By Jennifer Poindexter
Japanese maple trees put on quite the show when added to a landscape. These trees produce vibrant, deep red leaves. The leaves appear greener the more sunlight they receive.
However, they can grow to be as tall as twenty feet, so it’s vital you have room for such a tree before deciding on adding it to your landscape.
Once the tree is planted, don’t stop there. Add a few additional plants around the bottom of the tree to add even more color and character to your landscape.
Here are things to plant under a Japanese maple tree:
What You’ll Learn:
- The growing conditions required by a Japanese maple tree.
- The significance of understanding the needs of plants you wish to grow beneath the Japanese maple.
- A variety of plants that are compatible with and can be planted under a Japanese maple tree, enhancing its visual appeal.
Growing Conditions for a Japanese Maple Tree
It’s important to know what a Japanese maple tree needs to best understand what can grow beneath it.
Though the lighting needs may slightly vary between this tree and the plants grown near it, the soil types and hardiness zones should not. Japanese maple trees remain hardy in planting zones five through eight.
This tree also needs a growing location with morning sunlight and protection from the afternoon sun. It also prefers soil that’s well-draining but also evenly damp.
Keep these tips in mind when selecting a plant to grow beneath your Japanese maple tree.
Things to Plant Under a Japanese Maple Tree
The Japanese maple tree is a gorgeous plant. It’s great for adding color to any landscape. If you’re looking for ideas of what to plant beneath it, let the following ideas guide you.
Here’s a list of things to plant under a Japanese maple tree:
Hostas are plants that fit into many different scenarios. They provide a polished, finished look to barren spots in the landscape.
If you’re interested in adding hostas beneath your Japanese maple tree, be sure to provide a growing space with partial sunlight and well-draining soil. These plants remain hardy in planting zones three through nine.
2. Liriope Grass
Liriope grass has a wispy foundation of green foliage with short stems filled with light purple blooms. This plant is known for being quite durable and survives in areas with both sun and shade.
Plus, they can thrive in various types of soil. If you think liriope grass would be a good fit beneath your Japanese maple, then consider adding it as a perennial if you live in planting zones six through ten.
Astilbes are unique plants which also go by the name false goat’s beard. This plant produces green foliage and a triangle shaped cluster of blooms.
When growing astilbe, provide a space with partial sunlight. It’s important the plant is protected from the harsh afternoon rays. This plant also needs soil that’s evenly and consistently damp and well-draining. Expect astilbe to remain hardy in planting zones three through eight.
4. Japanese Forest Grass
Japanese forest grass resembles monkey grass. It has foliage which waterfalls downward and can reach heights of almost two feet. The plant also spreads up to two feet in width.
This grass needs full to partial shade along with soil that’s nutrient-dense and well-draining. Japanese forest grass remains hardy in planting zones five through nine.
5. Japanese Anemones
Japanese anemones are sweet flowers which range in height from three to five feet tall. These plants have a base of green foliage and produce traditional pink blooms.
If this flower would be a good fit beneath your Japanese maple tree, be sure to supply a growing location with partial shade and soil that’s evenly damp and drains adequately. The plant can handle more sunlight, but you must provide more water in brighter conditions. Japanese anemones are hardy in planting zones four through eight.
Rhododendrons are bushier plants which produce fluffy, colorful blooms. This plant prefers growing in areas with more moisture and mild weather.
If you live in this type of location, ensure rhododendrons are given soil that’s nutrient-dense and well-draining. They also thrive best in areas of spotty sunlight. Rhododendrons should remain hardy in planting zones four through nine.
7. Dwarf Mondo Grass
As the name suggests, dwarf mondo grass produces blades of grassy foliage. This plant only reaches heights of around six-inches tall.
However, it could be a great way to add some additional color beneath a Japanese maple tree. When growing this plant, be sure to supply it with soil that’s evenly damp and well-draining. It also needs dappled to full shade. Dwarf mondo grass remains hardy in planting zones six through ten.
Vincas are low-growing plants with deep green foliage and small, vibrant blooms. They’re a great way to add a splash of color to your landscape.
If you’d like to add vincas to your growing area, be sure to supply them with plenty of sunlight and well-draining soil. These flowers should remain hardy in planting zones nine through eleven. However, they may be grown as annuals in lower planting zones.
9. Japanese Iris
Japanese iris flowers stand tall on the end of long, green stems. Then the blooms produce a variety of colors and shapes.
