are many plants that grow naturally under oaks in California. Some
genera are common in most of California and are commonly associated
with oaks. Plants that are not normally associated with oaks cause many
problems for the oaks and the oaks and
their allies will expend
resources attempting to exclude them. Research has shown that this
occurs, but the specific causes are harder to identify. We've seen many
times, over many years, diseased trees with a near leafless canopy come
back to health by controlling the weeds, lawn or petunias.
the currants and gooseberries commonly grow in oak forests.
On the north slopes the currants grow at the drip lines of the trees,
gooseberries grow in the openings. On the south slopes the gooseberries
grow up under the drip line of the trees. People wonder where the
native birds went, Ribes provide flowers for nectar, nesting sites,
thorns for protection, and berries for food. Does your yard
coffeeberry and redberry.
The Rhamnus genera grow in association with oaks. We've had a number of
people that want to plant 'that little oak with red berries' (Rhamnus
crocea or Rhamnus ilicifolia). They grow with the oaks and kinda look
like an oak. The root systems are similar to oaks and commonly share
resources with oaks. That is good.
the California mountain lilacs
usually do not grow in the deep shade of oaks, but love the edges, half
day sun, or under deciduous oaks. Using Ceanothus or Arctostaphylos,
you can leave the heavy mulch under the trees alone and plant the drip
line(edge of tree canopy) to make the oak look landscaped. Ceanothus
like Yankee Point and Joyce Coulter will tolerate near full shade where
summers exceed 100 F (37C) regularly.
nightshades. The nightshades are common under the oaks in
most of the coastal regions of California.
Satureja douglasii grows in the leaf litter of Coast Live
oaks, Canyon Live oaks and even Blue Oaks. Excellent along serene
walkways and under benches as it's flat and it smells real good.
chanderi, Mountain Balm is a shrubbier form (1
foot) that grows under oaks in Southern California. A snoot
will find this cute beaut is a hoot and smells mighty fine. Mountain
Balm is huggy, not buggy, and makes a very clean mass of
condensatus, Giant Rye is one of the few grasses that grows
under oaks. Although Giant Rye will grow in full sun, particularly with
regular water, it will grow well in full shade with no extra water in
most of California. For those of you that seem to want a grassy prairie
and don't know a buffalo from an, oh I guess I can't type that.
, the shrubby monkey flowers love the edges and half day sun
under oaks. Full shade is a bit too much for monkey flowers, but full
sun is commonly too much. Those little spots of sun under the oaks
where the hallo of sun beams come together in the afternoon is where
you plant these. Put a garden bench near that spot with Yerba Buena
under it and the monkey flowers/ hummingbird sage as the feast to look
spathacea. Hummingbird sage grows great under the oaks. In
the wild Hummingbird sage grows in full shade and into full sun. I've
only seen a few spots where the weeds haven't overwhelmed the sage and
stunted the tree. In one spot one plant had filled an area of 50X50
feet with the foliage just above the leaf litter making a carpet of
green with pink/magenta flowers that the hummingbirds love.
hispidula and Lonicera
denutata Let's see, honeysuckles are generally evergreen,
have pretty flowers, need little care, are usually not eaten by deer,
have berries for the birds and are decent to look at.
grows under oaks in most of California. Near the immediate coast Toyons
move into the sun but in areas like Los Angeles or Riverside, Toyons
are mixed with the oaks and commonly grow even at the trunks.
Squaw Bush grows under oaks in the interior coastal valleys.
deciduous sub-shrub that has great fall
color and berries for the
birds. Funny, the people who HATE deciduous plants are often the ones
looking for 'fall color'.
cordifolia grows great under coast live oaks, Keckellia
breviflora grows great under the deciduous oaks , but has
also done ok here under our coast live oaks. This is a deciduous
penstemon, dead stickus in fall, pretty flowers in summer.
the Service Berries can be very interesting as a contrast to the oaks.
In many of the coastal woods Service berry can become a mini-tree under
the high shade of oaks. Sometimes you'll have the full 100 foot oak,
then the 10 foot service berry 'tree' and under it either Satureja
douglasii or Symphoricarpos or Lonicera. Sometimes there's even a
Ribes between the oak
and the Amelanchier.
albus and Symphoricarpos
mollis both are snowberries and both grow well under oaks.
Thrashers, Thrushes, and other native birds use the berries as survival
food in winter. The berries taste like Ivory soap, but I'm not a bird,
maybe it tastes different to them.
Plant junk that has never grown near an oak tree and
needs a ton of water and fertilizer. Why would you expect a plant that
grows in full sun along a river in Brazil to grow under your oak? A
lawn also comes to mind. If you did use a ton of water, gradually
remove the input over a couple of years.
Leave the oak leaves.
Remove the leaves from under the oaks. Bare ground and
green weeds are better than that nasty layer of leaves. THE OAK NEEDS
Think like a tree. Long term, no sudden changes, no
tilling, disking, poop, or water Lean and mean. Hang a hammock and put
yourself in it. .
Plant short term stuff and kill the tree slowly. Pansies
and petunias are a cruel joke under an oak.
Prune out the dead stuff and trim the branches up off of
Prune the trees hard or in some weird manner like
pollarding. Forcing new growth draws from the trees resources and often
triggers a cascading failure in the system of the oak tree.
You can wash the foliage off occasionally on dry, dusty
Put a lawn under the tree and you'll have a sick
lawn and a sick tree.
Salvia spathacea, Dutchman's Pipe, Snowberry, Monkey flower, Coffeeberry, Elderberry, Solanum xantii, Yerba Buena, and Big Leaf Maple in the full shade of oaks, with no irrigation.