Can I plant pachysandra underneath my service berry tree as a ground cover?
Can I plant pachysandra underneath my service berry tree as a ground cover? The service berry is two years old and 7’ tall. I’m wondering if they would be compatible?
Marjorie Peronto, Extension Educator
Many people do plant pachysandra or other ground covers beneath trees, and the trees survive, but it is not the best horticultural practice. 80 to 90% of a tree’s feeder roots (the fine roots that take in water and nutrients) are located in the top twelve inches of the soil. Planting a ground cover directly beneath your tree puts it in direct competition with your tree’s roots. They are each fighting for the same water and nutrient supply, and neither one lives up to its potential. It is far better to keep the entire area under the tree’s canopy completely free of vegetation, and mulched with wood chips, wood shavings, or another form of organic material. Doing so will suppress weed growth under the tree, and moderate any fluctuations in soil temperature and water. A tree’s root system extends laterally, shallowly, up to two to three times wider than the canopy drip line. It’s best to minimize any competition with those roots.