Which Plants Can Survive behind a Cedar Tree?

Cedar trees (Cedrus spp.) Are conifers that thrive in acidic soils with thick canopies that prevent sunlight and water from reaching the ground below. This dry, dark and acidic soil can be difficult for plants to live in, leaving the region under the cedar tree dull and unattractive. But a few ground covers, perennials, shrubs and ferns require acidic soils and tolerate drought and shade, and such plants will successfully develop under cedar trees.

Ground Covers

Acid-loving ground covers that tolerate shade and dry soils will creep across the ground under the cedar tree, making a carpet of leaf that conceals the unattractive ground. Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) is a broadleaf evergreen that grows about 6 inches tall in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8, in partial or full shade and acidic well-drained soils. Once shown, wintergreen can withstand drought and dry soils. Several cultivars of Japanese spurge (Pachysandra terminalis) thrive in nesting areas and bear all of soil types and pH levels, including dry acidic soil. “Variegata” and “Green Sheen” are just two cultivars growing as ground cover in USDA zones 3 through 9. Reaching heights between 15 and 20 inches tall, both the “Variegata” and “Green Sheen” are deer resistant and drought tolerant.


Many species of perennials may endure the harsh growing conditions found under cedar trees. “Big Blue” lilyturf (Liriope muscari “Large Blue”) produces grass-like leaf at a clumping form and spikes of purplish blue flowers. It rises in acidic to neutral, dry or normal soil in shaded places found throughout USDA plant hardiness zones 6 through 9. This 12- to 16-inch-tall, drought tolerant plant is also resistant to rabbits and deer. Bergenia (Bergenia cordifolia) is a shade-loving perennial reaching 1 to 3 feet in USDA zones 3 through 8, with reddish stalks bearing pinkish red blooms in late winter and early spring. Bergenia grows best in acidic, neutral or alkaline moist soil but can tolerate drought once established.


The azalea (Rhododendron) genus provides many acid-loving flowering shrubs, including a variety of cultivars and species that develop in USDA zones 4 through 9. Many azaleas grow best in dappled shade with moist soil and cannot manage dry conditions. But Florida flame azalea (Rhododendron austrinum) is a drought-tolerant deciduous species that grows between 8 and 10 feet tall. “Variegatus” aralia (Eleutherococcus sieboldianus “Variegatus”) is just another deciduous shrub growing in shaded regions that tolerates drought and dry lands. “Variegatus” is not picky about pH levels and may develop in acidic, neutral or alkaline soils. This 6- to 8-foot-tall shrub shows green foliage edged in creamy white and white black berry-like fruit.


Ferns are generally found in shaded areas, where they get plenty of moisture. But a few species can tolerate some degree of drought once established and will provide interesting texture to the region under cedar trees. Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) grows up to 3 feet tall with light green fronds in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 through 8. Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) tolerates drought conditions and dry, shallow and rocky soil in USDA zones 3 through 9. This cow and deer resistant fern grows between 1 and 2 feet tall, creating green lanced-shaped fronds with a leathery texture. with heights. Both lady fern and Christmas fern prefer acidic soils with a pH level between 7 and 4.

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