9 Ways to Landscape Around Trees

Large Tree

With the right landscaping design, a tree can help grow a secret garden, add charming curb appeal, and even make the perfect resting spot.

Stumped for ways to make the most of your crepe myrtle, peach tree, or bottlebrush tree? Our nine ideas for landscaping around trees include Discover how these seven design ideas will help you landscape around trees and turn your front yard into a gorgeous standout.

9 ways to landscape around trees

1. Grow a shade garden

Shade Garden
Photo credit: Mark Levisay, CC BY 2.0

You may have once avoided sprucing up your tree’s trunk with beautiful flowers because you thought the shade would ruin all your hard work. But get those gloves on and those trowels out, because there are plenty of shade plants that will love the space beneath your tree.

Hostas, magnolias, impatiens, and coral bells will make excellent additions to your shade garden.

After dressing your trees up with a gorgeous garden space, consider creating a stone path that guides you through the garden.

A path makes maintaining your garden much more accessible, and it also invites visitors to take a closer look without stepping on your new plants.

2. Just add mulch

Wood Chip Mulch
Photo credit: Olya Adamovich, Pixabay

A layer of mulch covers exposed roots and adds a splash of color at the base of your tree. What color? What kind of mulch? That is all up to you.

If you plant crocuses or other flowers in the mulch around your tree you’ll have bursts of color in springtime. Or stick with hostas for some green amid the brown or other-colored mulch beneath the green of your tree.

3. Plant some flowers

Tree With Flowerbeds
Photo credit: kolibri5, Pixabay

Your tree doesn’t have to stand alone in your yard. Flowers add some company for your tree, and the pink, purple or red petunias or yellow daffodils planted in the shade underneath all those branches will draw you and visitors’ eyes.

If you really want to go crazy, make your tree the focal and high point (literally) of a flower bed in your front yard or back yard.

4. Build a retaining wall

A retaining wall around your tree can add a uniform look to the yard and create a stunning focal point. Instead of bare roots and patchy grass at the base of a tree, a retaining wall made of pavers or stone will add great beauty and charm to your tree.

Retaining walls are also creative solutions to hilly terrain or erosion problems near your tree.

5. Design a deck or patio around the tree

You’ve heard of trees growing inside homes, so why not have one grow through your outdoor living space? Building your patio or deck around a tree adds a significant dramatic effect, and your neighbors will be jealous they didn’t come up with the design first.

A tree growing right from your outdoor living space creates an even deeper connection with the environment as you lounge on a couch just 2 feet away from a giant plant. Not only will a tree on the deck or patio add excitement and serenity, but it will also provide excellent shade and coverage.

Keep in mind that a tree growing from your outdoor living space can be a high maintenance landscape design. Trees often change shape as they grow, which may affect the area on your deck or patio.

If a tree’s trunk continues to grow, your deck’s boards may snap. Trees will also produce tree litter that needs cleaning and may make your wooden structure prone to termites.

6. Night lighting

Landscape Lighting
Photo credit: Media Director / Outdoor Lighting by Robert E. Taft Landscape Architecture / CC BY-ND 2.0

Why let all your hard work disappear when the sun goes down? When designed right, landscape lighting can accentuate the design around your trees, highlight your home’s architecture, and even provide security when you need to step outside.

Landscape lighting around your trees is also a perfect way to set the mood. Are you looking forward to a relaxing dinner with friends? Get those appetizers ready, flip the switch, and invite everyone outside on the deck for a beautiful evening.

Have the surrounding trees light up the sky and turn off the lights near the door, because who wants to worry about flying beetles getting in the house when company is over?

7. Create a quiet spot

Photo credit: LEEROY Agency, Pixabay

The cool shade beneath your tree makes it the perfect spot to set up a quiet space to read a book, enjoy a cup of tea, or write in a journal. You can turn this quiet space into a place entirely made for you.

Do you enjoy resting in a hammock, or do you prefer a comfortable seat on a bench? What plants would you like to have near you as you relax under your tree and take in your outdoor space? Perhaps a small water feature by your feet will put you in the perfect mood, or a birdbath.

