How to grow grass under pine trees

How to Grow Grass and Plants Under Trees


Kelly Burke

Kelly Burke

Kelly Burke is a professional turf manager for a manicured corporate campus in New England. He is accredited in organic land care and is a licensed pesticide applicator. He formerly managed the turfgrass as a golf course superintendent and has held several senior management positions at private country clubs overseeing high maintenance lawns.

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Updated on 01/20/22

Reviewed by

Kathleen Miller

Reviewed by Kathleen Miller

Kathleen Miller is a highly-regarded Master Gardener and Horticulturist who shares her knowledge of sustainable living, organic gardening, farming, and landscape design. She founded Gaia's Farm and Gardens, a working sustainable permaculture farm, and writes for Gaia Grows, a local newspaper column.  She has over 30 years of experience in gardening and sustainable farming.

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The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

If you've ever tried to grow grass under a pine tree, you might be frustrated at the lack of coverage. Grass doesn't like to grow under pine trees for several reasons, including:

  1. The soil is acidic
  2. There is little sunlight
  3. The competition for water is intense
  4. Pine needles fall straight down, creating a heavy blanket that further limits sunlight getting to the grass

For these reasons, many landscaping pros discourage planting grass at all under pine trees. But if you insist on making a go with grass under a pine tree, there are some tactics you can try. Additionally, other plants that might grow in that space, depending on your situation (and your luck). 

Growing Grass Under Pine Trees

Getting grass to grow under a pine tree requires dealing with the four problems mentioned above: acidic soil, little water and sunlight, and pine needles. To increase your chances of success: 

  • Clean the area of needles and debris to expose the soil (and any grass that's there) to sunlight and moisture.
  • Till the soil, preferably to a depth of 6 inches; however, dig only as deeply as the tree roots allow and do not damage the roots. For the same reason, it's best to dig by hand and not with a large rototiller.
  • Test the soil and apply lime, as needed, to decrease the acidity (raise the pH) of the soil; most grasses do best with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5.
  • Remove all tree limbs below 10 feet; prune or thin upper limbs, as practical, to increase available sunlight.
  • Use fescue seed for its shade tolerance; in the southern zone, you can also try zoysia, Bermuda, and centipede grasses.

Growing grass in shade beneath pine trees is no easy task, and requires constant attention. You will likely need to apply lime more than once, and it can take one to two years to have the desired effect of balancing the pH of the soil. It's also important to keep the area free of pine needles, as dead needles are what make the soil acidic, in additional to blocking sunlight. Plan on additional watering to compensate for competition from tree roots.

 Illustration: The Spruce / Julie Bang 

Growing Other Plants Under Pine Trees

Some plants are tolerant of the unfriendly conditions under pine trees, meaning they can handle shade and acidic soil. For best results, amend the soil with lime a year before planting to balance the pH. Start with small plants to minimize root damage when digging holes. Be sure to space the plants appropriately for their size at maturity.

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Consider Mulch Instead

If you've thrown up your hands and given up the idea of planting anything under a pine tree, your best option is probably using mulch in your field or lawn. Alternatively, you can simply encircle the no-growth-zone with an edging material and let the pine straw serve as your mulch. Extend the bed to the drip line of the tree to minimize yard cleanup. Landscape rock works fine, too, but it doesn't blend with the pine needles as well as mulch does, so you'll have to rake them up more often.

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Article Sources

The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Perry, L. Turf Wars - Trees and Lawns. University of Vermont Department of Plant and Soil Science

  2. Soil Acidity and Liming: Basic Information for Farmers and Gardeners. North Carolina State Extension

How to Grow Grass Under Pine Trees? Find Out Here!

If you’ve ever tried growing grass or any plant under your pine tree, your efforts might have been frustrating as grass doesn’t grow easily under pine trees due to various reasons.

Pine trees can form a lot of shade, preventing grass from growing or even maturing under low sunlight.

However, with great care and strategy, it is possible to have grass grow under your plant and achieve that landscape you dream of getting.


