Can You Plant Shrubs Next to Trees?

Can you plant shrubs next to trees?
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The idea of planting shrubs next to trees is not only feasible but can also contribute to the overall beauty and health of your landscape. However, it’s essential to understand the dynamics of this combination to ensure a harmonious and thriving ecosystem. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the considerations, benefits, and techniques involved in planting shrubs alongside trees to create a vibrant and balanced outdoor environment.

Understanding the Dynamics

Complementary Relationships

When strategically placed, shrubs and trees can form symbiotic relationships that benefit both plants. Shrubs provide ground cover and understory vegetation, while trees offer structure, shade, and vertical interest. Together, they create layers of foliage, texture, and habitat that enhance biodiversity and visual appeal.

Root Competition

One of the primary considerations when planting shrubs near trees is root competition. Trees typically have extensive root systems that extend outward and downward in search of water and nutrients. Planting shrubs too close to trees may lead to competition for resources, resulting in stunted growth or poor performance for both plants.

Light and Moisture Requirements

Different species of shrubs and trees have varying light and moisture requirements. Before planting, assess the light conditions and soil moisture levels in the proposed planting area. Choose shrubs that are compatible with the light levels and soil moisture preferences of the existing trees to ensure their success.

Planting Techniques

Site Selection

Choose planting sites that provide adequate space for both the tree and shrub to thrive without competing for resources. Avoid planting shrubs directly beneath the canopy of mature trees, where root competition and shading may be most intense. Instead, opt for locations where the shrubs can receive dappled sunlight or partial shade.

Root Protection

Take precautions to protect the roots of both the tree and shrub during planting. Use gentle excavation techniques to minimize disturbance to existing roots, and avoid compacting the soil around the root zones. Consider using root barriers or mulch to delineate planting areas and reduce competition between the two plants.

Species Selection

Choose shrub species that are well-suited to growing in the shade or dappled sunlight provided by the tree canopy. Look for shade-tolerant varieties that can thrive in low-light conditions and compete effectively with tree roots for water and nutrients. Consider native species that are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions for best results.

Maintenance and Care

Once planted, monitor the growth and health of both the tree and shrub regularly. Provide supplemental watering during dry periods, especially during the establishment phase, to ensure adequate moisture for root development. Mulch around the base of both plants to conserve soil moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature.

Benefits of Planting Shrubs Near Trees

Enhanced Aesthetics

Combining shrubs and trees in your landscape creates visual interest and depth, adding layers of texture, color, and foliage. The contrasting shapes and sizes of the plants create a dynamic and appealing composition that enhances the overall beauty of your outdoor space.

Biodiversity and Habitat

Planting shrubs near trees increases habitat diversity and supports a wider range of wildlife, including birds, insects, and small mammals. Shrubs provide food, shelter, and nesting sites for wildlife, enriching the ecological value of your landscape and promoting biodiversity.

Soil Health and Stability

The root systems of shrubs and trees work together to improve soil structure, prevent erosion, and enhance nutrient cycling. The organic matter produced by both plants contributes to soil fertility and microbial activity, promoting long-term soil health and stability.

People also ask

Can I plant shrubs under mature trees?

Yes, you can plant shrubs under mature trees, but it’s essential to consider factors such as light availability, root competition, and moisture levels. Choose shade-tolerant shrub species and avoid planting directly beneath the dense canopy of mature trees to minimize competition for resources.

How far away from the tree should I plant shrubs?

The distance between shrubs and trees depends on the specific species, size of the tree, and available space. As a general guideline, aim to plant shrubs at least a few feet away from the trunk of the tree to allow room for both root systems to develop without competing for resources.

What types of shrubs are suitable for planting near trees?

Look for shade-tolerant shrub species that can thrive in low-light conditions and compete effectively with tree roots for water and nutrients. Native species adapted to your local climate and soil conditions are often the best choice for long-term success in the landscape.

How can I prevent root competition between shrubs and trees?

To minimize root competition, use gentle excavation techniques during planting to avoid damaging existing roots. Consider installing root barriers or using mulch to delineate planting areas and reduce competition. Providing supplemental watering during dry periods can also help both plants establish healthy root systems.

Will planting shrubs near trees attract pests or diseases?

While planting shrubs near trees can enhance biodiversity and habitat diversity, it’s essential to monitor for pests and diseases regularly. Proper maintenance practices, such as pruning dead or diseased branches and maintaining good air circulation, can help minimize the risk of pest and disease problems in the landscape.

Looking to Add Greenery to Your Garden? Learn More about our Tree and Shrub planting solutions in Seattle, designed to thrive in the Pacific Northwest climate.


Planting shrubs near trees offers numerous benefits for your landscape, from enhancing aesthetics and biodiversity to improving soil health and stability. By understanding the dynamics of this combination and following proper planting techniques, you can create a vibrant and balanced outdoor environment that thrives for years to come. Whether you’re seeking to add texture, color, or habitat diversity to your landscape, incorporating shrubs alongside trees is a versatile and rewarding landscaping strategy.

Ryan Seeberger

Ryan Seeberger

At Nasim Landscape, Senior Analyst Ryan Seeberger harnesses the power of data to foster sustainable and aesthetically pleasing environments. His blog serves as a resource for those looking to blend functionality with ecology.

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