Lightscape: Brooklyn's New Winter Spectacular—Tickets On Sale Now

Plants & Gardens Blog

Shrubs in a Tree Bed?

My neighbor wants to plant some small shrubs in our tree bed. Is this a good idea?

Probably not. In general, gardening in your tree bed is a good move. Not only will it beautify your block, it’ll help remind pet walkers and other pedestrians that this a spot to grow living plants, not a trashcan or proverbial fire hydrant. But you’ll want to choose plants that won’t compete with the tree for water. Flowers or groundcovers with shallow root systems are your best bet. Good options include spring bulbs like snowdrops, crocuses, and miniature daffodils (which are shunned by squirrels rooting for food), small annuals with shallow roots like zinnias and impatiens, and perennial groundcovers like bugleweed or stonecrop. When you do plant them, use a hand cultivator to gently loosen the top inch or two of soil without damaging tree roots, which are often quite close to the surface.

For additional plant choices, see A New Tree Bed Garden. To learn more about street tree care, read Caring for City Street Trees.


  • Kit Schneider August 13, 2013

    My Echinacea plants come back every year and are beautiful. This year a couple of plants have stayed green even though they are
    flowering. Do you know why they haven’t turned their usual color?

Submit a Comment

Please keep your comments relevant to this article. Comments are moderated and will be posted after BBG staff review. Your email address is required; it will not be displayed, but may be needed to confirm your comments.

Image, top of page: