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Plants to Grow Under Fruit Trees in Australia

Ideally, you want to plant under the outer edge of the canopy so that whatever you plant does still get a little sunshine. This will ensure good growth and flowering.

Almost every Australian gardener will have at least one fruit tree in their garden, even if it’s just a lemon tree.

But, should you underplant your fruit trees and what are the best plants for this?

Here are some top suggestions of what you can plant under your fruit trees in Australia with some provisos on how to do this.

Top tips for planting under fruit trees

Before you select from the range of plants that are suitable for planting under fruit trees, here are some important provisos that you should consider.

Keep plants around 30 cm away from the trunk of your trees all the way around. This allows you easy access to the tree to pick the fruit and also keep an eye on the graft.

Ideally, you want to plant under the outer edge of the canopy so that whatever you plant does still get a little sunshine. This will ensure good growth and flowering.

You also want to select plants that have shallow roots so that these won’t compete for the water and nutrients that your fruit trees need to thrive and produce a good harvest.

What are the benefits of planting under fruit trees

There are numerous benefits to planting some shallow-rooted plants under your fruit trees.

Fruit Trees 1 | Plant care

Firstly, dense planting will help to keep the weeds at bay. This means less work for you and less water and nutrient competition for your trees.

Plus, flowering plants will help to attract pollinators such as bees. These are necessary for the pollination of many fruit crops and will ensure that your trees provide a good harvest.

Underplanting your fruit trees also means that you’ll have some colour in your garden over winter when the trees might be bare and dormant.

Plant flowering annuals under your fruit trees

Flowering annuals are normally shallow-rooted and as a bonus, the flowers should attract pollinators such as bees to your garden. Some popular suggestions include:

  • Alyssum
  • Pansies
  • Lobelia
Alyssum flowers

In addition, here are a few perennials that also work well under fruit trees and will attract beneficial insects:

  • Nasturtiums
  • Chamomile
  • Geranium

Plant herbs under your fruit trees

Many herbs are also quite shallow-rooted and don’t require an abundance of nutrients, so they won’t compete with your trees.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Marjoram
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Lavender
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary

These herbs will also produce flowers which are great for attracting pollinators. 

Another excellent herb to plant under your fruit trees is comfrey. Although this is a little more deep-rooted, it is excellent at bringing nutrients up from deep within the soil. I always have some comfrey planted near my vegetables for just this reason.

Comfrey | Plant care

Plus, you can use the leaves to make comfrey tea which is an excellent tonic for fruiting plants. Or, for a quicker fix, just cut off the comfrey leaves and use them as a mulch around the base of your fruit trees.

Plant natives and low-growing shrubs to enhance the soil

If your fruit trees are quite large, you might consider growing some low-growing natives and other shrubs that can help to enhance the nutrient content of the soil.

Here are some examples:

  • Acacias or low-growing wattles can add nitrogen to the soil. In fact, acacia mulch is one of the best mulches that you can use to enrich your soil.
  • Proteas, banksias, grevilleas and hakeas can accumulate phosphorus in the soil. This is essential for strong root growth in your fruit trees. 

Plant spring flowering bulbs under your fruit trees

Many gardeners choose to grow spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils under their deciduous fruit trees.

The bulbs will provide some lovely colour in spring while the fruit trees are just starting to bloom and grow leaves to fill the canopy.

FAQ

What should you not plant next to fruit trees?

Avoid plants that need a high degree of moisture and high levels of nutrients as these will deplete the soil and your fruit trees will suffer.

Can you plant lavender around fruit trees?

Yes, lavender is an excellent companion for your fruit trees. When in bloom, the lavender will attract many beneficial insects to your garden to help pollinate your trees.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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