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New York City Tree Map
Explore and Care For NYC’s Urban Forest

Planting Flowers and Shrubs

A tree trunk is surrounded by a variety of plants and flowers
Planting around street trees and yard trees is recommended if done carefully, however, aggressive flowers and shrubs compete with the tree for limited resources. Find out more about what to plant – and what to avoid – within a tree bed.

Guidelines for Planting Vegetation in Street Tree Pits

  • Perennials, annuals and bulbs are beautiful additions to a tree pit, as long as you remember that the tree’s health comes first.
  • Some perennials can be complementary, but flowers that have shallow roots and die back each year (annuals) are recommended.
  • Choose plants that require little watering. Key words to look for are “drought tolerant” and “xeric conditions”.
  • Use small plants and bulbs – large plants require large planting holes, which damage tree roots. In addition plants with large root systems compete with the tree for water and nutrients.
  • Please do not plant flowers within 1-foot of the tree trunk.
  • Do not add more then 2” of soil to your tree pit. Raising the soil level will harm the tree.
  • Mulching a tree pit is always good for your tree and plants. Mulch keeps the soil moist and prevents weeds from sprouting in tree pits.
  • Be sure to provide enough water for the tree, not just enough to perk up the flowers.
  • Greenstreets are individually crafted by our landscape designers and maintained by gardeners; please do not add extra plantings to them.
  • Never plant bamboo, ivy, vines, woody shrubs, or evergreens. They are all major competitors for water and nutrients and can stunt or kill a tree.

What to Plant


Bulbs are a nice addition to greenstreets and tree pits, and are great for fall planting activities. Many Bulbs will return each spring, bringing color to your neighborhood. They are both affordable and easy to plant.

  • Crocus
  • Chinodoxia
  • Daffodil
  • Winter Aconite - Eranthis hyemalis
  • Snow Drops - Galanthus nivalis
  • Spanish Bluebells - Hyacinthoides hispanica (Best in shade)
  • Lily of-the-Valley - Convallaria magilis
  • Grape Hyacinth - Muscari
  • Tulips - tulipia

Plants for the Sun

Good for newly planted trees

Annuals (plants that live only one year)

  • Sweet Alyssum (mat-forming, small yellow or white flowers)
  • Dusty Miller - Senecio cinerara (beautiful snow white and shiny silver color)
  • Licorice Plant - Helichrysum
  • Marigold
  • Nasturtium
  • Portulaca: Rock Rose, Moss Rose (good drought tolerant plant)
  • Verbena
  • Geranium (an old standby that requires little water)
  • Scented Geranium (for leaf form, color and small flowers)
  • Salvia
  • Snapdragon
  • Heliotrope (beautiful scent)
  • Cosmos (dwarf – height 24 inches)
  • Ageratum (low growing with small purple flowers)
  • Blue Marguerite Daisy
  • Lantana (a variety of unique flowers)
  • New Guinea Impatiens

Native Annuals

  • Partridge Pea - Chamaecrista fasciculate
  • Sweet Everlasting - Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium
  • Spanish Needles - Bidens bipinnata
  • Canadian toadflax - Nuttalanthus canadensis
  • Blue Curls - Trichostema dichotomum
  • Annual Fleabane - Erigeron annuus

Perennials (plants that live for more than one year)

  • Bugleweed - Ajuga reptans
  • Snow in Summer - Cerastium tomemtosum
  • Lilyturf - Liriope muscari
  • Sedum - Sedum albuonor acre (only low growing)
  • Thyme - Thymus serpiphylluur or pseudolanugipsus (mat-forming varieties)

Native Perennials

  • Seaside goldenrod - Solidago sempervirens
  • Purple love-grass - Eragrostis spectabilis
  • Little bluestem - Schizachyrium scoparium
  • Black Eyed Susan - Rudbeckia hirta
  • Wild columbine - Aquilegia canadensis
  • Deer Tongue - Dicanthelium clandestinum
  • Woodland sunflower - Helianthus divaricatus
  • Canadian Goldenrod - Solidago canadensis
  • Early Goldenrod - Solidago juncea
  • Indian Grass - Sorghastrum nutans
  • Showy Goldenrod - Solidago speciosa
  • White Old Field Aster - Symphyotrichum pilosum
  • Smoot Blue Aster - Symphyotrichum leave
  • Heath Aster - Symphyotrichum eriocoides
  • Common Milkweed - Asclepias syriaca
  • Wild strawberry - Fragaria virginiana
  • Hay-scented fern - Dennstaedtia punctilobula
  • Flat-topped goldenrod - Euthamia graminifolia

Plants for the Shade

Good for newly established trees

Annuals (plants that live only one year)

  • Begonia (elegant flowers that come in a large variety)
  • Coleus (variegated foliage, purple flowers)
  • Lobelia (small edging plant)
  • Pansy (some are winter hardy)
  • Impatiens (popular colorful flowers that will do well in your tree pit, sun or shade)
  • Viola Torenia (looks like a small pansy)
  • Monkey Flower - Mimulus (a variety of colorful flowers)
  • Browallia (fabulous blue color)
  • Fuchsia (variety of species, most annuals bear a red tubular flower)


  • Elephant’s ears - Bergenia cordifolia (Holds good winter color)
  • Spotted Deadnettle - Lamium maculatum amium maculatum (Excellent groundcover)
  • Lilyturf - Liriope muscari (evergreen)

Native Perennials

  • White avens - Geum canadense (basal rosette long-lasting, white flowers)
  • White snakeroot - Ageratina altissima (white flowers)
  • Heart leaved Aster - Symphyotrichum cordifolium
  • White Wood Aster - Eurybia divaricata
  • Coral Bells - Heuchera
  • Foam Flower - Tiarella cordifolia (vigorous groundcover with white upright flowers)