspen trees. 

Baby’s breath plants create a great puff of white color through their small and delicate flowers, making them unique and fun to plant with Aspen trees. In addition, their roots can hold in and retain the soil without competing for things like nutrients or water.

Another thing to think about is that baby’s breath may need full sun but can still be healthy in partial shade, so you may have to play around with planting them before fully committing. 

Artemisia’s Look Gorgeous Under Aspen Trees

Artemisia (mugwort) plant.
Artemisia (mugwort) plant.

Artemisia (mugworts) is another unique and uncommon plant that can be grown with Aspens. According to most sources, they are drought-tolerant and will not compete for too many nutrients or water. 

In addition, many avid gardeners love to plant artemisia with their Aspens for their specific color. Most people cite that the silvery color of the artemisia plants highlight and make the undertones of Aspens leaves look gorgeous, making them a great companion plant. 

Overall, artemisia may be a great option for you, especially if you are looking for a classic pairing that has been tested and proven to boost the natural beauty of your Aspen tree. 

Salvia Varieties Plant Well Under Aspen Trees

Blue salvia (sage) flower in blossom.
Blue salvia (sage) flower in blossom.

Some varieties of salvia, like sage, are another great option to plant near your Aspens. Like most other plants on this list, they are pretty easy to take care of and are not known to compete or choke out other plants such as your Aspen tree. 

In addition, salvia comes in many different varieties that exhibit many different colors and sizes, making them infinitely customizable for the home gardener.

Another pro is that salvia has a bit more height when compared to other plants on this list, giving them a unique and not often seen beauty in companion planting. 

During the spring and summer seasons, big-box gardening stores and small nurseries often carry many varieties of salvia seedlings, along with many varieties of salvia seeds, meaning they are highly accessible to use in any format or size. 

In the end, salvia is another great option for those who are beginners in gardening/companion planting and for those who may want to simply buy a plant from the store and put it in the ground. 

That’s A Wrap!

In the end, Aspens are pretty unique trees that can add the perfect touch to just about any home garden. They are versatile and usually have a few simple requirements, making them incredibly easy and rewarding for any home gardener to take care of!

In addition to this, you may want to plant companion plants near your Aspen to fill in the space or even create a symbiotic relationship. In doing so, there are multiple factors that you should think about, such as the light, soil, and water requirements of both your Aspen and companion plant. 

There are also a few other things to think about, such as if your companion plants are invasive in your area or if they are known to vine and choke out large things such as trees and shrubs. 

Overall, there are a few main companion plants that are well known to form great relationships with Aspens, such as herbs, sedums, salvias, and artemisia! 

So get out there and have fun planting with your Aspen tree! 

References

Cunningham, S. J. (1998). Great Garden Companions. Google Books.

Légaré, S., Bergeron, Y., & Paré, D. (2005). Effect of Aspen (populus tremuloides) as a companion species on the growth of black spruce (picea mariana) in the southwestern Boreal Forest of Quebec.

Sjödin, A., Wissel, K., Bylesjö, M. et al. Global expression profiling in leaves of free-growing Aspen. BMC Plant Biol 8, 61 (2008).

Rahman, M. (2021). Bioscience Biotechnology Research Communications. Vol 14. No. 05 242–244.

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