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Trouble Growing Grass Under a Shade Tree

I live in Milwaukee, WI and have a red maple tree that is about 40 to 45 feet tall and 40 inches around. I am having trouble growing grass around the base of this tree. I have tried seeding with a shade mix and had no luck.

Your red maple is probably one of the red leafed varieties of Norway maple that fill our urban landscape. These trees have large leaves that prevent light and moisture from reaching the ground underneath. This along with their ability to out-compete grass for water and nutrients, makes it difficult to grow grass. Try using a shade and drought tolerant ground cover. Hosta, Lamium maculatum (deadnettle), Lamium galeobdolon ‘Variegatum’ (Variegated yellow archangel), coral bells, and lungwort are a few that will grow under these trees. Care must be taken during planting to avoid damaging the tree roots. Prepare a planting hole only slightly larger than the ground cover roots. Mulch once the area is planted. Make sure the soil around the new plantings is kept moist for the first season or two. If this seems like too much work, mulch the area under the tree with shredded bark or woodchips. It will eliminate the frustration of trying to grow grass and create a better environment for the tree.


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