Having beautiful trees in your yard is great for a variety of reasons, but these excellent landscaping ideas around trees will help you to see all of the different options you have. You can enhance the area around big trees, tree roots, or even smaller trees with design elements that add color and texture to your landscaping.
Mature trees are beautiful to look at, provide great shade for your yard, and can just be a great addition to the total landscape. However, big trees and their roots can contribute to some challenges when it comes to maintaining your lawn and landscape.
Thirsty roots will suck up all the water and heavy branches can prevent sunlight from reaching the soil at the base of the tree, creating a rough ecosystem for other plants to live and thrive in. This is why you will often see barren, empty spots at the base of trees in lawns, parks, and other areas.
If you feel like this is bringing down the overall look and appeal to your property, or if you just want some ways to take your landscaping to the next level, you will appreciate these favorite ideas.
Landscaping Ideas Around Trees
Whether you have mature trees or new trees, there are ideas for every scenario. You can work around the roots and the base of the tree and create a beautiful piece of landscaping if you just know a few things about how to do it.
Some trees will allow some sunlight in through their leaves and boughs, while others block light completely. It’s important to know how much if any, light is getting through before you plant anything at the base of the tree that requires sunlight to survive.
If you’re worried that the shade will destroy all of your hard work, check out these ideas for landscaping at the base of trees and under trees that block most or all of the sunlight. This will help you make the most of your outdoor space and make a good choice on how to landscape around your own trees.
1. Decorate at the base of the tree
Here’s a landscaping idea that is so easy to do. You can decorate at the base of the tree in a variety of ways. We will go into some of them in more detail, but you can use mulch, plants that thrive in shady areas, a rock garden, or any number of other great ideas to bring curb appeal and a personal touch to your trees.
From there, you can add garden decorations, coral bells, and other such things for a splash of color, whimsy, and fun. A few inches of mulch, some small stones, drought-tolerant plants such as succulents or groundcovers, and some nice lawn ornaments can really spruce up a space.
2. Build a tree ring
Many of the ideas we are sharing here involve creating a tree ring. You can do this with rocks, bricks, cinderblock, pavers, and more. Whatever materials you choose to build your tree ring, just be sure you do so with the health of the tree in mind. Be sure to come out at least 8 to 10 inches from the tree trunk. You can fill your tree ring with mulch, pine cones, or other materials, as long as they are safe for the tree and its roots.
3. Create a walkway
You can use paver stones, bricks, landscaping rocks, or other materials to create a walkway to and from your tree. Add colorful flowers and foliage on the sides for the walkway for added interest.
This idea can be used in conjunction with other ideas on the list. For example, you may place mulch around the base of the tree, then put a bench under the tree for resting in the shade, then add a stone pathway to all of it.
If you’re trying to work around existing roots, you can space out paver’s stones to create a pathway that goes in between the roots. Large trees have large roots and smaller trees will have smaller roots, so you can plan accordingly and also know that roots will grow over time, pushing some pavers or stones out of the way. You may need to re-work your pathway as the seasons and years pass.
4. Work around tree roots
Another idea is to work around the existing tree roots. If you have exposed tree roots, this can be a tripping hazard as well as impact the visual appeal of your landscaping. Exposed roots are also a hassle to mow around. However, if you try to cover the tree roots, it could actually suffocate them and kill the tree.
Instead, you need to find some creative ways to work around the tree roots. One way to do this is with groundcover plants. You can plant these in between the roots, without damaging the roots and when the groundcover plants grow out, they will cover the roots on top, giving a pleasant look, but they won’t smother the roots and will still allow airflow to get to those exposed root areas.
Here are some examples of groundcover plants to consider:
- Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
- Barrenroot (Epimedium)
- Garden ferns
- Spotted Deadnettle (Lamium maculatum)
- Creeping Liriope (liriope spicata)
- Yellow Archangel (Lamium galeobdolon)
- Sweet woodruff (gallium odoratum)
Avoid using a species that is invasive in your area. English Ivy, for example, is commonly used in low-light areas but has become very invasive throughout the United States.
You can also use mulch around exposed tree roots without damaging the roots or causing them to suffocate. Additionally, you could create a stone pathway, or a boardwalk built over the roots to protect them but also provide a safe space for people to walk.
5. Rock gardens around trees
There are many ways to spruce up the area at the base of a tree with rock gardens. Rocks and bricks can be a great plant alternative, and this is especially true if you already have plants in other parts of your yard. When you need to improve the landscaping around a tree, consider rock gardens instead of living plants.
