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What To Plant Under A Silver Maple Tree?

If you have a silver maple growing on your property, you're lucky! This beautiful tree grows quickly, offers plenty of shade, and turns a beautiful shade of gold in the autumn. Now, if you want to add the final finishing touches to your garden, you're probably wondering what you should plant under this tree. To help you out, we've done the research and compiled a list of the best plants to grow under a silver maple tree. Let's check it out!

Since silver maples have a heavy root mat and offer lots of shade, you'll need to look for plants that have shallow roots and can handle partial sun to full shade. You'll also need to find plants that are drought resistant so they won't compete with the silver maple for water. Finally, since silver maples prefer acidic soil, other plants that thrive in soil with a pH of >6.5 make the best companions.

Some great options to plant under a silver maple tree include:

  1. Daffodil
  2. Ferns
  3. Crocus
  4. Tulips
  5. Lily of the valley
  6. Daylilies
  7. Solomon's seal
  8. Barberry
  9. Elderberry

You could also consider planting in containers placed under the tree. This would give the plants more room for their roots, eliminate the need for them to compete with the tree for water, and allow you to move them into full sun if necessary.

In the rest of this article, we'll share more detailed information about finding, identifying, and caring for each plant. By the end, you should be able to make an informed decision about which plants will make the perfect companion for your silver maple tree. So, let's get started!

beautiful reds of an acer rubrum (Sun valley) in early summer. - What To Plant Under A Silver Maple Tree?

1. Daffodil

Daffodils, with their tube-shaped bulbs of cheerful yellow, bloom in mid-spring and are almost synonymous with the season. Like silver maples, they prefer acidic soil, which makes them a perfect companion for this tree.

Plus, fall and early spring are the only times they need regular watering. The rest of the time, they're in a dormant state that requires minimal water, and they therefore won't need to compete for resources with the sugar maple.

Amazing Yellow Daffodils flower field in the morning sunlight. The perfect image for spring background, flower landscape.

Most daffodils grow well as a perennial in Zones 4 to 8 and can also survive as an annual in warmer climates. Something to keep in mind, however, is that daffodils grow best in full to partial sun.

Since it's especially important for them to get enough sunlight during their springtime growing season, consider planting your daffodils on the southern side of your silver maple.

After your daffodils have been growing for several years, you may want to consider dividing and replanting some of them in other parts of your yard. Read our article How To Divide And Store Daffodil Bulbs [For Planting Next Season]? to learn how to do this.

2. Ferns

Beautiful fern leaf texture in nature. Natural ferns blurred background. Fern leaves Close up. Fern plants in forest. Background nature concept.

Ferns are one of Earth's most ancient plants—they've been growing here for over 300 million years! And guess what—you can enjoy a little piece of prehistoric life right in your background by planting some ferns.

These beautiful, feather-shaped plants thrive in dappled sunlight to full shade, making them a perfect potential companion for your silver maple tree.

Since ferns do best in neutral to slightly acidic soil, they'll be comfortable with the conditions preferred by silver maples. They also don't need a lot of water—just enough to keep the top layer of their soil moist.

Plus, ferns can grow in many different climates. Most thrive in Zones 4 to 8, but certain varieties grow well up to Zone 2 and down to Zone 10.

3. Crocus

Purple Crocus Flowers in Spring. High quality photo

Another iconic spring bloom, crocuses are a perennial bulb with flowers in lovely shades of purple and gold. They require sun to partial shade, but since they bloom in early spring before the trees have all their leaves, they're a great choice for planting beneath a silver maple tree.

Plus, they prefer well-drained soil, as too much water will rot the bulbs. This also makes them a good companion for the thirsty silver maple.

Crocuses grow well in Zones 3 to 8. They also have shallow roots and need to be planted only about 3 inches underground, which means they won't be competing with the silver maple's thick root mat. Just be cautious—both spring and autumn crocus are very toxic to humans and animals alike.

4. Tulips

bright bicolor tulips decorative decoration of the spring garden

The cheerful tulip, with its colorful, cup-shaped blossom, is yet another popular early spring flower that pairs well with the silver maple tree.

Similar to the crocus, it blooms early enough in the spring to avoid shade from fully-leafed trees. Even so, they're hardy in their light requirements and do well in full sun to partial shade.