How Can You Grow Grass Under Pine Trees?

To grow grass under pine trees, the process involves clearing the area of pine needles, tilling the soil well, testing the pH of the ground, pruning pine tree limbs, selecting the type of grass to grow under your pine trees, and caring for the grass as it grows. 


How to Grow Grass Under Your Pine Tree in 5 Simple Steps

Grass is a wonderful green and environmentally friendly alternative to stones, bricks, artificial decorations, and rubber shields for decorating the space under your pine tree.

Grass increases the dynamism of your garden.

Below is the process of growing grass under your pine trees:


1. Clear the Ground Cover

The ground under pine trees is normally filled with pine needles which break down from the tree and cover the ground.

The branches act as mulching, but they could cover the ground and prevent plants from sprouting from the ground. The setting could also be having weeds that should be cleared.


2. Prune Low Hanging Tree Limbs

Pruning tree branches and limbs will help more sunlight to reach your grass. The first precedence should be given to wounded and abnormal branches.

Cut adequately so that the tree is also not left bald.


3. Choose the Type of Grass to Grow

The type of grass to grow determines how much fertilizer and lime you will apply to balance the soil pH, determines what you buy from the local gardening store (whether grass seeds or premade lawns), and determines how deep the ground can be tilled to plant the grass.

It is advisable to select grass that grows well in acidic soil, such as Zoysia and centipede grass. Centipede grass thrives in a 5-6 soil pH level, while Zoysia grass loves a 5.8-6.5 soil pH.

You could also select shade-tolerant grass such as St. Augustine grass.


3. Till the Land

The next step is tilling the land using common farm tools to prepare for the grass planting.


4. Measure the Soil pH and Apply a Balancing Agent Adequately

After tilling the land, measure the soil pH to determine that the pH is according to the specific grass growing conditions.

You could use a commercial pH tester or even use household items such as vinegar, baking soda, or red cabbage for testing. 

Use lime or ashwood to balance an acidic soil.


5. Plant and Care for the Grass

The final step involves planting the grass in the land you prepared under the pine trees. Care for the grass by regularly trimming and watering.

Add nutrients in case you see signs of lack.

Grass is an important land cover and can give you a lovely aesthetic when combined with pine trees. Growing grass under pine trees can be quite a challenge, but it certainly is an exciting task.

We hope with these tips, and you will now manage growing your grass under your pine tree to get the best landscape possible.


Conditions Under Pine Trees

The environmental conditions under pine trees will determine the care needed for you to grow grass under the tree successfully.

The following are some factors around pine tree areas:

  • The soil is acidic. The acidity can be high or low, depending on your soil type.
  • Sunlight levels are low, making the area a partial or full shade. Sunlight levels are controlled by the amount and density of foliage of the tree.
  • The tree and plants roots may compete for resources, namely, nutrients and water.
  • Pine needles may cover the ground, prevent sunlight from reaching the ground plants, cause diseases, act as mulching, and become nutritious once consumed by bacteria. Pine straw is also flammable.


Factors That Favor Grass Growth

When you plant grass under your pine tree, you would, of course, want the grass to thrive on a beautiful green lawn.

For this to occur, you need to provide the most optimum conditions that favor grass growth under the pine tree.

These factors include:


Soil temperature

Grass grows steadily when temperatures at 4 inches (10 cm) depths reach above 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius).

At this temperature, plant-soil moisture absorption increases, increasing the uptake of nutrients and growth rate.


Sunlight and water

Light and water are essential components of plant photosynthesis that provide growth energy for the grass. The more sunlight accessed by the grass, the faster it’ll grow.

Excess water means that plant growth will slow down and jumpstart root rotting, killing the grass. Too little water and your grass ends up dying with the leaves becoming maltreated.


Lime and fertilizers

Lime helps control soil pH, which is necessary for speedy grass growth. Fertilizers provide nutrients such as Phosphorus, Potassium, and Nitrogen, which enhance plant growth and leaf formation.


