Along the west fence of my yard, just on the other side in the neighbours yard, are three towering blue spruce trees basically stacked on top of each other.

Because of this, the grass doesn't grow that nice on my side of the fence about 8 feet out.

Now I know I could take measures to help the grass survive the spruce needles (raking often and balancing PH), but I also kinda want to put a flower bed and shrubs there anyways.

I am in Southern Manitoba, so obviously have a pronounced winter.

What kind of plants or shrubs might be good to plant in a bed that has high acidity due to spruce needles, and has shade almost all morning?

I was hoping there might be some perennials or hardy shrubs that might be suited for this environment. If not, I am open to anything that would thrive in this environment, even if they had to be planted every spring.

Does anyone have any suggestions for some plants in this area? Thanks!

3 Answers 3


A chunk of my garden is acidic, mostly dry shade, so here's what does well for me:

Groundcovers: Lingonberries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) - may require more water than you have under the trees, Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), Partridge berry (Mitchella repens) - afternoon sun could be a problem with this one, though.

Perennials: Trillium, Uvularia (can sometimes go dormant in early summer), Hepatica (both species), Red Baneberry (Actaea rubrum), White Snakeroot (now called Ageratina; formerly Eupatorium) - careful: can spread quickly from seed!, Black Cohosh-Black Snakeroot (Cimicifuga racemosa, also known as Actaea racemosa).

Some perennial geraniums may also work, depending on your zone (example: Geranium phaeum, zone 4). Watch out for rhizomatous and/or self-seeding behavior from some species, though.

Ferns: Lots to choose from (Christmas and Interrupted Ferns do very well for me)

Shrubs are difficult because of your hardiness zone. Blueberries, as black thumb suggested, maybe Rhododendrons and Azaleas (watch your hardiness zones with these), Hydrangrea arborescens (the species, not a cultivar) - generally prefers a little more moisture than your soil may have. Most other shrubs that I can think of are too tender for your area, unfortunately.

Annuals - impatiens, coleus,

  • I didn't think there were ferns that grew in my climate. If there are, I would love some ferns!!!
    – Scorb
    Apr 3, 2019 at 22:25

blueberries are often grown under coniferous trees as they will lower the PH, which blueberry trees love.


You have two issues under spruce:

It's dark. If the branches go all the way to the ground good luck growing anything but mushrooms and politicians.

It's dry. Spruce are water pigs. Rainfall tends to drip off the tips and avoid the space under the tree.

You can let some light in by taking off lower branches. This makes the tree look unbalanced if you do more than the bottom fifth of the tree.

You can garden in pots under the trees. This keeps the spruce from stealing all the water. You can try ground covers, but you will need to water them. Bugle weed, bishops weed, astilbe, may work under there. Mosses will work, but will always look tacky from the rain of dead needles and spruce cones.

  • Note that bugleweed may be considered an invasive (it sure loves invading grass), and bishop's weed is definitely an invasive (the variegated form tends to be somewhat well-behaved, but its green seedlings are horrible). Astilbe likes it somewhat moist, like ligularia.
    – Jurp
    Apr 3, 2019 at 23:46
  • Invasive varies considerably by region. I can't keep Bugle weed alive here. On the U of A campus they used bishops weed extensively as a cover near buildings under trees. Didn't see it escape. But yes: Always do a local check about invasives, or only use natives. Apr 5, 2019 at 0:48

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