Plants to Grow Under Pine Trees in Australia

Pine trees can form a fairly dense canopy and this means that not much sun can get through for the plants growing in the understory.

If you have pine trees on your property or in your garden, you’ll realise that it can be quite difficult to grow anything under them.

There are two primary reasons for this. Firstly, the pine needles that drop consistently on the ground under the trees make the soil highly acidic. In fact, pine needles can lower the soil pH to around 5.5.

The other problem is that pine trees can form a fairly dense canopy and this means that not much sun can get through for the plants growing in the understory.

With this knowledge, we can assume that shade-loving plants that like acidic soil should be able to survive and thrive when grown under pine trees in Australia

You also want to consider plants that are relatively drought-tolerant because the trees are likely to use up a lot of the moisture in the soil.

So, now that we know the type of plants that we’re looking for to grow under pine trees, here are a few examples.

Bergenia spp.

Bergenia | Plant care

There are around 8 species in the Bergenia genus. These are found naturally around Asia and make excellent ground cover plants under pine trees.

These plants have lovely, leathery dark green leaves and brightly coloured flowers in a range of colours. They cope well with poor soil conditions and prefer acidic soil. 

Aquilegia spp. (Columbines or Granny’s Bonnet)

Aquilegia 1 | Plant care

If you’ve never grown columbines before, their pretty and often unusual flowers will delight you. I grew some of these in my last garden and always looked forward to their blooms in spring.

These plants love acidic soil and will grow well in the shade under pine trees. If you let the flowers go to seed, you’ll even have them spread and pop up in other areas of your garden.

Azaleas and Rhododendrons

azaleas 1 | Plant care

Both azaleas and rhododendrons are in the Rhododendron genus and are acid-loving plants that can tolerate the shady conditions found under pine trees.

Both these species of plants come in a huge range of different flower colours so you can create quite a dramatic display if you plant a few different varieties under your pine trees.

Just make sure that you give them some extra water during long periods of dry weather.

Cyclamen coum (Persian Violet)

Cyclamen coum Persian Violet | Plant care

The Persian violet or common cyclamen can be found growing naturally in many pine forests around the world. And, as you probably know, these colourful plants do love to grow in the shade and will even flower profusely.

Cyclamens, with their dark green heart-shaped leaves and brightly coloured blooms, will live quite happily under your pine trees.

Even more good news is that these plants will multiply as they grow from underground corms. 

Dampiera diversifolia 

Dampiera diversifolia | Plant care
Photo by mrpbps / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

If you’re looking for a native species that thrives in the shade to plant under your pine trees, this dampiera will make an excellent ground cover.

It produces bright purple flowers in spring and summer and will spread to cover the ground to around 1 metre in width.

Gardenia spp.

Gardenia Hedge 3 | Plant care

Who doesn’t love the sweetly fragranced blooms of a gardenia. These plants love shady conditions and acidic soil and will live quite happily under pine trees.

Hydrangea spp.

Hydrangea | Plant care

Hydrangeas do really well in shady spots in the garden and they will grow happily in the acidic soil under your pine trees.

There are many different varieties to choose from but these plants might need some extra water during drier periods.

If you plant hydrangeas under your pine trees and keep them well-watered, they should thrive.

Muscari armeniacum (Grape Hyacinth)

Grape Hyacinth | Plant care

The grape hyacinth is a bulb that you can plant under your pine trees. These plants will brighten up the area under the trees with their vibrant purple flowers in spring.

Like all bulbs, these plants will multiply and soon fill in the area under your trees for a lovely spring display year after year.

Narcissus spp. (Daffodils)

Daffodils | Plant care

While we often think of growing daffodils in a sunny spot in the garden, they are commonly grown under many different types of trees around the world, including pine trees.

For the best results, select hardy natural species rather than the more striking cultivars.

That’s because species like Narcissus pseudonarcissus (Wild daffodil) and Narcissus poeticus (Poet’s daffodil) will be able to adapt more easily to the conditions found under pine 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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