Grass type

The type of grass will determine how fast or how slow the grass will grow.


Pros and Cons of Growing Grass Under Pine Trees



The following are some of the benefits of growing grass under your pine tree.

  • Increases your general landscape aesthetics and visual appeal
  • Grass will improve flood control
  • Grass will be absorbing excess moisture, which could have otherwise damaged the pine tree.
  • The grass may also help in the absorption of excess fertilizer and the breakdown of different organic compounds.
  • Grass also increases water infiltration to the soil
  • The grass traps runoff water sediments
  • Grass could help control temperatures through evapotranspiration
  • Green plants, including lawns, help reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere while giving back oxygen through photosynthesis, increasing air quality.
  • Grass could help reduce noise pollution
  • Appealing lawns are therapeutic
  • Taking care of the grass could become a wonderful hobby.


  • Grass can be a habitat for some pests and diseases
  • The grass may compete for nutrients with the pine
  • Grass needs to be maintained regularly through cutting, feeding, and watering
  • Requires time, effort, and money investment


Frequently Asked Questions About How To Grow Grass Under Pine Trees


What other plants can I plant to cover the ground under my pine tree?

You could plant flowers such as bleeding heart, foxglove, bergenia, camellia, hosta, lily of the valley, astilbe, and shrubs such as gardenia, itea, holly, azaleas, and ferns.


What happens if the grass is not growing?

Check the soil pH, which is a common determinant for grass growth. Also, control your watering schedules to avoid underwatering or overwatering.

What kind of grass grows under trees and pines in acidic soil?

Which lawn grass grows well under coniferous trees? What grows under the trees? Why doesn't grass grow under conifers?

Special grass mixtures for sowing in the shade or under coniferous trees with acidic soil are available from us. "Lawn Yard on Leninsky". Our phones in Moscow: +7 (495) 294-80-80, +7 (919) 99-88-770 Write to What's App [email protected]

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It is not always possible to grow a beautiful lawn on a garden plot. The reasons for this may be different, but one of the common ones is soil acidification due to coniferous plants. Those site owners who are faced with this problem often ask themselves the question: “What grass grows under pines and Christmas trees, what to plant in these places?”.

In garden plots you can often find a coniferous plant, or even more than one. Although spruces and pines purify the air and give the site a special charm, these trees can adversely affect the quality of the soil, as well as horticultural and horticultural crops. What grass grows on acidic soil and why doesn't a lawn form under coniferous trees?

Why doesn't anything grow under the trees and pines?

Coniferous trees, especially spruce, grow rather quickly. The crown of an adult tree in diameter can reach twelve meters, which means that a fairly thick shadow forms under it, preventing the penetration of sunlight.

The ground under the trees is constantly strewn with needles, which makes the soil acidic and unsuitable for many crops. For this reason, before thinking about planting a lawn, it is advisable to find out what kind of grass grows under pines and fir trees.

The superficial root system also has a bad effect on the condition of the soil - coniferous trees actively absorb moisture and nutrients contained in the ground.

Which grass will benefit from shade and acidic soil?

Acidic soil is no reason not to plant a lawn. It is necessary to find out what kind of grass grows under pines and other coniferous plants. Small grass prefers acidic soil:

1) Common Oxalis;

2) Wintergreen round-leaved;

3) European helix;

4) Two leaf mine;

5) Shooting bent grass.

This grass is not picky about the conditions, germinates well and is easy to care for. The first four types of grass are not really designed to create a beautiful and dense lawn, they are more like self-seeding that can grow under a Christmas tree.

If you want to plant a lawn, but don't know what kind of grass grows in acidic soil, be sure to take a closer look at bent grass.

This plant is short and belongs to the grass family. After planting the seeds and forming the root system, the bent grows into a lush, ten-centimeter bush, which over time “spreads” itself over the site with a fluffy and bright carpet.

The bent grass does not need to be cut often, and sometimes it is not cut at all. It prevents the growth of weeds, protects plant roots from frost, and the soil from lack of moisture and excessive insolation.

