Planting Under Fir Trees

The western bleeding heart is one of several plants that will grow well beneath firs.

“What can I grow under several fir trees? Question from Karen of Portland, Oregon

Answer: Do you have Douglas firs on your property? (I love Doug firs!) Either way, I would recommend going with beautiful native understory plants from your region that can take the soil acidity, needle drop, and moist/dry conditions of life beneath fir trees in the Pacific Northwest.

Some attractive shrubby options include the evergreen huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum), which yields edible fruit and has attractive foliage. Wild specimens are very tall, but the cultivar ‘Scarlet Ovation‘ only reaches 3 feet high. Salal (Gaultheria shallon) is another attractive evergreen choice with high wildlife value.

Duckfoot (Vancouver hexandra) is a lovely, delicate perennial that spreads and bears small, white, drooping flowers. The western bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa) is pretty spring bloomer that will perform well under firs, and lots of varieties are available. I also recommend  the sweet bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), a low spreader with white spring flowers followed by bright clusters of red fruits later in the season.

Happy gardening!




Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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