While rocks make a great choice at the base of a tree, it’s important to use them correctly or you could kill your tree. You should leave at least 8 to 10 inches free around the tree trunk before you place your rocks.
6. Add a water feature
Still another fun idea for landscaping around trees or tree roots is to add a water feature. Maybe you’ve heard that water features and shade don’t mix. Honestly, it depends on where you live. There are some situations and climates where putting your water garden under a tree can actually be a good idea.
For example, this is very popular in Texas and other parts of the southern United States where the summers get very, very hot. It’s not unusual to see water features under trees and in the shade in areas with very hot climates like this.
If you opt for this idea, understand that maintenance will be very important, especially if you have leaves falling from the tree and into the water garden. Changing filters will be essential and you will also want to clean the area around the water fixture, such as walkways or raking the leaves from your lawn so that they don’t blow over into the water feature.
7. Mulch the base of the tree
If you mulch around the base of the tree, you get a clean, finished look and it’s super simple. Mulch is also an affordable option, so it’s perfect if you’re on a budget. The color, type, and amount of mulch you choose is pretty much up to you. It really is that easy!
8. Garden between two trees
If you have two trees in your yard and the space between them is not big enough for anything else, you might add a garden between the two trees. You could put a bench or chairs here for lounging and reading a book, some flowers, and plants that do well in shaded areas, and some rocks or mulch in between as well, to finish out the look.
Creating a nice, quiet spot to relax and find some peace is a great way to add to your curb appeal but also give new function to the space.
9. Grow a shade garden
There are certain plants and flowers that thrive in low light conditions, like those found under a large, mature tree. You can create your very own shade garden by planting these low-light loving plants under your tree. Great plants to consider are hostas, impatiens, coral bells, and magnolias. Here are more shade-loving perennial plants.
10. Build a raised garden bed
You can build a basket or wall around the base of the tree and add a raised garden bed for a unique look and smart use of the space. A raised bed will avoid the tree’s roots but still give you a place to plant any kinds of flowers or plants you want. You can even keep it very simple and plant grass on your raised garden bed.
11. Cinderblock garden beds
Many backyard gardeners have experienced first-hand the things you can do with cinderblocks. Ground cover plants can be a good choice to go in cinderblock garden beds around tree bases, or in between trees in your yard. These blocks can also be used to section off areas or create a layered look in your landscaping and garden.
12. Container gardening as an alternative
Finally, another alternative to any of these ideas is to use container gardening and then place them carefully around the tree. This also works in harsh climates with plants or flowers that need to be brought into a greenhouse or other protected area during harsh months and can be brought back out when the seasons are favorable.
You will have more flexibility this way. Container gardening also means you can move plants to and from the shade as needed, allowing you to fill space under your trees but also to put them into the sunlight when they need it.
Just make sure to water these plants daily, as they can dry up quickly.
13. Add some night lighting
If you add some night lighting to the area below your tree then you won’t lose sight of your hard work, even when the sun goes down. You can use solar lighting or electric landscape lighting to illuminate the areas around your trees, gardens, and even the outside of your home. This can be just the finishing touch you need to bring it all together.
Additional tips for landscaping ideas around trees
In addition to the creative ideas above, it’s important to maintain the existing soil level at the trunk of the tree. Oftentimes homeowners will create a raised border around a tree base and then fill it with soil to create a planting bed. This looks nice at first, but it’s a mistake because the extra soil around the tree base will cause the bark to rot. This can make the tree diseased or become infested with insects.
If you want a raised bed, use one of the techniques above, or create an inside border of about one to two feet away from the trunk first to avoid smothering the base of the tree with your soil.
It’s also important to avoid adding soil on top of your grass or turf. If you’re going to plant in an area that currently has turf, dig up and remove the existing grass before laying your soil.
Conclusion of landscaping ideas around trees
Exploring the best ideas for landscaping around trees can help you keep your trees healthy and beautiful while also improving the visual appeal of the rest of your property.
You can do a lot with a little money if you just know what to do. We hope these ideas will get you motivated and ready to plan your own landscaping. Getting creative is part of the fun. If you take care to protect the base of the tree and its roots, you can add a real touch of beauty to your landscaping, even around existing trees.
Lisa Clark is a freelance writer who grew up on farmland, then moved to the city, and has now retired back to her rural roots. She's having fun teaching her kids about gardening, planting flowers, and collecting houseplants.