How to sow bent grass?

To create an ideal lawn on a plot with coniferous plants, you need not only to know what kind of grass grows in acidic soil, but also how to sow it correctly:

1) Before sowing bent grass, it is recommended to prepare the ground: fertilize and drain;

2) If the soil is too acidic, it is better to lower the pH with lime. This must be done so that the acidic soil does not turn into marshy over time, as this is harmful to all crops in the garden;

3) Before sowing, bent grass seeds are usually mixed with wet sawdust (proportion: one to ten), as they are quite small and look like dust. After planting, it is not necessary to sprinkle the seeds with earth or deepen them into the soil;

4) Watering is especially important for bentgrass. Since conifers absorb water abundantly, you need to carefully monitor soil moisture. However, if the grass has turned yellow and lost its decorative appearance, this does not mean at all that it has died. After heavy rain or watering, the bentgrass will quickly return to its normal appearance and continue to grow.

5) It is better to choose lighted areas for planting a lawn from bent grass, but such grass can also develop well under the crown of coniferous trees.

Lawn care from bent grass

Which grass grows under pine trees and does not require special care? The shoot bent grass combines all these qualities and that is why the lawn from it is often called the "lawn for the lazy." It is easy to take care of bent grass:

1) It is recommended to mow and remove the grass from the site before frosts. This must be done so that the lawn does not lose its decorative effect, since in the spring the old bunches of grass can no longer be removed without harming the new ones;

2) After the snow has melted, you need to carry out aeration - walk around the area in special shoes with spikes or pierce the lawn with a pitchfork. Then the site must be watered in two stages with special nutrient solutions from fertilizers;

3) Do not forget to make sure that the bent grass does not get into the beds, because it is quite difficult to remove it from there. This grass is considered a weed, so before sowing it is better to enclose the area allotted for the lawn with a special border.

Now that you know what grasses grow in acidic soil as well as under pines, it's not necessary to remove all the conifers from the site or try to lower the pH of the soil. If you want to buy grass mixtures or bent grass monoseeds, please contact us. Our phones in Moscow: +7 (495) 294-80-80, +7 (919) 99-88-770 Write to What's App [email protected]

Lawn on a forest plot: How to make a lawn on a forest plot or not at all, expert advice will most likely need to be cut down. And the hurricane wind here will be a consequence, not a cause.

The reason for everything is the lawn.

Windsor Companies

I want it, and that's it
“Why do I need this tree stand? - We cut down the “excess”, leaving only tall trees. They, of course, do not need to be removed - in fact, because of them, the site was bought. Instead of wild vegetation, I want to see a lawn, ”the customer formulates the problem like this.

It would seem very reasonable. In the end, he bought this site not to make his way through the weeds, but to enjoy and relax, walking through the culturally designed forest. And after several months of construction devastation on the site, this desire intensifies and strengthens in it at times.

And now we will tell you what this idyll will look like in some five years. In one beautiful spring, flocks of bark beetles will fly in and kill almost all the trees in just a month. Or one no less beautiful winter in windy weather, the trunks will simply fall down, destroying everything in its path. Silent question and surprise in the eyes of the customer: why?


The thing is that the normal living conditions of trees are disturbed, and it is difficult for "adult" plants to adapt to changes. At first, the root system simply starts to work worse, the roots die off, which do not have access to oxygen, water and minerals. Then the immunity of the trees decreases. Bark beetles "smell" weakened trees and attack them. And then everything is simple: the very first storm warning - and the wind brings down a rotten tree with weak roots. Sad picture.

And young, more promising trees have long been cut down - we fulfilled the customer's desire to clear the area for a lawn. This is where arborists and plant pathologists are usually called. However, getting the forest out of this state can be very difficult and expensive. Yes, and success is not guaranteed.

