What To Plant Under Fir Trees

Fir trees can beautify a landscape. But unless you are completely satisfied with the bareness underneath them, settling for plainness is the last resort. So now you are wondering what to plant under your fir trees. It can be confusing to choose, given the growing environment under these trees. We have done research to help you know just what plants are best under fir trees.

When choosing what to plant under fir trees, there is much to consider. Plants that tolerate shade and fairly dry, acidic soil are the top choices to grow under fir trees. If not plants native to the area, you can go for self-seeding perennials and ground covers. Some of the best choices to plant under fir trees are certain types of berries, ferns, and shrubs.

Planting under fir trees may be complicated, but you will never run short of plant choices. There's even a long list of what you can plant. But to know what will not work, you first must understand why not all plants will survive under your fir. Read on to learn more.

fir tree forest in morning time, What To Plant Under Fir Trees

Why It's Difficult to Grow Plants Under Fir Trees

It only makes sense to know your tree's general information before jumping to what you can plant under fir trees. That said, first, you have to know that not all trees with fir in their names are actually fir trees.

While these conifers belong to different genera, they have the same physical attributes as real fir trees. In general, more than 40 species under the Pinacea family are considered real fir trees.

There are several known reasons why it is difficult to grow a plant under a fir tree. 

Fir tree close up shot

Soil Under Fir Trees are Acidic

While many plants survive under a tree, you better think again when you have a fir tree. 

The leaves of most fir trees look like needles. Each of these needles is directly connected to the branch. When autumn comes, the needles fall off one by one.

It is a struggle to plant just any species, even grass, under a fir tree because these needles are acidic. Most of them contain a pH level between 3 and 4.

An acidic environment forms under the tree, with these needles falling off from time to time and decomposing on the ground. Not all plants can withstand this much acidity.

Most plants prefer soil with neutral pH levels. So if you are thinking about what to plant under your fir, this is the first consideration.

cemara tree under the blue Sky

Lots of Shade

It is general knowledge that trees provide shade. So under the fir tree, you must expect an area deprived of sunlight. But as everyone knows, sunlight is vital to plant food production and their growth and development. Also, most plants don't grow well under shade. 

While it is possible for some plants to grow with minimum sunlight, note that there can be slight changes in their bloom, appearance, and other things. Fruits may not taste as great, and flowers may not bloom as much when there's less heat and light.

Roots Get in the Way

Fir trees have root systems spread around the trunk. Aside from the taproot and secondary taproots, fir trees have lateral and finer roots. These roots are assembled on the ground around the fir trunk, creating an obstructed room for other plants to grow their roots.

Given that these roots are in the way, growing new plants will be more difficult, with shallow soil being another consideration. Again, this limits your options to just getting plants whose roots do not either go too deep or spread too much.

Less Water Supply 

Fir trees have bigger roots, so when you decide to grow smaller plant species, you already know what to expect. Fir tree roots are big competitors for small plants regarding water absorption. Small roots might struggle to get as much water as they need. 

What Can You Plant Under Fir Trees

To sum it up, you should find plants that can tolerate acidic soil and minimum sunlight exposure. Choose smaller plant species to avoid their roots from interfering with your tree's existing root system. 

Native Plants

Red bottle brush flowers - Australian native plant

Plants native to your region are one of the safest choices to plant under a fir tree. First, narrow down your choices by eliminating those that will not withstand acidic soil and shade. Native plants have higher chances of survival since they fully adapt to your region's other growing conditions. 

Herbaceous Perennials

Growing Ranunculaceae. Perennial herbaceous plant Aquilegia vulgaris with purple flowers in the garden

If you want to grow plants under your fir tree, some types of herbaceous perennials are a good fit. Herbaceous perennials may be an ideal option because plants in this classification die annually, yet the roots remain alive. They are short-lived but grow again yearly, which is probably the advantage.

Herbaceous perennials such as bluebells, wild strawberries, white wood aster, and woodland sunflower are some of the kinds you can plant under a fir. 

Wild strawberry plant with green leafs and ripe red fruit


Ferns are an ideal choice as herbaceous perennials because they can multiply independently. You can grow ferns under a fir tree by vegetative means and then allow them to multiply naturally through spores reproduction.

Fern Leaf Pattern, Lush Fresh Green Foliage

Most fern species can tolerate a bit of acid in the soil. They may not be too much to handle with their natural habitat being below the shady and moist canopy of the tropical forest.

Maidenhair, Christmas, and lady fern make great add-ons under a fir tree.


Fresh organic blueberrys on the bush

Some kinds of woody perennials or shrubs can also survive in acidic soil.  Some shrubs not only like some acid in their soil but also go well with little water. Examples include sweetbox, Japanese holly, blueberry, and California barberry.

Tips on Growing Plants Under Fir Trees

It is complicated to grow just any plant under fir trees, but once you know the growing conditions under these trees, having more than one type of perennial is possible. We gathered useful information to make landscaping under fir trees easier for you.

1. Don't get too close to the roots.

Whether transferring or sowing a new plant, you should pay attention to your fir tree roots. Do not dig the soil near your tree to avoid accidentally puncturing any part of its root system.

Maintaining a 5-foot distance from the fir trunk is safer and more sensible. Doing so not only prevents you from damaging the roots. Note also that the areas closest to the trunk receive the least sunlight. 

Locate the biggest roots and plant in the spaces between them. You might also want to choose plants in starter pots so you won't have to dig bigger holes.

View these biodegradable starter planters on Amazon.

2.  Prepare the soil with compost and mulch.

Before transferring new plants under your fir tree, consider preparing the growing environment. Check if the area needs additional soil. If it does, add soil but avoid covering the fir tree roots. Add only about 2 inches of soil for your new plants.

It can be challenging for the new plants to adapt to their new environment. To give them a boost on their first days, add compost to your plant holes.

Remember that moisture is essential during the early stages of replanting or sowing. Adding mulch to your soil mixture will help retain moisture for longer periods.

3. Get rid of fir leaves or needles on the ground.

If you are still worried about the amount of acid in the soil under your fir, a simple remedy is to remove the leaves or needles that have fallen off. Removing the leaves right before they decompose helps improve the soil's pH levels.

View this rake and scoop set with garden bag on Amazon.

You may collect the leaves with a rake and then bag them or allow them to decompose in another area.

Final Thoughts

fir tree forest in morning time

Not all plants thrive under fir trees, but some can withstand the acidic, fairly dry, and shaded growing environment. Herbaceous perennials, native plants, and shrubs are just some of your choices if you want to fill the empty area under your fir tree.

We've given you tips on how you can be successful in transferring or sowing new plants under your fir tree.

Did you find this post helpful? Here are other interesting posts about what to plant under trees.

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What To Plant Under Apple Trees?

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