Beneath the Trees:
Adding Other Woodland Plants

Forests contain a diversity of plant types arranged in vertical layers, from the tallest canopy trees through the understory of shorter trees and shrubs, to the forest floor or ground layer of low shrubs and herbaceous plants. Forest types are classified by the dominant trees present (e.g., oak-hickory-pine forest). Many combinations of plants occur in these different forests; remember to match the plants’ growth requirements with site conditions. Select plants that prefer a shadier, drier climate; Plants under a tree canopy will get significantly less rain (however, remember for new projects it may take years for young canopy trees to provide adequate shade).  Native ferns and woodland groundcovers are good choices for established woodlands; native woodland wildflowers also work as they evolved to bloom early in the spring before the deciduous tree leaf canopy has developed for the season. It’s best to plant small plants (e.g., 4-inch pots rather than gallon containers) so you can dig a smaller hole and avoid root damage.  Do NOT create a raised bed or planter box around a tree! Doing so can trap the roots so deep that they aren’t able to reach air, or seal moisture against the bark which can harbor insects or cause rot. Follow the simple tips below to establish your own woodland wonderland beneath the trees!

Before You Start

Overview: Project Planning Basics

Measure Project Area & Assess Growing Conditions

Assess Soil Infiltration

Assess Soil Texture

Design and Preparation

STEP 1: Choose Your Plants

  • Chesapeake Region Native Plants
  • Chesapeake Region Native Plants for Forest or Woodland Plantings
  • Forests for the Bay: Understory Plants for Riparian Forest Buffers
  • Your Plant Chart
  • STEP 2: Calculating Numbers & Developing a Planting Map

  • Overview: Calculating Plant Numbers & Creating a Planting Map
  • Field Notes for Creating a Planting Map
  • Examples of Planting Maps
  • Implementation

    STEP 1: Where to Buy Native Plants

    STEP 2: Prepare & Install Your Project!


    Overview: Project Maintenance Basics

    Using Your Project

    Overview: Using Your Project

    Eco Schools LEAF Sustainability Pathway

    Eco School Sustainability Pathways Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Overview: Sharing Your Project

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
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