Good question: How to save the trees on the site during the construction of the house


There will be no perfect lawn “in the forest”
We, landscape designers, just as much as the owner himself, want the purchased forest area to please for many years - it does not bring losses, does not require increased attention and expensive “resuscitation” measures. And that is why we discourage cultivated lawns. Why?

1. You will have to remove the top layer of soil…
But it took decades for an ecosystem with its rich biodiversity to form. Microorganisms, fungi, insects living in this forest floor build symbiotic relationships with trees and shrubs, organizing a whole system of forest cenosis. There is no top layer - the roots of the tree begin to suffer.

J. Paul Moore Photography

2. … and remove the litter
The litter plays a special role in the formation of the topsoil. But in a forest where there is a lawn, litter cannot be preserved - neither coniferous nor deciduous. Otherwise, the lawn will not live. Consequently, the litter is removed as garbage. But for us it is "garbage". And for trees, it is a necessary part of the forest ecosystem. Remove the litter and the ecosystem collapses. The processes of soil formation and plant nutrition will be disrupted. Mushrooms, bacteria, birds, animals, without which the normal and healthy development of plants is impossible, will leave the system.

ART Story Studio

3. "Green grass" will not work
Dense turf of the lawn under the trees noticeably worsens the aeration properties of the soil. But not only the tree suffers from a lack of root nutrition. In turn, its crown does not let enough sunlight into the lawn. As a result, the grass does not grow intensively, it loses its rich shade. Most likely, you will find a thinned and discolored lawn.

A beautiful lawn in a forest area is unlikely - because of the acidity in the composition of the soil, which is harmful to lawn grasses, constant litter and insufficient insolation.

Field Outdoor Spaces

4. The choice is: rot or moss
So, in a forest area, the grass does not have enough oxygen, which is necessary for the oxidation of minerals and the decomposition of organic matter. Without it, neither fertilizer nor watering will benefit the lawn - on the contrary, stagnant water on the surface will cause the grass to rot.

In pine areas where the soil is sandy, the lawn may become covered with moss. Its appearance is facilitated by a lack of nutrients in the soil and increased acidity, as well as shading and too low grass cutting. All this weakens the herbage and causes the appearance of bald spots. Moss spores fall on bare areas of the soil and easily germinate there.

Agava-M Landscape design of your site

5. If you can't, but really want to, you can
It is clear that there is no absolute ban. We only warn that a lawn in a shady forest area can hardly be called "low maintenance". You will have to constantly fight for the grass cover - it is depleted from a lack of water, food and lighting. The grass under the trees does not grow well - you will have to re-sow it every year or re-lay the lawn.

Rolled lawn: A lawn that you can take with you


So now, not landscaping the forest area at all? - Well, why not? It's just better to do it in a special way.

Things to consider
Your project should not interfere with the naturalness of the site: leave the forest the right to look untouched. To do this, the site will have to be designed, consciously allocate open and closed spaces: on some, to preserve a holistic natural environment, on others - man-made.

ART Story Studio

Step 1. Limit yourself to clearing
Remove stumps and deadwood, cut down dangerous and diseased trees, weedy undergrowth and shrubs - in a word, give the site the features of a cultivated forest.

How trees are felled and stumps are uprooted

Step 2. Lay paths along the old paths

Your task is not to damage and preserve the surface root system of trees as much as possible. And for this you need a surface layer of forest soil - the appropriate thickness, friability and moisture level. If the site already had a lawn, the surface layer will have to be re-created (or - goodbye, trees). It may take more than one season.

Bliss Garden Design, LLC

Step 3. Plant Shrubs or Ground Covers Instead of Lawn
Plant shade-tolerant ornamental shrubs in groups or arrays on the edges of the lawn instead of lawn, which in the shade will still not work well and will gradually thin out.

Plant ground cover plants adapted to growing in the shade. In some places, place shady mixborders of flowering and decorative leafy perennials.

High Level: How to use the layering principle in plantings

Hursthouse Landscape Architects and Contractors

Instead of conclusions
Lawn is cheaper for customers than forest plots.

Learn more