Tulips also need well-drained soil to avoid rotting their bulbs, so they'll do well growing under a silver maple as the tree will drink up any excess water. The cold-winter climates of Zones 2 to 7 are preferred by tulips, as is soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5.

5. Lily Of The Valley

Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis), blooming in the spring forest, close-up

With their delicate, deliciously-scented white flowers and graceful greenery, lily of the valley makes a beautiful springtime addition to any garden. They're a shade-loving plant that blooms throughout the spring and summer, making them a natural fit for planting beneath a silver maple tree.

Lily of the valley is a perennial that spreads easily, which makes it a great ground cover requiring little maintenance.

It needs well-drained soil and is very tough and drought resistant, so it won't be bothered by the silver maple's high water intake. Plus, lily of the valley has shallow roots that won't interfere with the maple's root system.

6. Daylilies

Daylilies flowers or Hemerocallis. Daylilies on green leaves background in summer. Flower beds with flowers in garden. Soft selective focus.

With their big, colorful blooms, daylilies can be found brightening up every corner of the countryside in the spring and summer. This is because they are incredibly hardy plants that can handle growing almost anywhere, and this includes underneath a silver maple tree!

Drought and disease resistant, daylilies bloom multiple times throughout the spring, summer, and fall. If you want to grow a colorful plant requiring little maintenance under your silver maple tree, you can't go wrong with daylilies.

Although daylilies perform best when planted in full sun and away from other trees, there are many accounts of them thriving under silver maples. You just might want to help them out a little by watering them once every week. They also appreciate slightly acidic soil in Zones 4 to 9.

7. Solomon's Seal

Polygonatum odoratum, angular Solomon's seal or scented Solomon's seal

Solomon's seal's gracefully arching stems hold tubular white, pink, or green flowers that are replaced in midsummer by small dark blue berries. In the fall, the foliage turns into beautiful shades of gold.

This dynamic plant prefers partial to full shade, which makes it a good candidate for growing beneath a tree like the silver maple. It also loves acidic soil, just like the silver maple, and prefers Zones 3 to 9.

Although mature Solomon's seal can handle short drought periods, it prefers moist soil. That means you might need to water it a little more often than usual to make sure the maple isn't taking all of the water. You can also add a layer of mulch to help maintain a cool, moist environment.

8. Barberry

Red berries of barberry on a bush branch close-up. Barberry bush in the autumn garden

If you're looking for something a little more substantial to plant under your silver maple, consider a barberry bush. This hardy, easy-to-grow bush is a popular choice for multiple reasons.

It adds color, with leaves that change to red or orange in the fall, and grows tiny red berries in the winter. Plus, barberry grows well in urban environments, can handle full sun to partial shade, and tolerates any type of well-drained soil in Zones 4 to 8.

Japanese barberry is your best bet, as it reaches heights of only 3 to 6 feet. Just be careful because it can be very invasive in some regions. It requires minimal maintenance and grows well with just a bit of annual pruning and regular watering. Add mulch around the base if you need to retain extra moisture. 

9. Elderberry

Clusters fruit black elderberry in garden in sun light (Sambucus nigra). Common names: elder, black elder, European elder, European elderberry and European black elderberry.

Elderberry bushes are another type of shrub that grows well under silver maples. They have white blossoms in the spring, and their shiny berries, ranging from dark blue to black, add visual interest and can be used in tea, cooking, home remedies, and more.

Plus, these tough plants can handle most types of soil and growing conditions. Although they prefer direct sun for maximum berry production, they still thrive in partial shade if you're more interested in their decorative foliage potential.

Since it can reach heights of 10 to 12 feet, you'll want to prune your elderberry bush so it stays small enough to fit under the maple tree.

Alternatively, you could plant dwarf elderberry, but be aware that, unlike most elderberry varieties, their berries are toxic. Elderberry bushes grow best in Zones 3 to 8, and like silver maples, they prefer acidic soil.

In Closing

beautiful reds of an acer rubrum (Sun valley) in early summer

It can be challenging to find plants that thrive under silver maple trees, but the nine flowers and bushes we discussed make great companions for this tree.

We hope this article has helped you confidently find the perfect addition to your garden! If you still have concerns about growing other plants near silver maples, check out our article Do Maple Trees Kill Grass? for a more in-depth look at how maples interact with their environment.