How to thicken a tree bed


We have a big maple tree in our backyard, at the bottom of the tree there’s some perennial plants that over the years have been getting thinner and thinner, how can I make them thicker again? I don’t even know the name of the plant; much less if I should plant more of it or what to do to make it look better. Any help would be greatly appreciated!


Growing under a big maple tree is a challenge for gardeners. The trees are bullies, using up the moisture and soil nutrients and creating dense shade that most plants dislike. That said, what you have under your tree appears to be one of the more successful plants for those conditions. So much so, that it, Euonymus fortunei or Wintercreeper, is deemed an invasive plant in some jurisdictions. It’s hard to tell the thickness (height) of the mat of plants that already exists under your tree, but it is likely to be several inches thick. Carefully cleaning up the mat will enable you to see through the tangle to the soil. Because of the competition from the tree roots, adding some nutrition in the form of a light layer of compost will improve the health and growth of the Wintercreeper. Do not add a deep layer up against the tree.

Should you consider replacing or adding to the Wintercreeper, remember that most plants will struggle in that location. However, you may find some good alternatives in our Guide to Perennials for Shade, which you can get here.

When planting under any tree, do it carefully. As mentioned above, do not add soil or thick compost layers around the tree and don’t dig deeply, potentially damaging the tree’s feeder roots. Cautiously dig holes between the roots, into which you can place the new plants. Water thoroughly and regularly.

For more information, you might like to review the answer provided to another inquirer here.

Perennials for Shade in Dry or Moist Areas: A Toronto Master Gardeners Guide

Groundcover Plants for Growing Under Trees