Pine Tree Companion Plants

Landscaping with pine trees is one of the best ways to add texture, color, and form that lasts four seasons of the year. The wide range of needle colors and shrub shapes available in large and dwarf sizes makes it possible for even the smallest of gardens to include one or two of these trees. Dwarf pines grow between 1-5 inches/year and can live for 100 years. Many pine trees sold in nurseries are medium in size and reach 6-10 feet in height and width. For the taller varieties, like ponderosa pine and eastern white pine, mature trees can reach over 100 feet, so placement should be carefully considered when adding these trees to a landscape.


Photo by Karen Roe, unmodified, Flickr, copyright CC BY 2.0 DEED

Shrubs To Plant With Pine Trees

Pine trees pair well with any shrub that prefers an acidic to neutral soil pH and full sun exposure. Group dwarf pines with other dwarf conifers like false cypress and creeping junipers to create a naturalistic alpine landscape on a slope or in rocky soil. Pines also work well with broadleaf evergreens with large leaves or bright colors. Barberry, rhododendron, azalea, daphne, nandina, and Oregon grape are all great choices for adding texture and contrast in the garden all 12 months of the year.

Perennials To Plant With Pine Trees

Short-lived perennials or perennials that are easy to divide can act as ground cover to suppress weeds and provide seasonal interest with pine trees. Use brunnera, hellebore, hosta, ferns, and primrose to create a woodland atmosphere near pines. Foxglove, various spring blooming bulbs, camassia, bleeding hearts, delphinium, lilies, and peonies will grow well in partly sunny to full sun locations. Later in the summer, coneflowers, daylily, catmint, salvias, and asters are good space fillers around dwarf to medium-sized pines. Even tropical or Mediterranean plants can be included to give the garden an exotic touch such as New Zealand flax, aloes, yuccas, sages, and rosemary. 

Annuals To Plant With Pine Trees

Annuals are a great choice to grow between pine trees as temporary filler and ground cover plants. Choose low-maintenance varieties that do not require heavy fertilizing throughout the season. PIne trees rarely require supplemental feeding when they are planted in moderately fertile soil that has good drainage. Wax begonia, flowering vinca, impatiens, and snapdragons are good for soils that retain moisture. Plant moss rose, cosmos, zinnias, and nasturtiums in beds with well-drained soil and full sun. 

Best Companion Plants For Pine Trees in Containers

Dwarf pines can be grown for a fairly long time in containers to create seasonal plantings for the patio, entryway, or balcony garden. Choose the smallest size plants available to ensure that they remain small for upwards of 4-6 years before needing to be replanted into a garden bed. Containers must have excellent drainage and be filled with an all-purpose potting mix that contains ample perlite and compost for moisture retention as well as good drainage. Create miniature alpine displays by mixing in miniature conifers and sedum as filler plants. Use creeping thyme and creeping phlox as a spillers to soften the edges of the planter. 


Photo by F. D. Richards, unmodified, Flickr, copyright CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED

Plants Not To Grow With Pine Trees

Pine trees do not tolerate the sometimes harsh winds and salty air of coastal gardens. Pines should also not be planted near a roadside or driveway that is regularly salted in the winter. The salt can desiccate the branches, needles, and roots, leading to permanent damage. When planting pine trees, keep in mind that they will keep growing even when they reach their “mature size”. Space trees far enough apart so that they will not grow too closely or need pruning to keep to a manageable size. Most pines require little pruning to maintain their natural shape and rarely respond favorably to hard or rejuvenation pruning, 

Best Plants To Grow With Pine Trees

PIne trees are great for designing a garden with four seasons of interest and habitat for wildlife. The best plants to pair with pines are other hardy and hard-working shrubs that enjoy acidic soil and good drainage. Broadleaf evergreens and flowering deciduous shrubs contrast wonderfully with the needle texture of pines. The shedded needles make a nice mulch for the plants and help acidify the soil. The wide range of sizes and needle colors available means just about any garden should include at least one of these beloved trees.

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Author Robbin Small - Published 10-04-2023