8. Plant a succulent garden

Photo credit: Rie Sadohara, Pexels

Though most succulents prefer sunlight, several hours of direct sunlight and scorching temperatures may burn these plants. Your tree plays a vital role in their growth by offering them a protective covering from too much sunshine and hot weather.

A succulent garden can add gorgeous texture and color to your landscape, as these plants grow in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Before getting your hands dirty and planting a succulent garden near your tree, it’s essential to know the basic gardening tips of these plants.

9. Edging

Edging is an excellent way to highlight specific areas of the lawn, hold in mulch, and keep any curious pets from digging around the tree’s roots. If you want visitors to see your stunning oak tree, consider edging the tree’s base with small stones or bricks and adding layers of textured mulch. The mulch enhances the tree’s beauty and health, while the edging holds the mulch in place and makes the base of the tree pop.

Edging also can be a barrier to protect the roots from people, pets, and lawn mowers. Hedges can make an excellent barrier that accentuates the tree while also limiting access.

FAQs About Landscaping Around Trees

1. Are exposed roots bad for my tree?

Surfacing tree roots may make your tree vulnerable to the sharp blades of a mower. When equipment damages your tree roots, your tree becomes susceptible to disease due to open wounds.

Exposed roots may also prevent grass from growing, become a tripping hazard, and even lift structures.

2. How can I landscape around exposed roots?

Mulching around your tree can be a great way to cover up roots and landscape around your tree. To help prevent tripping, consider building a walkway around the trees’ roots to guide visitors and provide a safer path.

Piling on soil may seem like a great idea, but you’ll suffocate your tree this way. Like you, your tree’s roots need oxygen to breathe. Avoid adding a thick layer of soil and stick with the mulch instead.

3. How much mulch should be around a tree?

The University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension recommends spreading mulch in an even layer 2 to 3 inches deep around your tree. Do not layer more than 3 inches of mulch as over-mulching can kill your tree.

The mulch should extend outward to at least the tree’s drip line, the circumference of the tree canopy where water drips onto the ground. Avoid piling the mulch against the tree trunk, as this encourages disease, insects, rodents, and root problems.

Pull the mulch back a few inches from the trunk to allow good air circulation.

4. Can you put landscape fabric around trees?

Some gardeners swear by landscape fabric, while others vow never to lay it on their lawn again. Those in favor of landscape fabric use it to prevent rock mulch from sinking into the soil, limit erosion, and reduce weeds. Because trees don’t require any digging maintenance, gardeners prefer to use landscape fabric for trees rather than gardens or flower beds where digging will often ruin the material. Organic mulches also require routine maintenance and replacements, whereas you can replace an inorganic mulch like landscape fabric about once a year.

Cons of landscape fabric include decomposition gradually clogging the fabric’s drainage pores, a lack of biodiversity, and minimal organic materials. For a healthier soil, consider using an organic mulch like wood chips or shredded bark.

5. How can I control weeds around my tree?

Keep the lawn mower and weed wacker in the garage. Using mechanical means to control weeds can cause severe damage to your tree. The blades of a mower or trimmer could injure the tree’s base and potentially disturb the movement of water and nutrients through the tree. A wound in the bark or wood also makes your tree more vulnerable to fungal disease.

Safer solutions for controlling weeds around your tree include mulching or applying herbicides. Mulch suppresses weed growth by preventing sunlight from reaching the weeds.

Herbicides, such as glyphosate (Roundup), can be effective at killing weeds and have low toxicity to humans, according to the Trees for Energy Conservation Extension. Keep in mind that glyphosate can damage plants with green foliage, so it’s best not to let the herbicides come in contact with non-target plants. Users must wear personal protective equipment and follow all safety guidelines.

When to call a landscaping pro

While many of these tree landscape ideas can be turned into fun DIY projects, hiring a landscape professional near you is a valuable option.

Working with a professional helps eliminate costly mistakes, gain further landscaping ideas, and ensure that you are not risking your tree’s health.

The last thing you want to do is build a landscape design on your own and later find out mismanaged curb appeal damaged your favorite tree.

Main image credit: Skitterphoto, Pexels

Jane Purnell

Jane Purnell

Jane Purnell is a freelance writer and actor in New York City. She earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia and enjoys a warm cup of French press coffee.