Grass Under Crepe Myrtle: How-To Guide + Alternative Options

The crepe myrtle, a beloved plant in gardens, is known for its brilliant flowers and graceful shape.

But what about the space beneath these beautiful trees? Can it be utilized to grow lush, green grass? The answer isn’t straightforward because several factors come into play.

Grass can grow under crepe myrtles, but it can be challenging due to the shade and competition for water and nutrients. Success largely depends on the grass species selected, soil preparation, and maintenance practices. Crepe myrtles with denser canopies may create too much shade for grass to grow well.

In the following sections, we’ll look into the challenges of growing grass under crepe myrtles, discuss the best grass species for shaded areas, and provide a step-by-step guide on how to establish and maintain your grass.

We’ll also explore alternative options for areas under crepe myrtles, including shade-tolerant ground covers and companion plants.

So, read on to discover how to transform the space under your crepe myrtle into a thriving part of your garden!

Key Takeaways

  • Grass under crepe myrtles is possible but can be challenging due to shade and competition for resources. Choosing shade-tolerant grass species and proper soil preparation can increase success.
  • Ground covers, ferns, hostas, and shade gardens are excellent alternatives to grass under crepe myrtles.
  • Companion plants that enjoy similar conditions can enhance the aesthetics and health of your crepe myrtle.
  • Regular fertilization and maintenance practices like watering, mowing, and leaf litter removal are crucial for the health of your grass or plants under crepe myrtle.

Becoming familiar with your tree is important for its future success. In my article, Common Crepe Myrtle Questions, you’ll find a wealth of helpful information to keep your tree going strong.

Growing Grass Under Crepe Myrtle – What To Know

Growing grass under a crepe myrtle can be a rewarding endeavor, but it’s not without its challenges. Let’s explore what you need to know to make this project a success.

Challenges of Growing Grass Under Crepe Myrtle

Growing grass under crepe myrtles can be tricky due to a few key factors:

  • Shade: Crepe myrtles, especially mature ones, can cast significant shade, and most types of grass require full sun to thrive.
  • Competition for Resources: Grass and trees compete for water and nutrients. The tree’s extensive root system can outcompete the grass, leaving it starved of essential resources.
  • Leaf Litter: Crepe myrtles shed leaves, which can smother grass if not regularly removed.

Grass Selection and Considerations

Choosing the right type of grass is crucial. Some grass species are more shade-tolerant than others. Fine fescue and St. Augustine grass are two types that can tolerate some shade.

However, even shade-tolerant grasses need some sunlight, so this option may not work if your crepe myrtle has a very dense canopy.

Preparing the Soil

Good soil preparation is key to establishing a healthy lawn. Start by removing any debris from the area. Then, loosen the soil with a garden fork or tiller to a depth of about 6 inches.

If the soil is poor, consider adding a layer of topsoil or compost to improve its fertility and structure.

It can be beneficial to apply a ring of mulch around the tree to avoid damaging roots that are just below the surface.

Even then, you should still be careful when disturbing the soil as crepe myrtle roots tend to grow shallowly.

Establishing and Maintaining

You can establish your lawn from seed, sod, or plugs, depending on the grass species chosen. After planting, water regularly to help the grass establish.

Once established, continue to water as needed, and mow at the recommended height for your grass species.

Pruning Techniques To Reduce Shade

Pruning your crepe myrtle to let in more light can help your grass grow better. Consider thinning out the tree’s canopy or raising the lower branches. However, be careful not to over-prune as this can harm the tree.

Fertilizing

Both your crepe myrtle and grass will benefit from regular fertilization. Use a balanced fertilizer or one made just for crepe myrtles (this one is excellent).

Remember to follow the package instructions for application rates and that overfertilizing can cause more harm than good.

Tips for Success

  • Regularly check your grass for signs of stress, such as wilting or yellowing. This could indicate a lack of water or nutrients.
  • Keep the area under the tree free of leaf litter.
  • Consider using a mulching mower. This type of mower cuts grass clippings into small pieces that decompose quickly, returning nutrients to the soil.
Crepe myrtles lining a pathway with various shrubs, groundcovers, and grasses planted around them.

Grass Alternatives for Shade

If growing grass under your crepe myrtle proves too challenging, there are several attractive alternatives that thrive in shaded areas.

Ground covers such as sweet woodruff, pachysandra, and vinca minor are excellent choices. These plants form a dense mat of foliage, providing a lush, green carpet that’s perfect for filling in the space under trees.

Ferns and hostas are also great options, offering a variety of textures and colors to enhance your garden’s aesthetic appeal.

Another alternative is to create a shade garden with a mix of shade-loving perennials, shrubs, and bulbs.

Plants like astilbe, bleeding heart, and hydrangea thrive in shady conditions and can add color and interest to the area under your crepe myrtle.

Remember that the key to a successful shade garden is to choose plants that naturally thrive in similar conditions.

Crepe Myrtle Companion Plants

Companion planting is another way to make the most of the space under your crepe myrtle. Companion plants are those that complement each other in terms of their growth habits, care requirements, and aesthetics.

For crepe myrtles, consider planting companions that enjoy similar conditions of well-drained soil and partial to full sun.

Perennials like coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, and daylilies make excellent companions for crepe myrtles.

They add color to the garden when the tree is not in bloom, and their upright growth habit contrasts nicely with the tree’s arching branches.

Low-growing shrubs like junipers or boxwoods can also be used to create a layered effect.

Related Questions:

What Is the Lowest Maintenance Grass?

Zoysia grass is often considered the lowest maintenance grass. It’s drought-tolerant and disease resistant, and it requires less mowing than many other grass species.

However, it’s not well-suited to shady areas, so it may not be the best choice for growing under a crepe myrtle.

Should Crepe Myrtles Be Mulched?

Yes, mulching around crepe myrtles can be very beneficial. Mulch helps conserve soil moisture, suppress weeds, and improve soil structure. However, avoid piling mulch against the tree trunk as this can lead to rot.

Closing Thoughts

Growing grass or other plants under a crepe myrtle can be a rewarding way to enhance your garden’s beauty and make the most of your space.

Whether you choose to sow grass seeds, plant ground covers, or create a shade garden, the key is to understand the conditions of the site and choose plants that will thrive there.

With careful planning and a bit of gardening know-how, you can transform the space under your crepe myrtle into a lush, thriving part of your garden.

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