Planting California Natives under Oaks

Planting California Natives under Oaks

It can be challenging to plant under oaks, especially if they are mature.  Oaks produce tannins from their leaves, which make it hard to plant under them.  

The Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia, Engelmann Oak, Quercus engelmannii, Scrub Oak, Quercus berberidfolia, and the Valley Oak, Quercus lobata are native to the Los Angeles area.  

What can you plant under oaks that like shade, require no summer irrigation, and can tolerate the leaf drop?  Some California Natives thrive under the shade of oaks and require little irrigation.  We have a variety of ground covers, perennials, vines, and medium to high shrubs that are great companions to oaks, you can shop them here.

It is important to plan according to the various types of plants, their lighting and watering needs under the oak.  You can plant ferns in the deep shade of the canopy, manzanitas and sages should be planted in a sunnier area, at the end of the trees canopy where you can also apply a drip line.  

Oaks are extremely important to our eco system because they can support entier habitats in their surroundings.  There are a few guidelines to follow prior to planting near and under oaks so they are not disturbed or potentially harmed:

  • You should not plant anything within ten feet of the trunk
  • Use hand tools to avoid any root damage
  • Avoid altering soil
  • Do not use sprinklers to water plants, use a drip irrigation or a soaker
  • You should never irrigate an Oak in the summer, they have adapted to dry summers.  Irrigating them in the summer could result in damage or death.
  • Summer irrigation should only be done once a month at the canopy or farther
  • Use the fallen leaves and wood chips as mulch
  • Plant a one gallon or smaller so you do not disturb the roots
  • Plant October through March