When growing Japanese irises, be sure to plant them in areas with full sunlight and soil that’s evenly and consistently damp but also well-draining. Expect these flowers to remain hardy in planting zones four through nine.
10. Coral Bells
Coral bells are another great plant to add beneath a tree because they come in a variety of colors and also have flexibility in their growing conditions.
If you decide to add coral bells to your landscape, know that they can thrive in areas of both full sun and full shade as long as they have quality, well-draining soil. These plants should remain hardy in planting zones four through nine.
11. Golden Sedge
Golden sedge is a beautiful plant that produces lush gold foliage. The more sunlight the plant receives, the brighter its colors become.
If you’d like to add this plant to your landscape, it should remain hardy in planting zones five through eight. It also needs a growing location with full to partial sunlight and soil that’s evenly damp and well-draining.
12. Bleeding Hearts
Bleeding hearts are a favorite of mine. They’re small, bushier plants that produce tear-drop blooms which resemble bleeding hearts.
If you’d like to grow this plant, provide a space with partial shade and soil that’s well-draining but also evenly damp. These plants are quite durable as they remain hardy in planting zones two through nine.
Azaleas are beautiful bushy plants with bright blooms. They’re an excellent way to add color to dark places in your landscape, such as beneath a tree.
When adding azaleas to your landscape, be sure to embrace their various colors as these plants bloom in white, pink, orange, yellow, purple, and red. They remain hardy in planting zones six through nine and need a growing space with dappled sunlight and soil that’s evenly damp but well-draining.
Hellebores are low-growing plants with dark foliage and cup-shaped blooms which also come in darker shades of red and have light pink accents as well.
Hellebores only reach heights of about one foot and need a growing location with partial shade and well-draining soil. Expect hellebores to remain hardy in planting zones six through nine.
Our last option for things to plant under a Japanese maple tree is a fern. These plants are great for adding subtle color to any area.
How hardy they are depends upon the variety planted. However, they all need well-draining soil and partial shade.
You now have a variety of options for plants that grow well beneath a Japanese maple tree. Pick the plant that adds the colors you desire and start creating a plan for your landscape.
Once you’ve decided, ensure you supply adequate growing conditions and understand the plant’s hardiness zones to ensure it’s a good fit for your situation. Then begin the beautification process beneath your Japanese maple tree.
- Japanese maple trees can grow up to 20 feet tall and have vibrant, deep red leaves that become greener with more sunlight exposure.
- These trees need a location with morning sunlight, protection from the afternoon sun, and prefer evenly damp but well-draining soil. They are hardy in planting zones five through eight.
- Suitable plants to grow beneath a Japanese maple tree include Hostas, Liriope Grass, Astilbes, Japanese Forest Grass, Japanese Anemones, Rhododendron, Dwarf Mondo Grass, Vincas, Japanese Iris, Coral Bells, Golden Sedge, Bleeding Hearts, Azaleas, Hellebores, and Ferns.
- When choosing a plant to grow under the Japanese maple tree, always consider the plant’s hardiness zone, light, and soil requirements to ensure they’re compatible.
Quick Reference Planting Chart for Beneath a Japanese Maple Tree
|Plant||Light Requirements||Soil Type||Hardiness Zones||Height (approx.)|
|Liriope Grass||Sun and shade||Various||6-10||Short|
|Astilbes||Partial sunlight (morning)||Damp and well-draining||3-8||Varies|
|Japanese Forest Grass||Full to partial shade||Nutrient-dense||5-9||Up to 2 feet|
|Japanese Anemones||Partial shade||Damp and well-draining||4-8||3-5 feet|
|Dwarf Mondo Grass||Dappled to full shade||Damp and well-draining||6-10||6 inches|
|Vincas||Plenty of sunlight||Well-draining||Annuals or 9-11||Low-growing|
|Japanese Iris||Full sunlight||Damp and well-draining||4-9||Tall|
|Coral Bells||Full sun to full shade||Well-draining||4-9||Varies|
|Golden Sedge||Full to partial sunlight||Damp and well-draining||5-8||Gold foliage|
|Bleeding Hearts||Partial shade||Damp and well-draining||2-9||Small, bushy|
|Azaleas||Dappled sunlight||Damp and well-draining||6-9||Bushy, bright blooms|
|Hellebores||Partial shade||Well-draining||6-9||Up to 1 foot|